This week I learned my recent release, The Trials of Hercules, has been pirated. Initially I thought only a couple illegal download sites had it and that the wound could be staunched, but I’ve since learned that old Herc is bleeding out through his femoral artery because the book is on at least 20 pirating websites.
It’s No Big Deal, Right?
For those of you who don’t think pirating is a big deal, let’s put it in perspective. I’ve worked for over a year on writing, editing, formatting, and promoting this book. An average year’s wages in the U.S. are somewhere around $40,000. Now, $40,000 can buy you a pretty decent car, so let’s say you take a year of your work and buy a car then, the very day you get your car home, it gets stolen.
How pissed off are you? Add to that anger the attitude (and dawning realization) that you can do nothing to stop the thieves and everyone is telling you, “This is what happens, just accept it.” Yeah, you’re up to some middle-aged white guy anger now, aren’t you?
Better Use of My Time? Banging My Head Against a Brick Wall.
My initial step was to contact my e-book publishers – Smashwords and Amazon KDP. Both told me they won’t do anything to help. I kind of expected this from the anemic customer service I’ve always gotten from Amazon, but Smashwords has always been on the side of its writers and has always been very helpful, so I was incredibly disappointed in their unwillingness to assist me. (By the way, from all evidence, it is through Amazon that the book was pirated….despite their DRM.)
The next step, send a letter to the websites informing them that they are infringing on my copyrighted material and to take it down (as advised through a writers’ group). Nope. After slogging through the effort to find any sort of contact information, the only message back is that I have not submitted sufficient proof that I own the copyright so they don’t have to remove it.
A ship load of sailors couldn’t compete with the words coming out of my mouth at this point.
Copyright is YOURS. Always!
In case you’re wondering, according to U.S. copyright law, as the creator of a piece of work (art, book, music, etc), you own the copyright the instant the work is created. You do not have to register to be considered the copyright owner and you own the copyright until 70 years after you die (okay, well YOU don’t own anything when you’re dead, but the work is still copyrighted).
Last Ditch Efforts
Like using a matchstick and piece of gauze as a tourniquet against the bleed out, I’m making one more effort to fight the pirates.
I am trying to use Google’s (and eventually Yahoo and other search engines’) DMCA take down form to get the sites to remove the content or at least make it so the content doesn’t appear when people search for my book through a search engine. But still, these illegal download sites – because they are illegal and get shut down a lot – move around the internet, changing domain names like a chameleon. So, even if I do get Google to smack that chameleon on the head, the damn thing is probably just going to come back to life elsewhere.
Pirating is NOT Marketing.
Several people have told me to see this as a marketing opportunity and to just accept it.
Um, hell no!
Accepting that piracy will happen and to not do anything about it is like telling girls to just accept that they are going to be sexually harassed if they wear short skirts. Just because it happens, does not mean it should be accepted and does not mean it shouldn’t be fought against.
As far as the marketing portion, folks are saying that somehow these jerks who are downloading my book for free (as in they won’t shell out $3 to pay for the e-book from a legit site), are somehow going to decide to buy the book or buy books I publish in the future? Excuse me while I force my way through this wall of skepticism in front of me.
Pirates (except the Johnny Depp variety) are cheap assholes who will simply wait for the next book to be pirated. These are not the people who are going to show any respect for my work by paying for it, they are not going to download it and get to the copyright notice and say, “Oh, I better get to Amazon and pay for this,” they are highly unlikely to even leave a review. Pirating is NOT a form of marketing.
Marketing is something you have control over. It is a tool YOU use to boost sales. Someone stealing your work and throwing it all over the internet for free is (quite clearly) something you have no control over and should never be seen or accepted as a form of marketing.
If I want to use freebies as a way to market my book, I want control over it. I want to have a say over how long the free promotion will last, what websites will offer the freebies and to know that the giveaway will end at some point. None of that happens with pirating. My work is now out there for free for all time.
So Long and Thanks for All the Phish
So, pirates, you win – I give up on trying to make a career of writing.
It is not worth it to me to invest several hours of every single day for a year or more pouring my brain power into something just to have it stolen.
I may finish the book I’m currently working on just to see it through, I may even publish it as a paperback – after all, you don’t give up driving just because your car got stolen. But I will not be putting as much of a serious effort into it, I will not spend my weekends slogging through an edit, I will not spend weeks getting a cover or interior image just right. I just don’t have the heart to bother….it’s been stolen by pirates.
Even if I do publish the book, it is highly unlikely that I will go the e-book route again (yes, paperbacks can be pirated, but at least there’s some effort involved); there’s just too many disrespectful assholes out there unwilling to fork out less than the cost of a cup of Starbucks coffee for something I’m trying to make a career out of.
And if I ever do publish another e-book, it will NOT be through KDP…I even have my doubts about Smashwords at this point.
So thanks pirates for killing my spirit. Good job and so long.