I love my readers. Really, I do. Even the ones with eye patches.

I’ve been known to download a thing or two without paying for it. I’ve got songs I’ve snagged because I bought the cassette two decades ago and feel entitled to own the material for life. I’ve “sampled” games and software before paying for them. I was a general scallywag when I was younger.

As I got older and started earning a paycheck . . . no, that’s not what happened. I could always afford these things. What happened is that I got lazy. The pain in the ass of finding a keygen and dealing with the viruses that came with pirated games or software, at some point the thrill of getting something for free wore off and I just wanted to spend the money, own the thing legally, be able to install updates and all that, and above all: support the people who code and create art and are trying to afford daycare for their kids.

When I became a content creator a few years ago, I used my own experiences as a guide. I wanted it to be easy as hell for other people to own my stuff. That meant never putting DRM on my e-books. This is the digital rights management protection that makes it difficult to convert my books, copy them around, all that stuff. I wanted to reward the buyer rather than worry about the pirate.

Some of my favorite game developers adopted this strategy a while back. No DRM at all, because they knew fans would reward them for making it easy to install and own the game. I always bought those games on the day of release. It was the model I wanted to emulate.

The funny thing is, it took the Wool explosion to even land me on pirate sites. I felt no small twinge of pride when I first saw that I was getting passed around by pirates. It’s a mark of desirability. And here’s the cool thing, tonight I got an e-mail from someone who stole the Omnibus, loved it, and sent me more than the retail price through Paypal. And they wanted to let me know that they couldn’t find FIRST SHIFT: LEGACY on any of the pirate sites. So I fired up Calibre, converted one of my .mobi Kindle files to .epub, and sent the pirate a copy.

How cool an exchange is that? There’s a ton of little software programs that I use daily, like VSO Resize and WinRar that I love to support. There’s probably a dozen or so apps like this that I’ve paid for after years of using them for free. Some have trial versions that allow the free use, but once I saw how much I relied on the thing, I wanted to support the creator.

Look, I’m just delighted to have readers. Especially readers as awesome as you all. People who counsel me when I’m down, who buy me a cup of joe because they think my prices are unreasonably low, who chime in on negative reviews to let trolls know that you aren’t imaginary, who order signed copies of books they’ve already read, who make this website an active, exciting place to visit, and who pay for the books they steal . . . because they liked them that much.

Arrgh, everyone. Arrrgh. I think that says it all.

38 Responses to “Me and the pirates are tight…”

  1. J Washburn says:

    It’s sometimes a confusing issue, but I think you’ve nailed it on the head. I couldn’t agree more:

    Aye!

  2. Joe says:

    Vetty interesting …

  3. Joe says:

    A merry yarn mate

  4. Guy says:

    Wow, you just described by outlook on pirating. Its as if I was looking into a mirror (minus the content creation part). I was interested in your book because of the reviews and I bought them because they were so cheap. It was only after I tried converting them to DRM free mobi and got an error, that I learned you don’t even include DRM with the original! Other content creators and publishers should be more like you. =D

    • Thanks, Guy! I’ve tried to tell people who are looking for a place to buy the epub that they can just get the awesome Kindle version and use Calibre to convert it. Takes less than a minute. :)

      • Patrick Quinn says:

        I admire your stance on piracy and have matured pretty much the way you describe. I can afford content nowadays, so I take the easy route and pay for it.

        I got to this page, though, by searching for “wool epub”, since my e-Reader of choice only has very basic support for mobi files. On your suggestion, I bought Wool Omnibus Edition through Amazon, and I already had Calibre. I then proceeded to spend a good hour or so trying to figure out how to download the Kindle file to convert it.

        It looks like Amazon has recently made it more difficult to get at the actual files containing purchased books. The “Download & Transfer via USB” button mentioned on the Amazon site wasn’t there. I eventually ended up using a file manager app to locate and zip the book’s 4 files (inaccessible via USB) and email them to myself to convert via Calibre. Everything’s working great now, but it was pretty frustrating, took much longer than a minute, and required some technical knowledge.

        I wanted to drop a note and mention this, because it sounds like you actively don’t want readers to have this experience.

        • Hmm. I haven’t tried handloading anything recently. Have you tried having Calibre send it using the “send to device” button? Calibre usually updates their program to keep things working.

          • Patrick Quinn says:

            I may have worded things poorly. Calibre worked great. The difficulty was actually getting the kindle eBook files to convert. It’s no longer easy to download the file(s) from Amazon. I had to download them to a device, locate them (4 files with obfuscated names in a private data directory that doesn’t show up via USB connection on the Nexus 7), and find a way to get them off of the device.

