Bob Baker's Artist Empowerment Blog

Giving Away Your Art: The Surprising Truth

Cory Doctorow is a successful science fiction author and co-editor of the popular Boing Boing blog. In his online bio, he may be writing about books, but his perspective provides food for thought for artists, musicians, and other creative types:

I write science fiction novels -- three published to date ... These novels sell well, win awards, and are published by Tor Books (novels) and Avalon Books (collection). They're also given away for free on the Internet as Creative Commons-licensed downloads. They can be freely shared, and in some cases, remixed or translated and sold in developing countries.

I believe that we live in an era where anything that can be expressed as bits will be. I believe that bits exist to be copied. Therefore, I believe that any business-model that depends on your bits not being copied is just dumb, and that lawmakers who try to prop these up are like governments that sink fortunes into protecting people who insist on living on the sides of active volcanoes.

Me, I'm looking to find ways to use copying to make more money and it's working: enlisting my readers as evangelists for my work and giving them free ebooks to distribute sells more books. As Tim O'Reilly says, my problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity. Best of all, giving away ebooks gives me lots of key insights into how to make money without restricting the copying of bits. It's a win-win situation.

The quote I especially like is: "My problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity." In fact, that whole third paragraph holds a lot of wisdom. In so many ways, you have to give to get.

What do you think?



  • He's exactly right. I see musicians who are so worried about piracy that their songs never get out of the studio. If you want somebody to hear it, you have to let it loose...

    And some people WILL download/copy it without paying for it. So what? You won't get paid if you don't put it out there.

    Just released a new book and am giving away a download of it free. Within a day, I was around 19,000 on somebody is buying it.

    So does giving away work? It's worked for me. to get the download, by the way.

    By Blogger dave, At 3:46 PM  

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