The Artist's Rights

On Lending, Copying, Selling & Sharing Books


Well, I do not particularly like this article, partly because it comes across as moany and ranty (which it is), and more because it reminds me of being taken advantage of.  Mostly, this is by professionals who give away artists' work for free, so as to profit from advertising, website clicks and surveys.  Those people take something of value and illegally distribute it for pennies, which is an annoyance beyond words.  Sometimes it can be far simpler though.  People might enjoy an artist's work, and so want others to share in that pleasure.  However, by sharing a book (for example), the writer misses out.  As writers are notoriously poor and forever on the brink of giving up, we would do so much better if the message was more 'I read a fantastic book the other day by this Hines chap, and I really think your life would be enriched if you were to treat yourself to a copy too'.  That way, both people enjoy the work, and I am taken a step closer to enjoying a warm meal; everybody wins and the universe achieves harmony.

As an author, on behalf of authors and all other types of artists everywhere, please do not lend, loan, share or sell our work.  Pretty please? Copyright laws were put in place to protect the artist from a legal standpoint, but these laws are mostly overlooked or ignored because people do not respect them. The following is why we do not want our work distributed outside the copyright regulations:

In writing a book, whether on a specialist subject or a general one, it might take the author from 6 months to 2 years or more to research and write the manuscript. This is an investment of time that is entirely unpaid (for the majority of authors) during the process. We do it because we hope our work will generate sufficient income after publication to compensate us. For most of us, that compensation will be mere pennies for each hour invested.

If a publisher offers their writers a 10% royalty payment, that represents 10% of what the publisher receives, which is typically 50% or less of the selling price. So, the author receives maybe 5% of what you pay for the book, and half that if the book is on a great enough discount. If a book is subsequently sold following that original sale, we make nothing. We have lost the opportunity to earn what we would have done if the buyer had bought the book new.

Even if a writer self-publishes, there is very little, if any, difference in actual income. A high-quality book requires investment in a good proof-reader and/or editor, time and money for marketing and promotion, website fees, research costs, computer equipment, software, direct publishing costs (such as registering for ISBN numbers, printing costs, image rights, designers, and so on).  People who self-publish tend to sell fewer books because they lack the expertise in marketing and promotion, or do not have the time to invest in these things. Hence, there is little difference in revenue for the author whether the book is published through a publishing house or self-published.

There are millions of books available worldwide, representing millions of authors' work. However, only a very few writers generate sufficient income to make a living from their work. Those years dedicated to a single publication are, for the most part, not compensated for at anything even close to a minimum wage. Although some writers become rich from their work, they represent maybe a hundredth of a percent of all writers. A specialist book, for example, might only sell in the hundreds each year, and a couple of thousand at best.

As writers, we accept all of this. We accept receiving only a minimal percentage because we understand that there are necessary expenses involved in producing a book. We write anyway because we share a passion about sharing our thoughts, ideas, research, and so on with the public. We do this because we believe it is a positive contribution to the world, and we commit our time, unpaid, for years, in the hope we will be compensated for it later on. We consider it a fair and reasonable way to generate income for ourselves, and do so in the hope of fair and reasonable reward.

Each time our work is lent, loaned, shared, or sold second-hand, our work is being distributed for the benefit of others with no compensation for our own investments of time, personal expense, energy and creativity. The cost of a book is minimal, but the cost of undervaluing the original author is very great indeed, to us at least. We doubt that our readers would work for free for years and be satisfied with that, or be happy to be undervalued, or be unpaid for their time whilst others readily share and/or sell that work for their own profit (whether financial or simply the personal reward of being charitable with someone else's intellectual property).

If you would be happy to work for years, expecting compensation for that work, and be equally content when all or some of that work is given away for free, then presumably you are financially very secure.  If so, you are to be congratulated on your success. Most writers, however, are not in this position. We write in the hope we will make a positive contribution to our art and be rewarded for it. Please do not undervalue us - if you like our work then please recommend others to buy a copy for themselves. That way we all benefit from the experience. 

From all of us, thank you for reading this.


Mark Hines

March 2013


For those who have my books and wish to have them no more, I would recommend giving them to a charity, as I would rather if any money were to be made, it was for a charitable cause.  A benefit of e-books is that the issue need not arise.

I give lectures and courses around the UK on subjects relevant to endurance athletes, coaches, personal trainers and therapists.  Details of these can be found here.



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