            The upshot is that it’s tricky to convert Wool to ePub format (though worthwhile… great reads so far). It’d be awesome if there were a way to just buy it in that format. I was trying to do that when I found your post here.

          • Kobo sells DRM-free epubs of all my work. Might not be available, though, if you’re in the UK or Australia.

        • Paul Schwanz says:

          Thanks for the info. Just purchased on kobo. As a game designer, I have a similar opinion on pirates. Glad we both get to enjoy the fruit of your labor.

          • Richard says:

            Just out of interest, why can’t I purchase Wool off Amazon in Australia? I’ve heard wonderful things about the series, keep getting sent emails from eBook sites I’ve signed up to suggesting it, but when I go to Amazon – no dice.

            I’m getting to the point of *having* to (not wanting to) go the search and pirate way, and then, I don’t know, PayPal you?

      • PVA says:

        Honestly Mr. Howey, sometimes readers would simply like a sample of the book before deciding to fork over the cash. As a poor, struggling writer, I find myself consistently seeking out new and creative material that can quench my never-ending thirst for creativity.
        Shamefully, I have also boarded Black Beard’s ship on on occasion. But don’t be mistaken, your article hit it right on the money–those who created quality works were rewarded in the end. I bought their merchandise, even when I already had a copy. It’s the respect factor that businesses are forgetting. People are innately good, regardless of whatever you may see on the news.
        It’s a principle that I think our society and market will adopt in the near future. People will be able to try things out for free and given the option, to pay as they wish.
        I heard on average, certain stores that do not label prices but instead push a “pay-what-you-want” methodology end up making more money in the long-run. No idea if this is true or not, but my optimistic side demands that it most certainly is.
        Great article!

  5. piraterobot says:

    Seeing that you know a thing or two about the seven seas, you should write a pirate sci-fi tale for all us land lubber’s. I know u got a full plate, I just want u to write all the books I read. Color me greedy.

  6. Profile photo of Rockinruby Rockinruby says:

    ARGH!!! And I mean that in a good way.

  7. Heidi says:

    piraterobot, don’t distract him. He needs to finish the zombie book before he moves on to pirates. Which would be awesome.

  8. Funny, I generally have the reflex to search for pirate websites; reflex that I got as yours when I was a kid and had no money. But books, especially at this price was no-brainer! (So I bought them all btw to reach kinda normal price ^^)

  9. Thanks for the book. It’s good already. Hope you enjoy the coffee in much the same way, albeit shorter.

    Media distributors finally making buying books, movies etc easier will make pirating a lot less necessary. If only they would accept Paypal.

  10. archangel says:

    youre going to have a great time and meet wonderful people in NY. I wish I was closer so I could come meet you too! But many of us will be there in spirit. Regarding thepirate-ini of the world. You have exactly the right take, I think. Now if they would just share their millions with the content creators they make from selling ads and memberships… har, get it, member SHIPS. Argh back atcha.

    drcpe.

  11. Ryan says:

    I always pay for content. But even if I didn’t have moral qualms about stealing whispernet just makes downloading too damn conveinient to bother with all the piracy silliness.

  12. Profile photo of Deb R Deb R says:

    I agree with Ryan.

  13. Colby Z says:

    Zombie Pirates!!!!

  14. Colby Z... again says:

    and I have actually bought multiple copies of Hugh’s stuff. That’s how much I like it! :D kindle copies from amazon, solid copies from… well, here. I have 3 co-workers at the record store I work at, and currently 2 of them are reading wool. In fact, about 15 of my facebook friends are reading wool right now. When something is that good, I will not only pay for it, but be an unpaid publicist. sorry if I rambled a bit there, it’s also the long islands talking tonight. :D Got my omnibus in the mail today. Thanks again Hugh!

  15. John Thomas says:

    Hugh, I applaud your attitude on this subject and i have no doubt that this bread upon the water will return to you many times over. As a matter of fact, I’ve actually purchased EVERY thing that you’ve written, a function of my desire to quickly get into your catalog and of your reasonable pricing. Don’t get me wrong, I have sources and I’ve downloaded plenty for free… the way it usually works is that I DL to sample and then, eventually spend real money to support – you got ahead of that curve because of the tremendous buzz and your rock-bottom pricing. Kudos to you. My idol on this subject (all things DRM-related) Is Cory Doctorow. He has made all of his material available under the Creative Commons License and goes on at length about how positive it has been for him. I started by downloading his CCL works and then really wanting to repay him for his faithfulness to his readers – so I bought. Treating your biggest fans as criminals will never profit you. Basking in the light of free publicity and unabashed adoration, however, will take you to unimagined heights. So rock on Hugh, I salute you!

