Author: 4chan bootlegging led to big sales increase

Legend has it that piracy harms legitimate sales, but the truth is often otherwise. Underground, Steve Lieber's brilliant graphic novel, was recently bootlegged in full at 4chan. Lieber, instead of backtracing the culprits, jumped into the thread and started chatting with his new fans. Later, he posted about the effect the piracy had on his sales. Want to know how big a deal 4chan is? According to Leiber's numbers, the only articles to create clear sales increases of the book were Boing Boing's own review, which wiped out Amazon's inventory, and the 4chan thread. See if you can guess which generated more. [Underground. Submitted by PaulR]


    1. Make you better check how Baen does it. They show a consistent rise when thing are released free (and unprotected)

  1. As much as I want to believe that these events are proof that piracy sells many books, I can think of a number of reasons why this doesn’t prove much about piracy at all.

    * Amazon often keeps one copy on hand. To say that the BoingBoing review cleaned out the Amazon warehouses is a bit self-aggrandizing.

    * There are no numbers attached to the graph. Selling 15-20 books is always an accomplishment, but it’s important to keep the scale of the graph in mind when ordering champagne. I don’t think that it’s time for the most expensive bottle or even a mid-priced bottle.

    * Steve Lieber’s appearance is probably what sold the books, not the piracy surrounding it. It was close to an appearance at a bookstore.

    * 99.999% of the piracy is not accompanied by live appearances and it’s not possible for live appearances to scale.

    That’s why I think it’s a foolish to look at this and say “piracy helps sales”.

    1. That’s why I think it’s a foolish to look at this and say “piracy helps sales”.

      I quite agree. If we want to measure this properly, we’ll need to find an artist willing to make two comic books, or two songs, or some such art which he’s equally proud of, and seed one himself to make sure pirate networks have gotten hold of it from day one. You should try finding someone willing to do that.

      In the meantime, I’m content with anecdotes like this as answer to “piracy gon’ ruin tha industry” rhetoric. The plural of anecdote isn’t data, but they’re more than enough to match sweeping assertions which also have no data behind them.

      Steve Lieber’s appearance is probably what sold the books, not the piracy surrounding it.

      Not just his appearance, but the fact that eh turned out to be pretty cool guy. Authors have shown up before, and acted like the egotistical little twats they can get away with on their own forums, and were spitroasted by the community. That’s one of the best things about 4chan – the worst social crime you can commit is being full of yourself.

  2. wait, this is an article related to a 4chan board other than /b/?

    next thing you know people will be mentioning that /ck/ is actually a really useful place to go for cooking advice, or that /wg/ is a good quick stop for new wallpapers.

  3. Hey, I’m just going by what he said. The entire point of this post is that however grand bb is, 4chan is exponentially bigger and an author’s smart reaction to it has paid off big. Its inconvenient news for those who try and write off commercially successful ‘free’ media as examples of planned, deliberated marketing efforts … Among other things

    1. Yeah, but it smells like a planned media event designed to play to the disposition of BoingBoing authors and readers. His book has been available for free for a long time:

      The difference is that he finally found a group of kids who wanted to talk to him. There’s no piracy or bootlegging involved because he was already giving it away for free.

  4. They posted the whole book. You can open multiple tabs, or save them all and view in either a comix viewing program or just using your built in jpg viewer which (at least on the mac) lets you open multiple files in a way which gives you a setup quite like a PDF (a list of all the open files/pages which can be scrolled down)

    So, people got the whole book AND bought it.

    Seems to fit with Cory’s experience, as well as Trent Reznor’s experience and just common logic.

  5. Actually most smart comic creators know that the /co/mrades of of 4chans /co/ (comics and cartoons) are the people that drive word of mouth sales AND end up buying the products.

    Some creators even go as far as deliberately getting their work added to the weekly comic scan threads (naming no names *cough* Warren Ellis *cough*)

    4chan is a big site and it’s worthwhile remembering that the board denzions are very different. /co/mrades (unlike /b/tards) tend to be kind loving folk.

  6. You say a long time, but according to the author, that was posted *after* the 4chan thread.

    In any case, downloads elsewhere is not quite the same as downloads from your own official venue. If you’re smelling something funny, maybe you’re having a stroke?

    1. Umm what?

      Notch, minecraft’s creator, has posted on /vg/, talking to his fans, giving unreleased sneak previews of his upcoming updates, just chatting and shooting the shit. Like this artist, he’s a normal, cool guy, who enjoys interacting with his fanbase.

      The thanks he got was that his website got DDOS’d for a few days, because some butthurt anons wanted to piss him off. He’s still making tens, if not hundreds of thousands of euros per day, the game still has a huge devoted fanbase of millions that’s growing every single day, minecraft’s still being featured in major news articles as a sensational indie hit, etc etc etc.

      Notch never spammed anywhere, he just sat down and talked to his fans. The “shitty game” continues to make millions of dollars, and is an overwhelming success. 4chan griefers managed to take down his site for a day and make a minor inconvenience for a couple people, that’s it.

  7. The original Submitterated summary of the story really was very clever, if I do say so myself, and harkened back to my old BBS days, on SASSy and Pyroto 1A. Good Times.

    I neatly illustrated the best features of surfing the web, flowing through all the links that steered me to the original story. Well almost. I have to thanks arbitraryaardvark for supplying the link to the archived 4Chan thread in question.

    The linked-to the TechDirt article reminded me that Nina Paley reads TechDirt. SWEET.

  8. @Beelzebuddy Absolutely. The fact that he commented the way he did probably got him a lot of the sales.

    I’ve done that often. Oh, right, day before yesterday.

    There was a book piracy thread over on iO9 ( ) and an author commented about working with the new technology, mentioned how he had priced his own short story collection online, and sounded cool enough that I googled his username (he didn’t give his name in the post, so you actually had to do a little looking), found his site, checked out his book, and bought it.

    As Cory says “the artist’s enemy is obscurity, not piracy”

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