MaxBarry.com
will dance for food

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Fri 24
May
2013

Dear Pirates: This is How to Help

What Max Reckons Sometimes people pirate my stuff. Then sometimes they write to tell me they pirated my stuff, because they feel kind of bad about it, and wonder if they can pay me somehow. (Except one time when a guy said he’d pirated a compilation of “100 Great E-Books” and he just wanted to let me know I was in it, as a compliment. A kind of compliment.)

For example:

Now I had read your latest blog post about the movie the other day saying it had been released on iTunes and some cable websites, so <pirate pirate pirate>, so right now Syrup is 42% completed, and with my guilt (and procrastination, as I’m still typing this email) growing with every percentage, I thought to ask your opinion.

I’ve been looking forward to the Syrup movie since I read the book and thought “This would make a damn good movie!”, and then came the first rumours or it actually becoming one, so of course I want to support the production company and in turn future movies/series (I’m trying not to get my hopes up for Jennifer Government), but I can’t wait.

Would there be a PayPal donation link I can use to throw you the cost of a movie ticket? Or should I watch it now and when it eventually hits theatres and see you as a waiter on the big screen? Buy the DVD?

What, as the writer of the source material for a movie, do you think is the most beneficial method (to whoever you think deserves it. I of course, thought you) of paying for my viewing pleasure?

The general answer is that you should tell people you watched it. Or that you read it, if it’s a book. You should tweet, “Just finished <whatever>, highly recommended,” assuming you liked it, or “Just finished <whatever>” if you didn’t. Or post on Facebook. Or write a nice review somewhere. If you do this, you are all square in my eyes. In fact, I’d bet most artists and content creators feel the same way. Because the major problem they face isn’t that people pirate their work; it’s that nobody knows they exist.

Getting people talking is massive. Enormous amounts of time and energy are poured into getting people talking about every single book and film and song ever released. You, talking about a book/film/song, is really valuable. I can’t emphasize that enough. It can galvanize all kinds of great outcomes.

A Pirate Tip Jar (Jaarrrrr), on the other hand, would be a bad move. Lots of people work on books and films, not just me; even on a novel, I’m due no more than 15% of what you pay. I don’t want anyone thinking they can cut those people out and pay me directly. Also, I suspect the number of people who say they’d love to pay for X if only there were a more convenient way of doing so is far greater than the number of people who would actually pay. I mean, it’s a nice sentiment. But we generally pay for things because we have to. That’s just how it works.

So instead of wishing you could tip an artist for something you pirated, talk about it. That’s good for everyone involved. If you have nothing good to say, even a simple mention is helpful. Not a bad mention. That’s not helpful. But the difference between pirating something and saying nothing vs. pirating something and mentioning it to other people is really, really huge.

Of course, piracy is kind of wrong. I feel I need to say that explicitly. It’s kind of wrong because people who create something like a book or movie or song should be able to decide if and how they’ll sell it. Just because it’s more than you’d like to pay doesn’t mean it’s fair to pirate; everything is more than you’d like to pay. If Justin Timberlake made a CD and priced it at a thousand dollars a copy, such would be his right.

But it would be pretty silly of Justin to think people wouldn’t pirate that. Especially fans, and especially if that CD was only released in one country at a time and didn’t work on everyone’s players. I would be surprised if Justin wasn’t fully aware that this situation would provoke quite a lot of piracy. I have no idea why I’m using Justin Timberlake as an example. That just happened. But what I’m saying is that while piracy is generally bad for artists, and we want you to buy real books/tickets/MP3s/downloads, I recognize that piracy happens sometimes anyway. And if it happened to you, and you want to say thanks, you can do a lot of good by spreading the word.

Comments

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Radiatia (#6360)

Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Quote: "Everything in life is about sex, except for sex - that's about power."
Posted: 2156 days ago

Well, now I feel good for telling a random stranger I met in a hotel to read Company because it seemed like the sort of book they'd look.

And I also feel good about being one of a very small number of old-fashioned people who can't stand e-readers and therefore buy and read paperbacks - something which can't be downloaded... unless you download it and then print it out yourself. Which is more effort/computer savvy that I am capable of.

Radiatia (#6360)

Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Quote: "Everything in life is about sex, except for sex - that's about power."
Posted: 2156 days ago

*like the sort of book they'd like.

Kristy (#4441)

Location: Baltimore, MD
Posted: 2156 days ago

"Also, I suspect the number of people who say they’d love to pay for X if only there were a more convenient way of doing so is far greater than the number of people who would actually pay. I mean, it’s a nice sentiment. But we generally pay for things because we have to. That’s just how it works. "


I think there's a lot of emerging data to dispute this claim, actually. Although I can't find the source at the moment, the recent trend in streaming media and options to purchase shows online and by episode has seen a huge purchase increase and I believe a decrease in the rates of piracy. This may vary by media, but when the only options available to purchase movies and TV shows were retail stores which only carried a small selection or amazon, I think it makes a lot of sense that other ways to purchase and deliver media can reduce pirating. Personally I've definitely experienced trying to purchase a piece of media and being dismayed that it wasn't available for me to buy.