  16. Dainius says:

    That was an interesting read. But in the end it all depends on how appreciative your readers (those, reading pirated books) are.. or maybe how educated. Not sure how strongly those two things correlate to each other.
    I mostly support your attitude nonetheless! And thank you, very much, for the stories your shared with us!

  17. Imran says:

    Wow, this is so dead on. The part about slowly becoming too lazy to extensively pirate stuff as you got older and growing to appreciate the impact of monetary support on content creators (especially emerging ones, such as new authors and, say, Android application developers) struck close to home.

    Your attitude is great and you should feel great.

  18. Andrew says:

    I know this post is quite old, but I have to comment. I found the post by searching for a pirated copy of First Shift… It was one of the google search results – oh the irony. Full Disclosure: I pirated the Omnibus collection. However, your honest and sincere words moved me. Maybe I didn’t go as far as the gentleman in the story, but I did immediately delete my Omnibus copy… and purchased it from Amazon – along with First Shift. I’ve only read Wool 1 and part of 2, but I have been raving about them for days and it’s only right that I pay for such excellence… can’t wait to read the rest. Thanks for posting this… I wish more artists/content-creators were this honest with their fans.

  19. George Harris says:

    I agree 100% with your comments on pirated stuff. I use a lot of free software such as Ubuntu Linux and all of the free software that comes with it. But my son has recommended your books. He is also an author, but just starting out; C.P.D.Harris, Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale. Although he has also given his book away through ‘free days’ on Amazon, he is also very scrupulous about paying for stuff, so to honour him I will actually buy your ‘Wool Omnibus’. The price is too small to quibble.

    All the best
    George

  20. Rhonda says:

    I just finished Wool (omnibus), which I purchased from online from Barnes and Noble. I just wanted to let you know that it was one of the better books that I have read in awhile and I read a lot. It was literally impossible for me to put down. I am now going to read Legacy. I have never left a comment for an author before but I just wanted to let you know that I admire your talent. I’m also to lazy to be a pirate, plus I like to reward artists who share their ability and I want them to continue. Thank you.

  21. What you accomplished with brokering complete control of DRM is groundbreaking. I’m a fan of your style, but I’d really love to see you promote understanding on the changing mode of the management and mitigation of the business behind modern publishing for writers. If everyone were to accept this model, from published authors to up and coming talent, it would change to whole infrastructure and create a new economy in favor of those who create, rather than those who delegate. It’s god damn Prometheus level stuff – fire stolen straight from the mountain.

    When I was in college the creative writing professors would complain about what they weren’t getting paid enough as faculty, yet then would dismiss the notion of teaching a business understanding behind modern publishing – most programs are about 7 years behind the curve.

    Read the first chapter of ‘Wool’ today; it was enjoyable. Now, with respect, please get your ass on TED talks and level the playing field for everybody!

    Thanks!

    – a concerned writing professional

  22. Pedro says:

    Hugh… i downloaded Wool Omnibus from a torrent site, I didn’t know too much about it. I’m not really sure why I chose it, maybe it was goodreads.com, I don’t know. As soon as i ended Wool 1 I knew it’ll be fantastic and that I’ll end buying it. Less than 1 month passed since then, I’ve just finished reading Dust (1 hour ago), which I downloaded too (as Shift).

    So, I pirated 3 books from you, but in the meantime my order of those 3 books is traveling from the UK to Argentina where I live (amazon charges us a lot in shipments, thebookdepository sends them for free), the same day I finished reading Wool on my e-reader, I ordered it plus Shift Omnibus and Dust.

    I like your way of approaching those things (as with the fan fict), If it weren’t for piracy and social sites like goodreads I still wouldn’t know anything about you and your worlds. And yes, maybe a lot will read for free, but some of those will at least talk to other people (specially when the book is so good as wool) and sooner or later that pirate will generate that someone buys it.

    Of course, I think that I’ll be edited on Argentina, it’s already edited on Spain (as “Espejismo”, I don’t know why they changed the title from WOOL to “Mirage”), but when you find something you like so much it’s hard to wait and even then it would be just a translation (i’m not used to write in english but i read it fluently).

    So I pirated the entire series because I couldn’t even wait the shipment to come home (3 weeks aprox), at the end of wool 1 I knew I would buy it, at the end of the book I was looking for the entire series, eager to have it on my booksheld. I’ve already read the 3 books, but I’m pretty sure that the same day they arrive I’ll read the series again.

