5 How-to Tips: Handling the Dreaded eBook Pirates by guest @macpetreshock

By Rachel Thompson | Blog

Jul 09

Piracy

As you can see from the photo on this blog post, my book FIRE OF STARS AND DRAGONS has been pirated.

No. The photo has not been Photoshopped.

Yes. That really is over twenty-five THOUSAND downloads shown.

TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND.

Fire of Stars and Dragons 400x600- FINAL CoverFor reasons of contractual nondisclosure, I can’t tell you how much money that lost me, not to mention my publisher, but you can imagine I could have bought SOMETHING with what I would have earned from those possible sales as opposed to the NOTHING from the illegally downloaded copies people stole.

Stole. That’s what downloading pirated copies of eBooks is: stealing. Don’t sugarcoat it, readers. The taking of that which is not rightfully yours equals theft.

As authors, we’re well aware what piracy means. We know what it means to our bank accounts and what it means to our publishers, particularly those of us with indie publishers. Big blow to the potential revenue. For those of you self-publishing, I can’t even imagine how hard it is to see that painful loss. And I’m certainly not pretending the Big 5 aren’t affected by piracy.

I am not an attorney and am not dispensing legal advice, but I can share some helpful hints as one author to another based on my personal experience and acquired knowledge.

  1. Set Google Alerts. Google makes it simple to keep an eye on the happenings with your books and potential piracy. I set alerts for both my name and book title so anytime they show up in Google’s search engine, I receive an email notification. I’ve found several incidences of piracy this way.On the positive side of life, I’ve also been notified of book reviews on blogs I wouldn’t have otherwise known about and have enjoyed sending out a tweet to promote the loveliness that popped into my inbox from such finds.These alerts aren’t all doom and gloom, folks, but they are hugely helpful.
  2. Have a “cease and desist” letter prepared. As I said above, I’m not an attorney and cannot dispense legal advice, but a simple cease and desist letter isn’t difficult to write up. You can find the skeleton for one on various websites, but I’ll share the simple version I use.
    Dear owner or operator of (insert web address), I am the copyright holder of (insert title here), and as such, must ask that you immediately cease and desist offering illegal and free downloads of (insert title here) published by (insert publisher name here) in the United States on (insert date of publication here).This letter shall serve as official notice of your infringement on my copyright on (insert title here) and my request to have (insert title here) removed from your site immediately and without hesitation.You are in violation of US copyright law. Please remove (insert title here) from your site immediately.This can be tweaked to your suit your needs as self-published books wouldn’t need quite the same wording in the section regarding publisher.

    Whatever version of a cease and desist letter you need, you should definitely keep one on file to email to any site owner where you find your book(s) available for download.

    Keep records of the emails you send, who you send them to, and replies received. Expect to get the run around. A lot.

  3. Know your way around YouTube. One of my biggest shockers was to find out how eBook piracy has adopted the popularity of YouTube as a means to advertise. I’ve repeatedly had to file claims of copyright infringement with YouTube when videos advertising pirated copies of FIRE OF STARS AND DRAGONS have popped up.First of all, be aware of this problem. Second of all, be familiar with YouTube’s copyright infringement policy and how to report it.It’s seriously easy. The little flag below videos on their site? Yeah. Click that.The step-by-step process from there is self-explanatory, and you can report multiple videos at once. I’ve yet to find results to take more than 24-48 hours, and they’re always in my favor. When I fill out the form with “This video advertises pirated copies of my ebook.” and give the reason I have to file a complaint as “I am the author of this book.” they act without hesitation. I doubt you’ll have any trouble either.
  4. Monitor your titles. Google is not the only search engine out there. Google alerts are wonderful, but don’t “set it and forget it”.From time to time, run searches on other search engines such as Yahoo, Ask, Bing to see what pops up. The results may differ, providing additional sites that need your attention in this unfortunate matter.Also under the “monitor your titles” category: be careful to whom you provide free (non DRM) copies to for reviews or other purposes. These are high risk for piracy. Certainly, there are good and reputable reviewers. And there are not. Be mindful.PDF copies are even more easily given away and converted into a variety of versions. Be wary of reviewers/bloggers who say they can only accept a PDF copy. eReaders for mobi and ePub files are freely downloadable apps on just about any smartphone, tablet, laptop, or PC. Trust me. I’m not paranoid. I’m cautious.

