After you’ve spent hundreds (thousands) of hours working on your book and getting it published, what would your reaction be if you saw it available for free download on a peer-to-peer file sharing site? My guess is, you wouldn’t be too happy.
Piracy is a big problem wherever Intellectual Property Rights come into picture. This applies to books, music, movies, software and many other products where an idea or concept is packaged usually for commercial gains.
But there’s another school of thought that’s finding new followers (some very prominent and well-respected ones) each day. The idea here is that an author’s basic need is to get more readers. If there’s more awareness for the writer’s work, readers will sooner or later buy legitimate printed copies or ebooks.
One such author who’s built up a huge fan following (with over 3 million Twitter followers and 6.5 million Facebook likes) is Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist. On his blog he shares an interesting story of how The Alchemist had very modest sales to begin with and then went on to sell millions of copies.
The initial print run for the book, when it was first published in Russia was 3000 copies. This was the time when Russia was facing a paper shortage. Coelho happened to find an illegal version of his book being circulated on the internet. He posted it on his own website so his fans could download it for free.
Within a year, the sales of his printed books had crossed 10,000. Two years after that the sales had touched 1 million copies…and this was just in Russia. 10 years since then, the book has sold over twelve million copies and going strong!
Coelho believes that his book sales got triggered because he allowed more readers to discover and appreciate his work online.
He has taken the same model to the next level now. He offers ALL his books that are available on peer-to-peer websites on a ‘Pirate Coelho’ website. He says his sales have not been adversely affected by any of the pirated copies being circulated in cyberspace. In fact, it’s just been the contrary.
His latest consolidated sales figure stands at a whopping 140 million copies across the world. I’m not even sure if I have as many cells in my body.
But looking at the silver lining, I’m at the same stage where Shri Coelho was during his first print run. Which means it’s only a matter of 139.999 million copies to go and I have 12 whole years to do so. While I put on my thinking cap, let me know if you have any better ideas on making the goal easier to achieve.