Fuck You, Pirates, and the Ship You Sailed in On

So I just read an article in The Guardian about Amazon now trying to shiv publishers in the UK and Europe over print-on-demand clauses. That’s a whole other issue to what this blog post is about. Little disclaimer: I’m really riding the blood boil train right now so my language (if you hadn’t guessed by the title) might degenerate a little. Sorry.

I scrolled through the comments and came across a little gem written by wordsdontmatta. Here is the last sentence of his/her comment: “… and if i was an author, i would be happy that people actually read and wanted me [sic] stuff so bad they downloaded it free. Heck, i would put up a pay pal site for donations ;)”

I have read this same sort of sentiment on one of Chuck Wendig‘s blogposts. What I have to say to this: FUCK YOU AND YOUR FUCKING DONATION BUTTON! How is someone downloading your work for free an indication of their love for it? To me, if you can’t pony up the cash, you don’t love my work, you’re just going after what is convenient to you. In fact, you’re insulting me because my hard work isn’t worth your honest dime.

People, I want to ask you a serious question, how would you feel if you walked into your place of work tomorrow and had your manager come up to you and say, “Listen, we are changing the pay structure around here. From now on, our customers/clients can choose whether they want to pay us or not. Now, we are still going to put out top-notch, satisfying work, but they have the option to make a donation, or not. Whatever we get in exchange for our product/service will then be divided amongst the entire staff.” You’d be pretty pissed right?

All you doctors out there, how about you just put out a tip jar in your front office. If I feel like dropping a dollar in there I will. If not, I’ll catch ya next time. But I still demand and expect that you give me quality medical service. Waiters, I know you make shitty-ass pay already and live primarily on your tips but I think we should just do away with your hourly pay altogether. If a diner wants to tip you, great! If not, sorry. So you better be giving me that big smile and snappy service… and even then I STILL might decide to leave you a quarter on the table. And I think we should just tell all those men and women down at the police and fire stations that they are going to be paid out of whatever donations the city gets per month. If we get fifty dollars, well, we’ll divide that by the fifty of ya.

Now, you might be saying, “But, Robin, those are all essential services. OF COURSE we are going to pay them. You authors, though, what you do is for funnsies, entertainment.” Okay, then we better spread this to all actors, directors, musicians, video game designers, and everyone else engaged in an artistic/entertaining endeavor. let’s see how many of those big name actors show up on set for nothing. I’ll be interested to find out how all these pirate bastards get on when there are NO movies, NO music, NO books (in any format); NO video games (gasp) available for their consumption because we have all had to leave our artistic work to get a job as accountants, janitors, bus drivers etc.

Clothing is really kind of a superfluous thing too. I mean you can just as easily wear the same pair of pants and shirt every single day, right? The next time I walk into a store and see some article of clothing I like, I should just be able to take it. If I feel like throwing some cash at the hapless sales representative, I will. If not, well it’s not hurting ME, is it?

The point is, I am not a charity. No author is. This is a fucking job. This is how many of us make money to feed and clothe our families. “Pick a different job, then,” you say with an unconcerned shrug. My answer: Why the fuck should I? Most doctors become doctors because they like being doctors. Most entrepreneurs open their businesses because they like what they do. Jewelry designers sell jewelry because they like to do it. All those tech whizzes out there have tech jobs because that is what they understand and enjoy. And they get paid for their work! Why the hell should I not be able to work at what I like to do because of entitled thieves who think they are too good to pay an honest buck for a product?

And that is what it comes down to – commerce. All writers are asking is that readers engage in a straightforward business transaction, you hand over the payment and I give you the product. This arrangement is as old as humanity. You give me this in exchange for that. We are both happy and no one goes away hungry. Fucking prostitutes get paid for THEIR work, and they’re selling something that can be obtained for free if you just invest in some pleasant chit-chat. Or go at it yourself – the end result is the same and you don’t have to drop $50-$100 per throw. You want free stories/novels fucking write them yourself!

And this isn’t necessarily about getting people’s money. I am ALL for barter, people. If someone came to me and said, “Listen, I love your work and I want to buy your next book, I just can’t afford it. What can you do for me?” I’d say, “How about we trade?” You handy with Adobe Illustrator? How about you design a simple but nice book cover for me? You good behind a camera? Take my author headshot. You got a flock of chickens? I’ll trade you one short story for for 1 dozen eggs. You an electrician? Can you fix my bathroom fan in exchange for a copy of my book? And in these or other exchanges I would DEFINITELY feel like I got the better end of the bargain. To me this would be a totally legitimate and worthwhile commercial transaction. And way more dignified and rewarding than a FUCKING DONATION BUTTON.

All you “pirates” out there, let’s just call a spade a spade, shall we? You’re thieves, crooks, criminals, scoundrels, dirtbags. If you did the same exact thing you’re doing on-line at your local Barnes and Noble, the manager of that bookstore would have every right to detain you and call the police. You’d get a nice mug shot and time in a holding cell. Because you’d be a shoplifter. That’s all you are, a shoplifter. Let’s not romanticize what you’re doing with the term “pirate” because you ain’t no Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom.

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