    You can’t STOP giving copies of your book to reviewers/book bloggers, but don’t blindly pass out copies to every person who calls themselves a book blogger. If you have a publisher/publicist, it is best to let them make the decisions as to who receives these copies unless the reviewer/blogger is someone with whom you have an established relationship in some way.

    And always, Always, ALWAYS know your publisher’s policy on this before giving copies to anyone for anything. You know, all that breech of contract and other basic DON’T BE STUPID stuff we authors must be aware of. Take heed.

  5. Know your limits. US Copyright laws, cease and desist letters, careful monitoring, and all the actions you take can only get you so far. *big fat sad face*Not all sites make it easy or even possible for the average author (or publisher) to find their source or any means to email a letter demanding they stop providing these illegal copies of your books. (Read that as “STEALING FROM YOU.”)You can (and should) tweet and Facebook, blog and Tumblr, and any other means of shouting from the internet rooftops, (I highly encourage this behavior.) letting readers know that the illegal downloading of eBooks is wrong. It hurts authors. It hurts publishers. It hurts the industry.

This is by no means a fully comprehensive list of information and/or resources, but I hope it helps. eBook piracy continues to run rampant. As authors, we can’t necessarily be proactive in any way to prevent it, but we can actively monitor and quickly react to do whatever possible to stop illegal downloads of our books.

A little knowledge goes a long way in arming ourselves with the tools to fight back.

Best of luck to you all. May the Force be with you.

About the Author:
Melissa A. Petreshock_ smaller fileMelissa A. Petreshock is a full-time wife, mom, and author of FIRE OF STARS AND DRAGONS (Stars and Souls Trilogy #1), an Amazon bestselling New Adult Dark Fantasy Romance. Look for her on Twitter,Facebook, and melissapetreshock.com, where you’ll find her blog. You can pick up a copy of FOSAD at these online retailers: AmazonBNiBooksKobo. Watch for BLOOD OF STARS AND GODS to release Winter 2014.

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About the Author

Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs,  #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Leave a Comment:

(35) comments

Casey Sheridan July 10, 2014

So Sorry to hear about your book being pirated (stolen), Melissa. The time it takes us to search and send the take down notices is time taken away from writing (or family 🙂 ). I’ve not heard of thieves using Youtube. Will need to check that.
Wonderful post!

Reply

    Casey, I was surprised by the use of YouTube as well. This was definitely a case where the Google alerts came in handy. It popped up through there to notify me. I couldn’t believe they advertised their illegal doings!

    Thank you for reading the post!

    Reply
Lisette Brodey July 13, 2014

Thank you for sharing your experience and tips, Melissa. I have found my books on websites, too, and it’s not a good feeling. It’s HORRIBLE. I appreciate your tips and will definitely keep this blog bookmarked. By the way, I have had Google alerts on my titles and my name for years. It is very handy, but you’re right; we should utilize other search engines to check our stuff out as well.

All best wishes,
Lisette

Reply

    Thanks, Lisette! I’m so used to Google being my go-to source, it wasn’t something I originally thought of, but every search engine has variations, so it’s important to take advantage of more than just one. I do love Google alerts though. It’s a handy piracy watchdog service.

    Best of luck with your books!

    -Melissa

    Reply
Lisa July 13, 2014

It is horrible to know that piracy is so widespread. As a reader, I am only purchase from authorized sites (Amazon 95%, other (Smashwords 5%). It is a problem in many creative industries (fashion, music, film, etc.), and I refuse to be part of it. I think your tips would be helpful to authors, and I have shared it through #MondayBlogs (Rachel Thompson) on my Facebook page.