Also, it's a lot easier to use the one click buy on amazon than it is to torrent, and I think laziness will prevail for a lot of people who have the expendable income.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2156 days ago

Thanks Radiatia!

@Kristy: I think we agree on that, and I'm strongly in favor of making all this stuff available cheaply and in open formats that work everywhere. A lot of people pirate not to save a few bucks but because there's no reasonable alternative. If it's easy to buy, and it's reasonably cheap, and it works, people will pay for it. But I was talking above about a situation where people have already pirated something, and payment is purely optional (and requires extra effort).

Machine Man subscriber Marleen (#2741)

Location: Berlin, Germany
Quote: "I want more expensive shoes in one place than I've ever seen in my whole life."
Posted: 2156 days ago

I'm just here to say that I would have *loved* to rent Syrup (the movie) on iTunes. Unfortunately, neither Canadian nor German iTunes had it (that's the two stores that I have access to). And whether or not it will make it into German cinemas, I'll have to wait and see.

There are a lot of people who are genuine when they say "I would pay for this if I could" (or "Shut up and take my money. Why won't you take my money?") I frequently find myself in the situation that there's just no way. I really hope that this will change soon - not just within the US.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 2156 days ago

May 24, 2013

PIRATING VS. NINJA-...ing

Throughout time there have been great battles between various mythological, psychological, and biological entities. Vampires vs. Zombies, Santa vs. Jesus, All the Epic Rap Battles of History...But none so great as Pirates vs. Ninjas.

I find myself more of a Pirate type. It's why I created my first nation on nationstates 10 years ago and named it "Pirate_Land" (It was banned from nationstates due to the natural rudeness of pirates, and now I have Pirate_Land2). Pirating has now been using as a term most often associated with stealing. So what would be the Ninja equivalent?

What is Ninja-ing?
It could be "sneaking". It could be "assassinating". My personal favorite is "being terrible at everything and significantly inferior to pirates".

PIRATES RULE! NINJAS ARE DUMB! GOT 'EM!

-Adam

Machine Man subscriber Electrichead (#3898)

Location: Toronto
Posted: 2156 days ago

@Max and @Kristy: For me personally, paying the artist/author directly is far better than paying them 15%. In North America, I think that is the tip you pay the waiter/waitress for your food. I would dispute that the person creating the content is only entitled to 15% - that is probably what the common belief is based on past amounts, but those are from an era without the distribution channels available today.

I bring it up because over the last 10 years, I have actually donated a fair amount directly to people that have provided things open-source, free, or through personal distribution; from ToDoList to egghead.io to even Machine Man.

I think Kickstarter is a good example of what the future could be. Machine Man was an awesome experiment, and I am surprised to see that it did not lead to anything more in that vein (in terms of payment options).

@Kristy is right that there is a lot of evidence of the "pirates" actually being insatiable consumers of content, who actually form a huge portion of those paying for content (in general terms). i.e. they both pirate and pay for content, depending largely on availability and convenience. I will post some links when I get home from work, but I am sure I've read this more than a few times in the last few years.

tl;dr: Paying you directly would make me very happy, if I would then be able to pirate your content since the distribution channels for pirated content is a lot better and a lot more convenient than legit channels!

towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 2156 days ago

"But I was talking above about a situation where people have already pirated something, and payment is purely optional (and requires extra effort)."

A lot of webcomics run on purely optional donations. (Albeit many more run on the sacrificed sleep of their artists.)
Pirated content is not, in that sense, so different from freely shared content, I think. If you cultivate enough fans, they'd provide for you, even if it's optional.

towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 2156 days ago

"For me personally, paying the artist/author directly is far better than paying them 15%"

I think Max is trying to argue that there are some other people that contribute significantly enough to the creation of the story as to warrant some payment. I've read plenty of stories that could easily have been twice as good if they had just been spell-checked, let alone the miracles a good editor can do.
It'd be interesting to see what the different contributions really are; and who become obsolete if you don't distribute on paper.

Basically if you pay directly to the artist, it becomes his/her problem to pay everyone he/she depends on. Having a publisher might be worth it just not to have that responsibility and hassle.
(I suppose, maybe, the publisher could put a donation jar up for each of their authors? But at the moment you have the problem that different publishers publish the same book for different regions. So who'd get the right for the online donations?)

Machine Man subscriber Morlok8k (#4133)

Location: The Moon
Quote: "I like stuff..."
Posted: 2156 days ago

I watched it. I liked it. I'll buy a blu-ray when it comes out. (Best praise I can give a movie, as I rarely buy physical copies of movies these days...)

It is different from the book (and didn't have my favorite scene from the book, oh well..), and kinda felt like it had some Jennifer Government influences.

I haven't read the book in years, so it was fun to revisit. Scat and Six aren't how I remember picturing them in my mind, but they worked. (Amber Heard is hot!)

