PUBLISHING: To DRM or not to DRM, is that really the question?

I found that many authors, especially the self-publishing authors, are confused by Digital Rights Management, thinking that DRM is necessary in order to prevent your work from being pirated.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
Let’s start with putting Digital Right Management into laymen’s terms.
Digital Rights Management is software added to intellectual property in order to limit the user in sharing the property.
Well, that sounds fine, doesn’t it? When the buyer of your e-book downloads the file from the retailer, they can read the e-book on their e-reader, but they won’t be able to give a copy of the book to their friends, who will have to buy their own copies.
Except that it isn’t ‘excellent’. What happens is that producers of content limit legitimate users from using the product across several devices. You can listen to the compact disc on your compact disc players, but you cannot rip the CD to iTunes for listening to the music on your iPod. You can read the e-book on your e-reader, but not on your smartphone, but the smartphone wasn’t registered as an e-reading device by the retailer…
Yes, but at least my book won’t be pirated!
Sure, delude yourself that clunky DRM software will scare off any pirate. Pirating sites have counter software that strips the DRM from your book in a matter of seconds. Thinking that adding DRM to your book will render it safe from piracy is like thinking a home invader will pass on your home because you installed a motion-detector with spotlight on your front door while your backdoor is wide open.
But I don’t want my work to be pirated!
Face it, if someone wants to get their hands on your book and distribute it illegally, there’s not much you can do about it. DRM certainly won’t do the trick, so putting DRM on your book will only annoy your legitimate readers who won’t be able to read your book across multiple devices.
You simply don’t care about getting pirated!
I do. I don’t think it’s fair to steal a book I worked on and hope to sell in order to free up time to write more books. At the same time, I’m a realist. I can’t stop piracy, I can’t force people to pay for my work. Still, you have the consider the following: if your book gets pirated and downloaded a 1000 times, that doesn’t mean you miss out on a 1000 sales. Readers who frequent pirate sites to get their hands on your books are not the kind of upstanding citizens who would go to a retailer and pay for your book.
They are not your readers. Your readers are the ones who go to Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Nook, iBooks, wherever, to legitimately download your book. They do so, because they hope you will write more books for them to enjoy, and they know that you need to get paid for your work, or you’ll have to get a job that actually pays the bills but cuts into your writing time, thus resulting in less frequent publications for them to enjoy.
What’s more, while the people who frequent pirate sites might not be your readers now, they might become your readers in the future.
While that sounds paradoxical, think about loss-leaders.
Whenever you go to a supermarket and someone offers you a sample of a new product, they do that with the express purpose to get you hooked on their product, hoping the sample will get you to buy the product at full price.
Like many authors, I’ve put out some work for free or almost free, with only one purpose in mind – to get readers hooked on my work. Readers like free stuff, but if they really like the free stuff and they get interested in what the author offers, they are more than willing to spend money on keeping that writer to put out more of the stuff they enjoy.
So don’t worry too much about your books getting pirated. Sure, it sucks that someone tries to profit from your hard work, but it won’t harm your actual sales, and the free downloads might actually engage a reader who realizes that you’re being screwed out of your money, and get that reader to support you by eschewing pirate sites and legitimately downloading your work.
I have a contract with my readers. At less than the price of a cinema ticket, I will tell them a story, giving them the opportunity to go on an adventure with me for a couple of hours, make them think, give them characters who will live in their minds, give them stories that will thrill and excite them. And I will keep on doing that for as long as I’m able, whether I can live on the proceeds of my work or not.
But if I can’t live from selling my work, I will have to find other means of income, which will cut into the time I can spend writing my stories.
So, dear reader, if you really enjoy an author’s work, honor the contract and pay them for their hard work, so they can continue to entertain you.
The only way pirate sites are going to disappear is when readers simply won’t download pirated works anymore.

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Inspired by feedback from readers…

This blog article is inspired by the feedback emails I receive from readers who have read my books and are eagerly waiting for Rogue to come out:

Dear Reader,

I appreciate your enthusiasm and understand your eager anticipation of the new novel in the Amsterdam Assassin Series. I’d love to be able to write more new stories to entertain my readers, but to do so, I really need your help.

I would be able to write more books in a shorter time, if I didn’t have to spend so much time getting my books noticed. And I can’t do it by myself.

I’m a self-published author, which means that after I finished writing, editing and polishing my manuscript to make the work ready for publication, I cannot devote myself to writing the next novel, but I have to become my own publisher. I have to commission a new cover, format the books and get them published on the retail sites.

That’s no hardship for me, but what bites me is that nobody promotes my books for me. And tooting my own horn feels awkward. I love the stories I write, but if I try to communicate my love for my work to other people, even if I just try to tell them I wrote a book that’s worthy of their attention, I run the risk of sounding arrogant and conceited.

Besides, all authors think they write great books (or they wouldn’t be writing them), so my opinion of my books means less than nothing.

What I need is fans like you to help me gain more exposure for the Amsterdam Assassin Series. If my fans champion my books, I can devote myself to writing new stories.

If you want to help, this is what you can do:

  • Write reviews for the books and post them on Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Facebook, GoodReads, your blog, twitter, any social media platform you can think of.
  • Recommend the Amsterdam Assassin Series to other readers. Personal recommendations carry great weight. If you’re enthusiastic, you can inspire other people to follow your example. Tell people that they can receive a free copy of Reprobate in return for a review.
  • Give me feedback on how to improve my promotion by telling me how you found me/the books and what you were looking for. Send me comments on what you like or dislike about the books, so I know how my work is received.
  • Follow my blog for the latest news. Like me on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and Amazon.
  • Sign up for an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of ROGUE, so you can read the new book before it is published and write a review that can be posted on retailer sites and social media in the first week of publication, so Rogue will be propelled higher into the rankings.

I’ve been writing for twenty years and I’m not going to stop just because my sales number in the 15-20 books per month, but the less time I have to spend marketing my work, the more time I have to write new stories.

So if you’re eager for my next book, help shoulder my workload and donate some of your time promoting the books you love.

I’m grateful for your support, your feedback makes my day!


Martyn V. Halm