    For me, piracy is another way to connect readers and writers that can end in a economic retribution. I’m here because of it, and gladly I found the silos because of it.

    Thanks for your books, for things like this and for giving me an impulse not only to order your 3 books but to order some others (from different authors) that I’ve read in the reader and I had not yet bought. And yes, I’ll keep buying yours, SAND is the next.

    • I can’t speak for all writers, but my view on piracy is that we now have a library accessible from anywhere. :)

      Thanks for taking the time out of your busy days to read my work. That’s the huge sacrifice. And as you’ve shown, if I can entertain you, it’ll all come back around. I really enjoy hearing stories like this. Thanks, Pedro.

  23. Adam Wolf says:

    Hey, Hugh.

    And I can say that to you – “Hey, Hugh” – because you’ve made yourself so accessible, which is kinda a** backwards. You’re making a substantial amount of money off the fruits of your labor, the various novels you’ve written. A lot of people deal with fame by withdrawing into a cave to count the money they’ve reaped, shunning their fans, not necessarily out of spite, but simply because distancing oneself from strangers seems to be an unwritten protocol when it comes to celebrity status.

    You’re doing it all wrong, Hugh. You should be sitting in a hot tub in your mansion, sipping sizzurp, exchanging text messages with other celebrities, ignoring the common folk beyond the walls of your estate. Get it right, man. Get-it-right. You’re an embarrassment to all reclusive celebrities the world abroad. May I quote Daffy Duck? “Despicable!” Get yourself a Bugatti, some scantly clad groupies, a pet tiger, and make the celebrity world proud.

    Anyways… Why did I come here? Oh! That’s right… Because I’ve launched my novel into the torrent stratosphere where people may gaze upon it for free, same as they might a twinkling star (you likes that cheesy simile?). The ebook market is inundated with titles new and old, and when trying to get noticed in a crowded market place on a non-existent budget just wasn’t working, I decided to give torrenting my tale a try. This is an endeavor I embarked upon about twelve hours ago. I’ve yet to see if it has had any impact whatsoever on sales. Worst case scenario: a bunch of people sampled my novel who otherwise wouldn’t have ever known it existed.

    I may only average one sale every 3-4 days on Amazon Books, but I have roughly 10% the seeders wool has on a not-to-be-named pirating site. 10% and climbing, mind you. Now I ask you, Mr. Howey, are you jealous? Likely you are. But hey, that’s alright. You’re only human. And yes, I just used ‘alright’ even though its not recognized as a word by high society, but you know what, I’m a rebel like that!

    In closing I’d like to say thanks for being so accessible. And if anyone decides to take a plunge with their novel in pirate infested waters, be sure to tack on a link at the end of the novel to a site on which it is being sold. Some of these pirates might actually part with a little of their booty (no pun).

    One last thing… Just making your novel accessible is a reward in and of itself. Reading novels and comic books in my youth helped me deal with some rough times. Imagine some kid whose going through some hectic s**t. This kid might read something you’ve written in search of a positive escape, in search of an alternative to putting a needle in their arm or a gun in their mouth. I know this all sounds extreme, but novels, movies, comics, etc., are healthy alternatives to a lot of what’s available in regards to ‘escapism’. So, maybe your novel will to slip through a lot of grimy, unappreciative pirate fingers, but in the end it might land in the hands of the little kid swabbing the ship’s deck, the little kid who can appreciate it and grow stronger as a result of having read the tale you crafted.

    Here’s to that kid – cheers. And here’s to you, Hugh – “Yar!”

  24. […] an ebook bestseller before it was published by Century and the film rights bought by Ridley Scott, says that he and the pirates “are tight”; he loves his readers, “even the ones with eye patches”. For a self-published author […]

  25. Muzzy says:

    I have to confess – I pirated the 1-5 Omnibus. I liked it though – so I purchased the audiobooks :)

    I go through a book or so a week – and 4/5 are usually drivel which isn’t worth finishing – regardless I always do to give new authors a chance. If I like the work I usually end up buying and going through all their works. I have a healthy bookshelf collection of books i pirated as an ebook but later purchased to add to my little library. Good authors should be rewarded – bad ones passed up

  26. […] when they should be taking a leaf out of the indie writer playbook and doing everything they can to befriend the book pirates. Because while pirates aren’t your best friends, as a debut author they may well be your only […]

  27. […] escritores, como Hugh Howey, afrontan la piratería actual sencillamente facilitando un botón en su web por si quiere aportar […]

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