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Forged In Blood
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Try before you buy

Jennifer Kirk at a book signing

20% of Jenny's book is available on 'try before you buy' via Google Books

So the CRIA (Canada’s recording association, for those unfamiliar with the acronym) is up in arms about a relatively unknown band that they claim would have gone platinum with their debut album if the people who downloaded it illegally had actually bought it instead. I’m nit going to go into all the details about how the numbers they claim are probably false, you can click on the link I added earlier for that, because I want to cover the other side of the argument here.

I do not believe for one second that everyone who downloads from peer-to-peer or torrent sites does not buy music legally. I do not believe it because I have used torrent sites myself in the past. There are bands that are not available on iTunes (my preferred download service) or whose tracks are “album only download”. In these situations, I want to get a good idea of what I’m buying before I buy it. I use peer-to-peer and torrents as a kind of ‘try before you buy’ system. If I like it, I buy it. If I don’t like it, I delete it.

I did that with Metallica back in the days of Napster. I think i’ve mentioned this before on my old blog back when Napster was still relevant. I heard about all the commotion being made about Metallica’s tracks being downloaded, decided to see what all the fuss was about and ran a search for them. Their most shared tracks were ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘One’ so I decided these were probably the best. I downloaded both, listened to them all that night because they were so good, then went to my local record shop (it was MVC at the time but they are gone now) the next day and bought their entire back catalogue.

Hear that, record companies? I bought the entire back catalogue based on 2 songs downloaded to see whst the fuss was about.

What’s more, after the disappointment of St Anger I was wary of pre-ordering Metallica’s next album so I held off. I waited until copies of the tracks started to appear on YouTube (official or otherwise) and I listened to them there. I listened to ‘Cyanide’ and ‘The Day That Never Comes’ and loved both of them. By the time ‘Cyanide’ had finished playing, I had pre-ordered a copy of the album on Amazon.

So, record companies, please note that not everyone who downloads tracks does it to steal from you.

I also don’t just think this this is limited to big business. I run a publishing company, All Mouse Media Ltd, and we use a try before you buy model, too. We publish all our comics online, for free. We also have 20% of the book we have in print right now available through Google Books. When we put our second title into print, we will do the same with that. I put the complete first drafts of my stories online for everyone to read for free. I have put my money where my mouth is on this one.

What has happened as a result of this? Simple: my work brings me an income. I know I’m a relatively unknown author and so do my potential customers. I don’t have the pulling power if Pratchett, King or Gaiman. People will not buy my work simply because I made it. Because I give them the chance to try it first, those who like it reward me. Those who don’t are better off too. It’s win-win.

It’s time the record company dinosaurs woke up to this fact, otherwise they will go the way of the actual dinosaurs -and I’ll tell you something else for free: they will not be missed.

A day and a night

Yesterday, Jennifer attended her first book signing in Preston, Lancashire. It was part of her major signing tour for Bringing Home the Stars and although things got off to a traditional bumpy start (all signing tours for small authors who are just starting out lack the fans who will line up outside the shop before the signing starts, so the author has to wait for the crowds to start gathering in the shop before they can get many people interested).

However, as is a testament to both the quality of the book (people often flick through it before deciding to buy) and the quality of Jenny’s ability to relax, get into the swing of things, and just chat with anyone who walks by, she managed to sell the store’s stock of her books. This is the second time in a row.

I’m very proud of her. From a publisher’s point of view, her selling out the shop’s stock is great news. It means we have a lot of confirmed sales. She did sign some extra copies (we always take a box of extra copies from the stock room along with us, just in case) for the shop, so anyone who wants a copy in the Preston area can pop in and get one.

After the signing, I took her for a coffee and a chat in a local branch of Costa (my favourite coffee shop chain – they use nice beans that aren’t as bitter as those from most other chains). She was really happy with how the signing went and told me very excitedly about having met Lenny Henry; who was browsing in the shop while she was there. I think he was in town as part of a tour.

A load of sketches on a paper tablecloth

This is what happens when you leave a cartoonist alone with a pen and a large sheet of paper

Following the coffee and a quick look around the shops before they closed, we headed off to a friend’s fiftieth birthday party. Malcolm is a guy Jenny and I know from CPR Radio (formerly Chorley Hospital Radio but now covering Preston and somewhere else, too) and he invited us along to his half-century party. A very good night was had by all.

While there, I noticed that the tables had all been covered with paper tablecloths, to prevent drunken spillages damaging the woodwork. Being the cartoonist I am, I whipped out a pen and made some impromptu doodlings. Malcolm (and several other people who saw what I was doing) seemed to love what I’d done, and was very happy when I presented him with the finished product at the end of the night.

Since I’d had only four hours sleep before getting ready and heading out for the book signing, I was totally zonked before we even got back home. I think I fell asleep in the car and once I got home, I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Ten and a half hours later, I woke up.

As my Mum would say, I “must have needed it”.

Update: Jennifer has written her own account of yesterday on her blog. You can find her post here.