Let's run an experiment and see if piracy is harmful to sales.
I'm currently selling my ebook JACK DANIELS STORIES for $2.99 on Kindle and Barnes and Noble. Here's the description:
JA Konrath, known for the Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thrillers set in Chicago, offers this collection of short stories and novellas from the Jack Daniels universe.
Join Jack Daniels, her partner Herb Benedict, private eye Harry McGlade, and part-time criminal Phineas Troutt, in this omnibus of 15 stories.
On the Rocks - Suicide or murder? Lt. Jack Daniels solves a locked room mystery.
Whelp Wanted - P.I. Harry McGlade becomes a dognapper in order to stop a dognapper, or something like that.
Street Music - Phineas Troutt hunts a prostitute through the dangerous streets of Chicago. Are his intentions pure?
The One That Got Away - The Gingerbread Man (the villain from WHISKEY SOUR) hunts one final victim.
With a Twist - It looked like the man fell from a great height, but the body is in his living room. Jack Daniels solves another impossible crime.
Epitaph - Phin Troutt takes on a Chicago street gang with vengeance on his mind.
Taken to the Cleaners - Harry McGlade tries to solve a difficult mystery, but mostly just goofs off.
Body Shots - Jack Daniels faces her most challenging case yet; a school shooting. But does she know more about the perp than she realizes?
Suffer - Phineas Troutt has taken some questionable jobs, but will he murder a man's wife?
School Daze - P.I. Harry McGlade investigates a private school, but he's not entirely sure why.
Overproof - While shopping on the Gold Coast, Jack Daniels notices traffic has come to a stand-still. When she realizes what the problem is, she's confronted with her own mortality, and the possible deaths of hundreds.
Bereavement - How badly does Phineas Troutt need a fix? What is he willing to do?
Pot Shot - Detective Herb Benedict just wants a home cooked meal. But his plans get interrupted by a very determined sniper.
Last Request - Phineas Troutt picks up a hitchhiker, with deadly results.
The Necro File - Harry McGlade investigates some bizarre murders in this hilarious, gore-filled mini-epic. (Author's note: This is easily the funniest thing I've ever written, but it's also very offensive. Let the reader beware...)
That's about 65,000 words of Jack Daniels and friends. Some of these are laugh out loud funny. Some require you to solve the mystery. Some are thrilling. Some are scary. All of them have been previously published in various magazines and anthologies.
Currently, on May 30 at 7:00pm, this ebook is ranked at #2009 on Amazon. It sold about 315 copies in the month of May.
It is ranked at #44,480 on Barnes & Noble.
So let's try an experiment. Here are some ways for you to obtain a copy of this ebook.
Click HERE to download a free zip file of JACK DANIELS STORIES. It contains versions in html, pdf, doc, epub, and prc (for Kindle). So no matter what ereader or computer or smart phone you own, you should be able to read it or convert it. That's the tracker link. If it isn't working, here's the direct link: http://www.jakonrath.com/Jack.zip
Or, if you own a Kindle, you can click HERE to go to the Kindle store and buy it for $2.99.
Or, if you own a Nook, you can click HERE and go to Barnes and Noble and buy it for $2.99.
If you download the free version, and feel the overwhelming need to donate $1.99 (or any amount) to me, you can click HERE and go to Paypal to donate. Paypal is free to join, safe, and easy to use.
I'll keep track of my free downloads, Kindle numbers, Paypal donations, and my rankings on Amazon and B&N for the next 30 days, then post the results.
Also, I encourage pirates to post this everywhere. Go ahead and proliferate the internet with JACK DANIELS STORIES. You can explain that I'm encouraging it, or you can just take it and not say a word. I'd appreciate it if you post in the comments section where you're uploaded it, which you can do anonymously. Or you don't have to.
If anyone sees this ebook on file sharing sites, I also ask that you please post a link to it in the comments. The more places I can see this being shared, the better I can compare ebooks sold to ebooks shared.
Will giving the ebook away for free hurt sales? Will it help sales? Will I gain readers? Will people donate money? Will people who take the free ebook buy my other ebooks?
What do you think will happen?
Should be interesting. Now some Q & A.
