Why We're DRM-Free (and it's not because we trust you...)

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So our online bookstore has finally gone live. Buy early and buy often: our author contracts provide for the author to get paid every month on direct sales, rather than every six months as is the industry norm, so purchases from our store help writers!

However the main thrust of this post is not to prod publishers toward that model (though it would be nice of they did) but to prod farther towards DRM-free. Why?

Well, here's a theory about DRM-free that's widely-held by advocates of DRM-free.

"Don't treat your customers like criminals."

That's true, though it's not the only reason we do it. Another theory is:

"Make something convenient for folks and they won't pirate." 

Also true, though also not the only reason we do it. 

The deep reason we do it is that we want you to forward the ePub to someone you think will really like it.

It's not that I trust you not to pirate it—it's that I trust you to pirate it responsibly!

Because the primary reason folks don't read a particular book isn't because it costs money (though for some folks that can be an issue), it's because it takes time, and brain power, and emotional commitment. And you don't give those things up lightly. You give them up mostly when a trusted friend advises you to. 

So if I want to make new readers for Kio and Lynne and Vanessa, a good thing for me to do is give you tools. You have come to Red Lemonade and bought a book, I shoud give you the tools to get that friend of yours, that friend you believe will enjoy it, give you the tools to get her to actually read it. (Though, if you don't want to be sending them attachments, you can always refer them to our site, where folks can browse the full text of our books online for free and check out a whole community of writers similarly inspired.)

And if they do, and love it, somewhere down the turnpike they buy a paperback, or another digital download or a limited edition or the next book or a previous book or a class.

So I am empowering our readers to be advocates for the writers they love, thereby increasing readership.

And here's my gauntlet thrown down: If, as a publisher, you don't believe your writers can motivate readers to do that...then you shouldn't be publishing.


Nash, I like your style. I think people forget how many books they've read for free without bankrupting the authors or publishers. The first Hunter S. Thompson I ever read, Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail 1972, was enthusiastically loaned to me by a friend. The same for Kerouac's On the Road, Philip K. Dick's VALIS, Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr, and countless others. Later on, I bought other books by those writers (I guess that's why publishers want writers who put out lots of books, so sooner or later someone will buy one). The same thing with music. My brother and I had a small cassett tape recorder. Our father showed us how, instead of using the microphone to record songs off the radio (which always sounded like crap), we could pry open the radio and attach two small alligator clips to the speaker connections, and plug in directly to the mic jack of the tape recorder. We must have recorded hundreds of songs, but somehow, as if by magic, the artists made enough money to buy psychedelic Rolls Royces and Aleister Crowley's mansion.
....further to your comment. From Neil Gaiman: "You're not losing sales by getting stuff out there. When I do a big talk now on these kinds of subjects and people ask "What about the sales you are losing by having stuff floating out there?" I started asking the audience to raise their hands for one question -- Do you have a favorite author? And they say yes and I say good. What I want is for everybody who discovered their favorite author by being lent a book put up your hand. Then anybody who discovered their favorite author by walking into a book story and buying a book. And it's probably about 5-10%, if that, of the people who discovered their favorite author who is the person they buy everything of and they buy the hardbacks. And they treasure the fact they've got this author. Very few of them bought the book. They were lent it. They were given it. They did not pay for it. That's how they found their favorite author. And that's really all this is; it's people lending books."
Seth Godin's statement on his blog this morning also refers — Red Lemonade allows emerging:


Emerging is when you use a platform to come into your own. Merging is when you sacrifice who you are to become part of something else.

Merging is what the system wants from you. To give up your dreams and your identity to further the goals of the system. Managers push for employees to merge into the organization.

