From the fables of Aesop and the earliest books of the Bible, through Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Douglas Adams, this writing life has always been about making words stick. Literature is an inexhaustible goldmine of quotable quotes.
One simple line that registered with me recently, though, wasn't from a great man of letters at all, but from hard-nosed business scribe Seth Godin in the US. He said: "The enemy of the author is not piracy but obscurity."
Simple, memorable, to the point ... and oh so bloody true!
Take ebook piracy, for instance. The big boys of the publishing industry are frantically trying to safeguard their investments by slapping Digital Rights Management padlocks and geographical restrictions on their best sellers. At least, war on piracy is their official line.
Who're they trying to kid? The rawest young intern in the mail room knows that it's just as easy to scan and pirate a paper book as it is to hijack an electronic copy online. The most pirated books are, in fact, books that have not even been officially published in digital form. (JK Rowling, who flatly refuses to allow her publishers to release ebooks of her Harry Potter series has seen all her novels offered as free ebook downloads all over the net in all digital formats, available within hours of official launch of hardback, courtesy of the pirates.)
We've said this before, so I won't go into detail again, but -- in a nutshell -- DRM and geographical restrictions do not discourage piracy as is claimed, they merely greatly inconvenience the honest customer, garner superfluous sales ... and actively encourage frustrated readers to turn to the black market.
So that's out of the way. Piracy ain't the enemy.
But what about obscurity? How about those brilliant authors whose names are so massively and universally unknown that no self-respecting pirate would even bother to run up his Jolly Roger to give chase?
How do we turn an author into someone worth ripping off? What's the recipe for buccaneer bait?
Answers on a postcard please ... Neil