I'm not going to say much as I don't want to give spoilers.



Oh, and I had a nice surprise the other month - I finally got around to buying Machine Man in paperback, and my name was listed in the back of the book!

Machine Man subscriber Roger (#1653)

Posted: 2154 days ago

The iTunes "rental" situation was almost enough for my sister and I to pirate Syrup, since we didn't like the idea of forking over cash to only be able to watch a movie once or twice for 2 days. But since we love you Max (but only as a friend), we showed our support and purchased it. 'Course, I guess we could've just waited for the movie to show up in theaters, or on DVD...

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2154 days ago

@Electrichead re: paying artists directly: Fair enough, but artists have that choice. We can sell our stuff directly and keep 100%, like I did with the MACHINE MAN serial, or we can sell rights to a publisher/studio/whoever and take a smaller royalty in exchange for better distribution, promotion, editorial help, etc. We can't have it both ways.

It's really unfortunate that signing with a publisher/distributor means the book/whatever usually gets restricted in various ways... they make it available in a limited number of territories for a limited time in a limited number of formats. Whereas when artists sell directly, we tend to do it unencumbered and globally. I think that will be fixed eventually... it seems like a hangover from an earlier time when you could hold back a book/song/movie and people would just have to wait.

Dan (#2673)

Location: USA
Quote: "Trust your stuff."
Posted: 2153 days ago

Hello Max. About 11 years ago as a marketing student, a friend of mine gave me a copy of some paperback novel with a couple canoodling on the cover. Called 'Syrup', it broke me out of the thinking that reading was a chore. It was funny! It was entertaining! With this friend, we semi-seriously vowed that if it was ever made into a movie, we would go to LA for the opening weekend.
Now that it is a movie, we have fulfill our end of the deal. Luckily enough she - along with some family - lives in LA now. Friends of mine here in middle America are making a road trip out of this. We will be enjoying baseball, barbecue, and rock formations along the way, but make no mistake, Syrup: The Motion Picture is the impetus.
So what I am saying is: Will you be in Hollywood for the premiere??

Herbshire (#6278)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "Politics and economy are the main important sectors in a devoloping country - William H. Johnson."
Posted: 2151 days ago

Max, nice to see you.
I sent you an e-mail and feel free to read and reply me back.
Anyways what's your nation name? I want to see you on NationStates.

Regards,
Herby.

Herbshire (#6278)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "Politics and economy are the main important sectors in a devoloping country - William H. Johnson."
Posted: 2151 days ago

My nation name is Herbshire, it can be of_herbshire in the URL and my full nation name is The Constitutional Monarchy of Herbshire.

ryandake (#2199)

Location: scenic monterey, ca
Quote: ""The rest is not our business.""
Posted: 2148 days ago

oh HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!!!!!! not about pirates, but it's totally Max Month: Syrup and Lexicon!!!!!! am dragooning all my friends into renting Syrup (my internets is too effing slow) and waiting with bated breath (it's a looooooong wait, when you're not breathing) for Lexicon.

and even better news! Machine Man in Japanese! now i can get my Japanese friends hooked on your work too!

happyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappy

Herbshire (#6278)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "Politics and economy are the main important sectors in a devoloping country - William H. Johnson."
Posted: 2147 days ago

My nation name is Herbshire, it can be of_herbshire in the URL and my full nation name is The Constitutional Monarchy of Herbshire.

Brainiac (#6475)

Location: I Wish I Knew
Quote: "Quoted"
Posted: 2033 days ago

I intend to build a replicator and pirate physical copies of your books to line my bookshelf(or maybe just serve as decoration depending on whether I liked the story or not)

:)

dharmaRN (#6538)

Location: Nebraska, USA
Quote: ""No one can make you feel inferior without your permission." ~Eleanor Roosevelt"
Posted: 1925 days ago

Just finished my first MB read: LEXICON.
Here is the 5-star review I posted on Amazon:

Fiercely Brilliant!, January 9, 2014
By dharmaRN -

This novel could be the love child of Margaret Atwood and Chuck Palahniuk. If you are drawn to borderline Sci-Fi tempered with: "Hey, this is actually happening in more minor forms already," then Lexicon is a must-read. While I enjoy reading near-futuristic pre- or post- apocalyptic visions, most have been centered on the hard sciences: environmental decay, genetic mutation, overpopulation, megaCorps engineering strategic disasters, etc.
What makes Lexicon fresh is the social sciences creating danger, fear, control: Not so much in Orwellian or Huxley ways (the End of Humanity is here, let's find out how "they" did/do it), but more like, "Ok, I'll suspend disbelief for the story.... Oh, wait.... no more disbelief... It's already emerging and very believable." Smash your TV and read this book!

What else can I say? Feirce!

Machine Man subscriber Alan W (#1427)

Location: Spokane, Washington
Quote: "Corgis are like potato chips"
Posted: 1878 days ago

Have you considered accepting internet money, like Dogecoin?

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