Emerging is what a platform and support and leadership allow you to do. Emerging is what we need from you.

thanks for starting this bookshop & though i've not bought often and much, i have purchased veselka's book /and i love it/.
my question's simple: two small press publishers are currently showing interest in my collected short stories (50k-60k words). while i have not had many discussions with them, i am aware of the three quite different options available to me right now: (1) self-publish using createspace, kindle publishing etc, (2) using a small press, or (3) using red lemonade/cursor.
my problem: i don't really understand the differences (apart from the one you volunteered above: DRM —good!— and the payment mode—not so relevant to me, since i'm not under any illusions as to the likely profits from a debut book of short shorts).
so far, i've stayed away from self-publishing because of the work involved and because i'm not sure how the market/agents/readers view this case. (i am aware the game is changing quickly). i've also not really used red lemonade—only because of the work involved (my focus is on writing) & because i'm not interested in the community aspects as much as in the publishing. (perhaps both are hard to separate in this case?) i'm not sure i trust communities that consist of writers only who are in a competitive situation without rules: i enjoy competition as a contest, but implicitly competitive communities, while they may be awfully cozy and warm (such as fictionaut where i've been very active) are a dead end for publishing.
summarising, i'd really like to see a post — a table really — that compares self-publishing / small press publishing / red lemonade. criteria for such a comparison could include:
— distribution (reader base reached)
— marketing incl. public events (globally)
— business model (profit/cost share issues, pricing)
— editorial support (proof reading, sub/copyediting)
— DRM (copyright ...)
— printing (production values, cover/art)
— sourcing (finding, screening, selecting authors)
— time (to publication, final copy etc)
— translation (only included this because i am german in germany but write in english)
... i'm sure there are others, but i'm an amateur when it comes to publishing...my main focus and interest is writing stuff.
any other comments on my ramblings are appreciated!
cheers from berlin,
marcus speh
Hi Marcus, I wish I could, in fact, writ a single post, or even five, that could properly respond to that. In practice though, that's multiple *books* of analysis and discussion there. Because the why's and wherefore's don't lend themselves to a single phrase of description within a grid. Here's what I can say: self-publishing involves using an appropriately selected set of production tools and marketing tools to be your own publisher. How good a person will be at that depends on the quality of the editorial activity s/he obtained and on his/her ability to market the work, irrespective of the work's market*ability.* Being published involves some one or more people doing that for/with you. How well that works out depends on the forgoing as well as the I describe and the decisions they make/don't make. Red Lemonade. Posting your work offers two things. The first is that it is a method of procuring editorial feedback and obtaining early-stage readership. That could improve your ability to successfully self-publish (better editorial, improved audience) and it could improve your ability to publish with a third party that's not yourself and not Red Lemonade but some other publisher. As with self-publishing, it could improve the work itself for that purpose, and it could improve your ability to reach a readership. The second is that we might publish it ourselves. the pure posting and participation will have improved the work itself, and it will have grown your audience, and we believe that we can add both with editing and promoting the work on top of what has already occurred by posting it. So the reason a grid is meaningless is, well, it ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it. If someone says, I can teach you to write a book, you could in theory put "teaches how to write book" in the cell on the grid. Doesn't mean they can deliver. And doesn't mean they'll guide you towards the kind of book you want to write. Generally speaking, in the realm of fiction and narrative nonfiction a good honest independent publisher with a reasonable track record is better than doing it yourself. It's better than self-publishing and it's better than just posting to RL and then walking away. if you've a little time and a little money and you feel you're a better hustler than the publishers you've encountered, then go for it.
thanks richard, for the detailed, quick response. i had a hunch, as i was writing the list of criteria, after having already brushed community, that you might say "multiple *books*" of analysis. and in fact, i'm going to plough this field myself when my next research sabbatical is up (another 2 years to go, alas). otherwise, i am looking for ways to make publishing as painless as possible...simply because with a couple of other jobs, writing time for me is precious enough as it is...
what you say makes a lot of sense. i hadn't been looking for feedback regarding the collection i was talking about, but i can see how the Red Lemonade community model can work to improve a book. i've used fictionaut that way myself & i may try it for my next writing project — or in fact to improve my recently written 100 summer pieces, which deserve some serious editing.
i think all the various routes sketched by you continue to be interesting & in the meantime (during the last couple of hours) i've put my first manuscript up at the site...it wasn't half as hard as i thought it would be and now i'm even more curious if/how the annotation system will work...overall, the system seems already a lot more stable than even only a few months back, which is great—good work!
...actually, i have now begun to put a first manuscript on RL and i'm looking forward to adding to it — it's not half as hard as i thought, but i'm still curious as to my questions, which aren't really addressed by being able to master the RL GUI.