Being Your Own Boss: S. E. Smith talks Online Piracy

S.E Smith, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, knows her way around the self-publishing world. Her self-publishing empire runs vast, having published over a dozen books and having released a large amount of them as audiobooks. She has an ardent fan group who she directly connects with through her charismatic personality along with her numerous social media platforms. All in all, S.E. Smith is a self-published author of which to aspire. MUSO had the chance to sit down with her to talk about her journey to becoming a best-selling author and how she deals with piracy on a daily basis, despite already publicising a free download for her book.

What is your preferred online distributor (Amazon, Smashwords etc) and how has your experience been with them?

At first, I used Amazon exclusively before moving to both Amazon and Smashwords. Now, I distribute directly to six different distributors. All of them have been wonderfully supportive of indie authors.

What inspired you to get into self-publishing?

That is an interesting story. My sister was pushing me to publish my stories after I shared them with her. I sent one story off to a small publishing house and received a very nice letter saying that it was a wonderful story, but not the genre they were currently looking for. My sister can be a very tenacious person and so, out of survival, I turned to self-publishing.

What do you see to be the pros and cons of self-publishing?

The pros are having control to make all of the decisions regarding your work. I can decide how far I want to take it or what happens next. I like being the boss of me. The cons would be that it is a very time-consuming endeavour because you become the publishing house and have to learn every division within that ‘company.’

What has your experience been with online piracy?

Online piracy is an on-going battle. There have been many discussions to both the pros and cons of having your work pirated. I’ve had all of my stories pirated and have to admit it isn’t a pleasant experience. I don’t think most people realise they are pirating a book, or if they do, the impact it has on the artist. This is our livelihood. It is difficult for people to really put a face on something they are just reading. The other argument is that if a person reads your pirated work and enjoys it, they may purchase the other books you’ve written. To counter that argument, I would encourage readers to read the free books that I have available and to visit my website for more.

Do you think online piracy is a major problem in the self-publishing industry and will continue to be in the future?

Yes, I do. I just found a site where every single one of my books was available. This is my career, just as many other people have their own careers. Piracy is not limited to just the self-publishing industry. The same site that had my books available also had many traditionally published authors on it. It is a global problem that only the people doing it can finally say ‘Hey, this isn’t right.” It helps having companies available like MUSO that cut down the number of piracy links, but it is a never ending battle.

In your opinion, is there more than could be done to prevent online piracy?

Yes, but there are also risks with doing so. Who is to say xy or z should police what is on the web. I think laws with a little more bite in them might help, but trying to find the person behind the website can be very difficult. Ultimately, it is the people who are pirating or those downloading from those websites that have to make the change. Personally, I think most people don’t realise what they are doing and when they do, they stop. Education and public awareness are the best tools for countering piracy.

Any tips for an aspiring writer who wishes to get into the self-publishing market?

It is an ongoing learning experience. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, learn from them and keep going. Research best practices, watch out for those that would take advantage of you, listen to your gut, and write stories that will captivate your audience. Is there more? Of course! I’ve learned a great deal in just the three and a half years that I’ve been doing this. I still have a lot more to learn. At conferences and conventions, I share the Keys to being a Successful Author for both seasoned and new authors. This is my way of giving back to the community.

In your opinion, how do you see the self-publishing market developing in the next couple of years?

There is going to be a lot of changes. The industry is just in its second round of growing pains. I believe there will be a continuation of the number of self-published authors, but also a levelling out with the traditional publishing houses. Both are needed, but it is finding a place for both in today’s world that will be the challenge. Self-publishing is not for everyone, nor should it be; just as traditional publishing is not for everyone. I believe there will be more breakout indie authors and a continuing shift of respect for those that decide to do self-publishing vs traditional. Anyone who has done publishing, whether self-publishing or traditional, has a respect for the amount of work involved from the beginning of an idea through to the delivery to the mass market.

What book inspired you to become a writer?

I wouldn’t say a book actually inspired me to write. I do enjoy reading, but I also enjoy making up my own stories. I became frustrated looking for stories I wanted to read with heroes and heroines that I wanted to see. When my husband told me I needed to find a hobby, I thought, okay. That became the motivating factor for my becoming a writer. What I didn’t expect was once I let the characters out, that they would just keep coming! Now, it is like Grand Central Station during the holiday season in my brain. Whoever is the quickest, loudest, or fights the best gets their story told next.

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