Where to read your favourite authors for free (without being a pirate bastard)

Let’s face it, if you download people’s books without paying for them, and without the author or publisher’s permission to download them for free, you are a pirate bastard. It’s pretty black and white. However, if you’re struggling (especially in the 2020 economy) or you just want to read ALL THE THINGS, or maybe you’re a pirate bastard that could change for the better, there are plenty of places where you can find fiction by your favourite authors online, or gain access to it legally, for free.

If you’re here for help, then I’m glad you’re here and I hope I can point you in the right direction for plenty of great fiction from the big names you love, and I hope your 2020 gets better my friend. If you have a pirate bastard smirk upon on your face and a copy of a book you obtained illegally open on your kindle, then give me one last paragraph before you bail on this article.

I feel that often pirate bastards are attacked without the full range of potential solutions for their circumstances presented. I hope that I have achieved the opposite in this article–attacking people I morally disagree with, while presenting a full range of legal options to read your favourite authors for free while the author and publisher obtains some return for their work.

Check out legally free works by your favourite authors online

The first and easiest option is to search the web for legally free content. There is an absolute tonne of it out there. It’s on author websites, publisher websites, review and news websites. And there are a surprising amount of short stories, as you’ll find below in this short list of people I like to read. Read them. If you like them, comment, share, follow, interact, hell, maybe even buy a book by them the next time it’s on special or write a review somewhere for them.

Third Law short stories by Joe Abercrombie, free on Tor.com

Joe Abercrombie is a personal favourite of mine, and his book The Heroes is responsible for getting me back into reading SFF after going off it for years. You could say that it’s kind of responsible for this website three anthologies and over twenty issues of GdM. Without it I’d likely just be a standard desk jockey with a hole in my soul I couldn’t quite find an answer for. It was a starting point, and as you can imagine it started an obsession for finding every tie-in story to the Third Law that I could find. Here are a couple you should check out for free.

Gunlaw by Mark Lawrence, free on WattPad

Mark Lawrence is the second of my grimdark favourites. His Broken Empire trilogy remains some of my favourite fiction to this day, and is the most expensive / valuable set of signed first editions in my collection. Now, while Mark (being the prolific legend that he is) has a tall stack of short stories up on his website, he also has a cracking fantasy western novel called Gunlaw up on Wattpad. Since, unlike his other works, Gunlaw probably does need a little bit of an introduction, the blurb is below.

Mikeos Jones is a gunslinger, faster than thinking, part of the gunlaw, a man who can seldom afford the luxury of looking past the end of any given day.

Jenna Crossard is a hex-witch, but her ambitions are larger than spells and charms – the need to understand the world consumes her. They say the gunlaw keeps men safe from the endless horror of the sect, but to Jenna it’s a cage and she wants out. If that means breaking open the world and killing a few gods … so be it.

Either way, with Lawrence’s versatility, you know there is a good chance you’re going to enjoy yourself. And it’s an entire novel! Start reading Gunlaw now.

Empires of Dust short stories by Anna Smith Spark

Anna Smith Spark’s body of work so far has been one of the most amazingly visceral reading experiences I think I’ve ever had. I don’t remember ever being so pleasantly exhausted and emotionally worn out after finishing a trilogy as I have been with hers. So, much like the above authors, if I can find something of hers–especially if it ties in to Empires of Dust–then I’ll move my butt to my reading spot and get in to it.

Anna has a couple of Empires of Dust short works on her website which are well worth checking out.

Raven’s Mark short story by Ed McDonald

McDonald published one of the best trilogies of the last decade with his Raven’s Mark series. Gritty, fun, and almost completely unputdownable cover-to-cover and book-to-book, anything I can find from Ed, I’ll read. We’ve published Ed in Issue #16 and he’s also a massive D&D fan.

You can find a free Raven’s Mark short story and a free D&D campaign written by Ed on his site.

Character is What you Are by Michael R. Fletcher, free on DailyScienceFiciton.com

It’s no secret that Fletcher is a favourite author of mine, not just because he is a brilliant grimdark author, but because he’s just a genuinely brilliant bloke. We’ve interviewed together, he’s been in two or three GdM issues and two anthologies, and we’ve got another awesome project on the way with Anna Smith Spark for our Patreon page.

You can find the story here.

Free online fiction by Aliette de Bodard

de Bodard is one of the most prolific and successful short story authors I’ve known during my time at GdM. She’s won a BFSA best novel award, a couple of Nebulas, and a Locus, and has been a finalist for major awards almost more times than GdM has published magazine issues. She is that good, and you can use the below link to find 40 (let’s repeat that together, FORTY) short stories free online, and then a host of short stories available from paying markets (including one from us). You could literally spend an entire day in the imagination of one of this generation’s finest creatives and not spend a cent.

Go check them out.

Check out Tor.com

You’ll likely notice a few links to a site called Tor.com throughout this list. If you’ve been living under a rock, Tor.com is probably the most epic SFF site currently online. They cover pretty much everything from reviews of anything SFF you could possibly consume, to well thought out listicles, articles, and, importantly, fiction. And because they historically paid US$0.25 per word (as far as I am aware far and away the highest paying short fiction market on the planet) they got to publish a huge range of the big names in fiction–and they put them online for free.

Click here and thank me later.

Read excerpts

Excerpts are a common part of book launches and a great way to sample books before you buy. Oftentimes you’ll find some pretty random samples out there that go beyond the Kindle sample on Amazon. For example, George RR Martin drops chapters online from time-to-time, and you can find a stack of them here on Grimdark Magazine. With a bit of effort, you could track down plenty of content.

Go to a library

Go to the library. Ask the librarian if they stock the book you want. If they don’t, find out what needs to happen to get the book ordered in and added to the library’s shelves. Do that. Some countries even pay authors per borrow (it’s not like it’s raining gold, but publishing is nothing if not trying to come up with as many small streams of income to create a river).

Join a review team

Now, if you just want free books, and you absolutely cannot or will not pay for them, then in my mind your last potential saving grace is to find a different way to actually contribute to this community and the authors you’re reading.

Join a review team.

Good review sites get access to the majority of novels by the authors you want to read before the rest of the world gets to see them. Sites like booknest.eu, SFFworld.com, and our very own Grimdark Magazine team already have access to pretty much every new release coming from any publisher, while other sites like the one run by one of our brilliant blog managers Beth (https://beforewegoblog.com/) are up and coming and building their teams and now is the time to jump on board to be a part of something fun. All you need to do is email them and figure out how to join. It’s not hard; most sites are always on the lookout for reviewers. Hell, if you live in the US or UK, there is even a really good chance you’ll get paperbacks or hardcovers as opposed to ebooks.

All you need is the time you spend reading the books anyway, an opinion on them, and to be able to put that opinion into a coherent 400+ word post.

Either way, where short fiction, excerpts, and one-off Wattpad books don’t cut the mustard, and you need full length books, then this is the way to not be an enemy of the publishing community.

Summary

If you still feel you have an excuse for being a pirate bastard at this juncture, then you’re a deadset lost cause. If this has resonated with you, then it’s time to change and be a positive part of the publishing community by reading, commenting, sharing, reviewing and helping the authors and publishers who create the content you consume.

For the people struggling through this monster of a year, then I hope this resource provides a little more light in the grimdarkest year I can remember in my 35 on this earth.

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Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced--just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.