Q: Why are you doing this?
A: I've said repeatedly that there is no proof piracy hurts sales. So I'm manning up and putting my money where my mouth is.
Q: How long will you run this experiment?
A: I'm going to keep track of it for a month. But the links will be live forever. I fully expect the ebook to appear on file sharing sites forever as well.
Q: Do you have any predictions?
A: I have no idea what will happen. It depends on how many people see this post and act on it. But I really don't expect my sales to drop off.
Q: If you're so pro-piracy, why don't you give away all of your ebooks?
A: My stance has always been that I don't believe piracy is harmful to the artist, and that it can't be stopped, so don't worry about it. Does that make me pro-piracy? Or does it make me realistic?
Q: You didn't answer the question.
A: The majority of my ebooks are currently free on my website, www.JAKonrath.com. If you want them for free, there they are.
Q: Why did you use this particular ebook for your experiment?
A: I think it's a good cross-section of my work, and will appeal to the widest range of people. It also has modest sales, which should be easier to track.
Q: I clicked on the free download. Now what am I supposed to do with it?
A: Save it to your computer, then open it using Winzip. You can download Winzip HERE. It's free for the first 45 days.
Q: What if the ebook is downloaded for free 10,000 times and no one pays for it?
A: That would be awesome. I hope those people who download it take the time to read a few stories. As a wise man once said, writers should fear obscurity, not piracy.
Q: What if your sales drop off to nothing?
A: Want to bet they don't? :)
Q: Can I give away this ebook on my blog and website?
A: The goal here is to share it by any and all means possible. Link to it, copy it, upload it, make torrents, put it on Usenet, stick it in file lockers, etc. Whatever you'd like.
Q: You're encouraging people to steal, condoning piracy, and turning your back on your fellow authors. You're the devil.
A: I get that a lot. No one is forcing you to read my blog. If you don't like what I'm doing, change the channel.
Lots of disagreement in the comments. That's good. Disagreement is the pathway to discussion and understanding, as long as everyone keeps an open mind.
Some points I'm seeing repeated:
1. This experiment doesn't count. Because I'm giving permission, this isn't "stealing."
JA sez: For the nth time, I don't care what the legal or moral definition of file-sharing is. I want to see if free books, widely distributed, cannibalize book sales. That's the test.
2. The final stats will be inconclusive.
JA sez: I agree. The whole reason it is impossible to prove piracy is harmful is that there is no direct association or causality between people getting free books and books for sale. There are too many other factors at play. That said, if my sales don't drop off, that's a promising indicator that free books don't effect sales.
3. If a person takes the free ebook, you've lost a sale.
JA sez: Actually, the opposite is true. If a free option is available right next to a paid option, and people take the freebie, that PROVES they wouldn't have bought the one for sale because they took the freebie.
4. You pay a cover artist but don't expect to get paid yourself?
JA sez: I hope to get paid. I'm doing everything within my power to give readers good, inexpensive ebooks. But I also know that some people will get copies for free. I see no reason to fight this. It isn't going to stop, and I don't believe it hurts sales.
5. Why not just make everything free?
JA sez: There's a big difference between giving away everything for free and tolerating media file-sharing. If you don't see that difference, I doubt I'll be able to convince you.
6. What about the future where everything is free?
JA sez: Everything will be free in the future, eh? How about using that crystal ball to get the lottery numbers for next week.
7. You're getting publicity for this. That will fuel sales. Pirates may just buy your book just to prove that file-sharing doesn't hurt.
JA sez: So now I have to figure out who is buying my ebooks and what their intent is? Now I can't use publicity to fuel sales, as I've been doing in the past?
Bottom line: there are versions that are free, and versions that are for sale. Will the free versions slow down the sales trajectory I've been on with this ebook (selling about 10 copies per day)? To my knowledge, this ebook has not been pirated before, so I'm taking a book with proven sales and adding the free factor to it. Why don't we all take a deep breath and actually wait and see what happens?
I believe the majority of piracy exists because copyright holders are unable or unwilling to meet specific consumer demand, such as availability, price, and convenience.
To see the tracked free downloads so far, click HERE.