I have a secret. I Google myself on a regular basis. Okay, so maybe I gave that away in the title, but it still feels slightly shameful, like I’m going out of my way to look for accolades. I’m not… well not really.
I started Googling myself right after Depths of Blue came out. At that time, I was interested to see if anyone even noticed it. Depths is my debut novel, and I’m still so new to this whole writing thing that I squeak when I turn around. I figure I can be forgiven a little bit for my youthful enthusiasm. It was neat to see the book show up in one place after another. My first Amazon review was a thrilling time. Googling also turned out to be a pretty good tool. I was able to get a copy into the hands of someone who’d expressed passing interest, which turned into my first review on a blog. So it was all good.
And no, this wasn’t where I became sad. I suppose everyone dreams that they’ll blow up overnight, but that hasn’t shown much sign of happening. I’m not exactly a household name, not even in the lesbian community. However, women are finding my novels and enjoying them, and there’s a lot of gratification to that. There’d be a lot of gratification with a nice juicy royalties cheque also, I’m not ashamed to admit as much. I’m not there yet, but one day, I may approach respectable. For now, I have a full time job that pays the bills, so I don’t have to worry too much about such things.
So why does Googling sometimes make me sad, you ask? The first time I noticed Depths available as a free download from someone other than my publisher or their distributors, I was rather taken aback. I quickly saw that those sites didn’t actually have my book available and I was able to breathe.
And then it hit the Torrent sites.
The first Torrent was even somewhat gratifying. I actually thought to myself “Hey, that’s cool, someone cares enough to pirate this!”
And then it showed up on another Torrent site. And another. And another. It took a few months for that to happen, and I’m sure Heights of Green is due to get the Torrent treatment any time soon. That isn’t gratifying. It’s frustrating as hell.
I know the arguments in favor of pirating people’s intellectual property. All of those poor authors are getting exposure they wouldn’t get otherwise. Exposure is great, but it doesn’t put bread on the table.
“Wait,” you say, “what about the part where you said you have a full time job so you don’t need the money?”
Maybe I don’t need the money from my books to survive, not right now. One day, I’d like to think I could retire from librarianship and write full time. I could write two major projects a year and have the time to engage with my readers, without having to sacrifice time with my family. Pirated copies make that much less likely.
And maybe people are reading the books who wouldn’t have otherwise, but that wasn’t my choice. That’s what it all boils down to for me. It’s all about my choice for my work. This year I plan to release a short story on my website as a free download. Those readers who have discovered my work already will get a little bonus story, and those who don’t know much about me (which is a lot of people!) will get the chance to sample my writing without plunking down $9.99. So I’m not opposed to making my work available for free, but I want it to be on my terms, as is my right.
Torrent sites not only rob me of sales, but they rob me of the choice of what to do with my own work. Frankly, I object to the latter even more than the former. Depths of Blue represents months of my life. I’m proud of my efforts and I want people to be able to share that. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to gain some recompense for the time and the effort I put into it. I think it’s even less to ask that I be the one to make the choice of how my work is accessed.
Googling myself has become a double-edged sword. I run across new readers and opportunities, but these days I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop for Heights. And on that day, I’ll be sad again.