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Dealing with Piracy

Whenever I hear a recently-successful author say of their book’s achievement, “I never in my wildest dreams thought this would happen,” I think one of two things:

  1. They’re lying for the sake of humility or
  2. Their dreams are rather bland.

As someone who relies on their imagination for a living, I think it’s typically door number one. Who wants to say “Yes, I totally knew my book was going to rock the world”? No one does.

Short of walking the red carpet at their book-to-movie premiere, all authors hope to live exclusively on their craft. That could mean making enough in book royalties to support a mortgage payment, insurance for both house and car, groceries, and all other living expenses. Perhaps the occasional dinner out and shopping splurge. You know, daily living. Writing as a profession, a job, a way of life. That’s a dream all of us want to see fulfilled quite desperately.

What gets in the way of the practical dream of author-as-job is online piracy. Illegal book downloads per month, even if they range from the low hundreds, are killing a writer’s dream of surviving on their passion. Illegal book downloads in the thousands are the difference between a book slumming it in low rankings to becoming a bestseller and soaring into the wildest dream territory.

Tell any of the above to a pirate or plunderer, and you’ll likely receive a communist-inspired rant, anything from “I’m poor and I deserve to read your book for free” to “You shouldn’t want to profit from your own work, just the enjoyment of writing it.” Some pirates will think of themselves as freedom-of-information heroes, sharing the work of others with the poor masses.

My ebook is $3.99, hardly an expensive book considering its length. You may even be able to find $3.99 in between couch cushions or walking the streets. It’s hard for me to muster sympathy, considering all the work that was put into Jaden Baker.

Combating Online Piracy

Since learning of my first pirating back in March, I search for pirated copies online a few days per week, and I always–sadly–come up with results. I report the offending links promptly.

As Jaden Baker climbs in the rankings, so the pirating increases. To help me combat the pervasive issue, I did what I usually do and Google searched and found this helpful post written by Stephanie Lawton. I’ve put her advice into practice and have so far spent all morning reporting pirated copies of my novel to the ISPs and FBI. If you are an author, go to her post and take her advice. You may be shocked as to how many copies of your work are out there for free. You’ll feel mad, sick and betrayed. How many thousands of dollars have you lost to thieves? I personally wonder if I would’ve been able to afford a down payment on a house.

Legislative Action?

In my heart of hearts I have to believe that most people are good people. I know that Hollywood and other entertainment entities have tried passing sweeping anti-piracy legislation (remember SOPA) before, but I don’t think going thermonuclear is the right approach. SOPA would’ve killed online creativity and innocuous sharing online, while the pirates, like cockroaches, would’ve survived the explosion and adapted. To keep with my warring analogy, what we need are precision strikes, snipers who know their targets and can take them out without harming innocent Internet users. I’m not sure how we could hire online-piracy snipers, or how much it would cost to hire people to hunt and destroy online pirates. Likely Hollywood and large corporations like Amazon.com have looked at ways to search and destroy. For me and my novel, it feels like a part-time position is required to deal with online piracy. I can’t imagine what a monumental task it would be for a novelist of greater renown.

Will there be job openings for Pirate Hunters? I read a comment on a blog from an author (who kept himself anonymous) about hiring software engineers to design a virus. He then uploaded his “epub” to one of these file-sharing websites, and whoever downloaded what they thought was his book would have an infected computer. I must admit I like that idea. A lot. If you’ve read my novel, that admission cannot shock you.

To my fellow authors I say Good Luck as you search the net for pirates. To any pirates who’ve read to the end of this post: really? Jaden Baker costs so little! It’s also available to borrow and lend on Lendle.

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Copyright 2018. Courtney Kirchoff.