download.jpegA day or so after those in the US finished celebrating Thanksgiving, I had reason to thank my lucky stars for pirates.

In particular, the ebook pirate who ripped off my book and posted it on a well-known non-legitimate download site. I’d name the site, but I don’t think that’s the done thing. People can use Google any way they like.

I’m a journalist who became an author in 2006 when my book Baby Steps: a Bloke’s-Eye View of IVF was published by a major Australia publisher. It went out in paperback and, as an afterthought – as it was back then – an ad hoc kind of deal was done with to list it in digital format. It was a PDF, I think. Sadly, I didn’t download a copy. I didn’t think I’d need to.

I’m not writing this to sell my book (even though it’s still up on Amazon US here and UK here in paper form – if you’re into memoirs about comical and embarrassing groin-based hi-jinx. In fiction, Ben Elton’s Inconceivable is similar, but I only read that after I’d published mine). What this post is plugging is some aspects of piracy – it’s a personal tale of how piracy can be good. A very specific case, but a legitimate one nonetheless.

Anyway, my book sold okay – just OK. Not enough to get a reprint or earn back my advance and start bringing in royalty cheques, apparently. The publisher – Allen & Unwin (Australia) – did a mediocre job of publicizing it, for about two weeks. Being a journo, I pulled some strings and got it more coverage in the print media than the publisher did. So, after it had been on the stands for a month or so and that flurry of activity had died down, that was the last I heard of the whole thing.

No updates, no calls, no updated sales figures. It was all I could do to get my publisher on the phone. What about my agent? Well, she was great, and probably got me most of the media coverage in the beginning (not to mention the publishing deal in the first place). But she left the agency in question about a year after I published, so I was a bit cut off. The agent who inherited me didn’t take or return my calls, so I think “cut off” is the right metaphor.

Ebook rights aren’t nailed down specifically in my contract – it was/is very vague. So now, roughly five years after paper publication, I’ve decided to take them back. What is my publisher going to do? Would they even know? Probably not.

That’s how I came to be thankful for piracy. The legitimate ebook version of Baby Steps had disappeared from, and I was never sent a digital version of the edited text.

So I’d have been stuck without a copy of the edited text if it weren’t for the pirated version of my ebook, which I downloaded in two minutes, cut and pasted into a ePUB document using the brilliant (and free) ebook software Sigil, had a new cover designed (the copyright on the cover artwork is a different animal to the story’s copyright), and I was away.

Now I want to help other authors to utilise the rights that are … um, rightfully theirs. I’ve started a self-publishing site for authors who have retained (or regained) the rights to their backlist, or for new works that don’t fit the mold of what their publishers want.

It’s called and it’s only open to published authors. If that seems a bit of a closed shop, it’s because I want to maintain the quality of the writing. Everything on the site – which isn’t much at this early stage – is going to be high-quality writing in ePUB format, because the sources are proven authors. And there will be no DRM.

Smashwords also has its place. There are a lot of great writers publishing their stuff via Smashwords, but there’s also a helluva lot of dross.

Authors note, is totally open and transparent. You can publish elsewhere too if you like, you retain all rights, you can come and go as you please, price your ebooks as you like (free, even) – hell, we’ll even help you construct the ebook from your raw text. And you keep 70% of the revenue. To kick things off, I’m also implementing a referral scheme: if you refer a fellow author, you also get 5% of his/her sales as long as they publish on the site (while you friend still gets their 70%).

This really is the way publishing should now be. Do I think I’ll get rich doing this. No way. But its aim is to show authors how easy and open self-publishing can and should be, and help them dip a toe in the water.

Editor’s Note: Jason Davis is an Australian journalist. He also runs the Bookbee and EbookAnt websites. PB


  1. “is going to be high-quality writing in ePUB format, because the sources are proven authors. And there will be no DRM.”

    So you’re also going to leave out about 50% of the published authors too then? 😉 “Proven”, which I take to mean published, doesn’t come close to equating to quality.

    Why just ePub? The Kindle is a huge market (Kindle users don’t have to buy only from Amazon) and having Mobi format is well would make sense (once you have an ePub is pretty easy to do a Mobi to go with it).

  2. Back in ancient times when ebooks were published on diskettes and at publisher websites, this was even before Fictionwise, my first publisher for my sf novel, THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN, was one of those jerks who believed his contract applied to me and not to him.

    Despite my frequent requests, I never got my contracted digital and diskette copies of my novel.

    One of my readers sent me a copy because she hated the idea that I didn’t have a copy of the book cover sleeve and the diskette.

    Give me the generosity of the reader over the arrogance of pirates any day.

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