Science fiction and fantasy                                            

On Torrents


Musings and rants

La Revolution: A Series For Our Time
In the television series La Revolution, French aristocrats are afflicted by a mysterious disease, whilst peasants go missing in suspicious circumstances.

Pandemic Reading
As the Covid pandemic rages, it has affected the way we read in a number of ways.

Reading Resolutions For The New Decade
Here are seven reading resolutions suitable for the 2020s.

Mastodon For SFF Fans
Where to go in the Fediverse to find the best speculative fiction and literary discussions.

Nine Political Books That Change The Conversation
Following news that Simon and Schuster plan to publish an inflammatory commentator, here are nine political books that deserve more attention.

Penguin Random House Withdraws Union Recognition
Penguin Random House have decided not to recognise Unite and the NUJ as a result of staff negotiations, leaving the publisher with a stain on its reputation as an employer.

Authors Support Stop Funding Hate
Some authors have had enough of divisive and xenophobic elements in the British press, and are willing to make an ethical stand.

Women In SFF: Indie Edition
A list of indie and self-published women writing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative fiction genres.

Amazon Finally Makes KU Appealing For Novelists
The new per-page payout for the Kindle Unlimited subscription service makes it a much better deal for authors of longer novels.

Thoughts On The Sieghart Report On Libraries
The Sieghart report on libraries missed its mark by miles. Yet the real cause of the decline of the UK library network is depressingly obvious.

A Shout-Out For The Good Guys
When nastiness dominates online conversations about books it is time to appreciate the well-behaved authors.

Critique Circle: Shaping Fabulous Stories
The appeal of a certain writing critique website. Or, why I have neglected this blog.

Where Shall I Point This Pitchfork?
Some thoughts on Jonathan Ross, Loncon, and the twitchfork mob.

Reading Is Not A Race
Why I will be abandoning annual reading challenges in 2014.

What Book Discovery Is Missing
The current state of book discovery is narrowing our reading choices and squeezing out midlist writers. How can it be fixed?

An Explosion Of Discovery Tools
New book discovery engines are popping up all over the web. But which ones will come out on top?

Blog Tours From Both Sides
Blog tours are the lastest marketing fad. But what are the pros and cons of this kind of publicity?

It's Not Your Story Any More
When a book is published, authors lose control over how the story should be read. They should let go the reins and enjoy the ride.

Same Old, Same Old
Are current methods of book discovery pushing us further away from original literature?

Female Protagonists In Genre Fiction
A list of recommended SFF books for adults which feature a female as the main character.

Time was, torrents meant those wild, voluminous streams of water overseen by the Norse god Aegir. But the modern world complicates everything. These days we're into murkier waters, and people talking about torrents are mostly referring to illegal downloads of copyright material.

Now that e-books are gaining ground piracy is on the rise, and it's threatening the publishing industry like never before. I believe this could devastate authors and effectively silence some of our most interesting voices.

This is our culture. The collective thoughts of an age are at stake here. Can we afford to lose that?

Publishers are not greedy, bloodsucking parasites who squeeze every last penny out of authors whilst they play sudoku and have pedicures.

They're not. Publishers actually add a lot of hidden value to our literature.

What has this got to do with piracy? Well, when you pirate a book you take away the publisher's funds for doing what they do, and for investing in new talent. So the argument that they're making obscene profits and putting nothing back just doesn't wash.

In detail

There's more to the process of publishing than many realise.

Most obvious is the proofreading. Spellcheck is not a good substitute for this, and when a book is full of typos and bad grammar it really interrupts the flow of the narrative.

Then there's editing. A great book is often the work of a writer and a fantastic editor, or even a team of them, because it often takes someone else to point out where cuts need to be made or things added. Authors are too close to their babies to see them objectively.

There's also artwork, translation, blurb-writing, and layout. They're small things, but it all adds up. These are all things self-published authors have to arrange instead of concentrating on new stories. The same applies to marketing. Authors already spend a lot of time on marketing, but if they had to do the whole thing alone they'd either fade into obscurity or seriously reduce their output. If you think word of mouth is any substitute, consider this list of little-known, self-published and independently-published books. How many have you heard of?

Publishers also work on legal matters, contracts, rights sales, production, arranging distribution, and a host of other business activities. Although it has no direct impact on the books, all of this frees up writers to do what they do best.


So perhaps you don't care about typos, and you've decided you'll put up with poor editing. If the style and presentation don't matter to you, what about the message itself?

Publishing operates on very low margins, and publishers will often take a gamble on new authors, not knowing whether their investment will pay off. If everybody downloads illegal copies these margins will get even tighter. Publishers will be less inclined to take risks on radical new writing and exciting new cross-genre fusions. Shelves will be full of homogeneous, populist books, safe and unadventurous. This has already happened in the film and music industries, where piracy has had more time to take root. Do we really want Pop Idol for books?


Most authors get paid very little, although it's hard to quantify this because you have to ask who you're going to count in your statistics. Anyone who writes full-time? Or anyone who has a book out, even if it's a self-published edition that sells less than 50 copies? Even Terry Pratchett didn't give up his day job until 1987, when Mort came out. So if your image of writers is of people so rich they don't have to watch every penny, forget it. Many of them have to fit their writing around day jobs and part-time employment, particularly early on in their careers. Piracy means they earn less money, which means they have to do other kinds of work to make up the difference. Something's got to give, and it'll either be the quality or the length of their novels. Either way, it's the readers who will suffer.

Don't take my word for it, though. Shiloh Walker has written about the effect of torrents on her output.

Author Brenna Lyons has more to say on the subject, as does Lilith Saintcrow.

© Ros Jackson