Reply

    I appreciate you sharing this article and you being a conscientious reader, purchasing from reputable sites. Many of us are either with small indie house publishers or are self-published and don’t have legal teams to back us up in a fight against this epidemic.

    Thank you so much!

    Reply
M. J. Kelley July 14, 2014

I’m totally shocked and blown away by the number of torrent downloads at the top of the page. Wow. I had no idea e-book torrents were that popular.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson July 17, 2014

    it IS shocking, isn’t it? I know it has impacted my sales.

    Reply
Jan July 20, 2014

I just came across this today, sorry it’s late.
Anyway, I follow a Very successful author and she mentioned on her FB page that she found out which reviewer purloined her brand-new release and sent it to a pirate site. I’m assuming there was a distinctive mistake in each review copy for her to tell of this issue. What she did about this was never addressed.
If a person can’t afford a book, go borrow from the library.
Also, I’m seeing audio copies of books on youtube. I’m pretty sure that authors are not giving these away.

Reply

[…] my books were on a piracy site. It was a strange experience. I had just read another authors blog (badredhead media) on handling pirates. It got me paranoid, like one tends to get late at night when you should be […]

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Karl July 23, 2014

I’m sure it can be upsetting to see all those unauthorized downloads of your books, but if you were to do some research into the issue, you’d see that no one has yet been able to establish that pirating — of books or anything else — truly results in lost sales.

Of all the people who downloaded your book illegally, how many would have purchased that book if they hadn’t been able to get it for free? You don’t know.
Of all those illegal downloads, how many resulted in increased exposure and new paying customers for you? You don’t know.
Of all the effort you put into stopping piracy of your books, to what degree does that result in more sales and increased income for you? You don’t know.

Nobody knows the answers to those questions. Given those unknowns, I’d say it’s questionable whether chasing after pirates is a sensible use of your time — time you could be using to write more books.

Reply
    Catie July 29, 2014

    Well, Paulo Coelho claims it actually INCREASED his sales: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/feb/01/paulo-coelho-readers-pirate-books

    I also know a writer that’s made all of her books available for free and she’s making the same amount of money from donations as she does from sales. Think about that.

    Reply
    Mike M. April 8, 2016

    Karl’s argument is irrelevant.

    No one has permission to offer someone’s copyrighted work (audio, print, digital, etc.) without consent from the copyright owner.

    Case closed.

    Reply
Stephen July 23, 2014

Did you actually try downloading your book from that site you took the screenshot from? Most “pirate” download sites like this are scams, phishing sites designed to get you to install their viruses. Torrents don’t track completed downloads and I find it hard to believe more people are seeding this book than the average Game of Thrones episode. That and it’s listed as being over 3000 MB which is a *bit* high for an ebook which usually run about 0.5 MB. I think your losses aren’t as bad as you think. There’s more scammers on the internet than pirates.

Reply
Roberto July 23, 2014

If you catch someone pirating your books you should sue them – particularly if they live in the US. I have done this successfully with several pirates, and made some decent money at it.

Find a lawyer who will work on a split fee basis and go after them. Seriously, that’s the only way these guys will learn. Why would they care about a letter or a tweet?

Reply
Catie July 24, 2014

The thing you don’t understand is, that those are NOT lost sales. Neither you not your publisher lost any money. Why? Because people that downloaded a pirated copy of your book would have never bought it in the first place. They didn’t download it because they wanted it so badly, they downloaded it because it was there, and it was free. If it wasn’t there, they wouldn’t have bought it on Amazon instead, they would have simply downloaded someone else’s pirated book. You lost nothing. You’ve actually gained a possible fan that will recommend your book to his or hers non-pirating friends and family. When Paulo Cuelho’s work ended up on Pirate Bay, his sales ROCKETED. Then he put it up there himself his sales only grew. Think about that.

Here’s a tip #6: stop fighting windmills. It’s a losing fight that you will NEVER win. You have a snowflake’s chance in hell of winning it. Instead of wasting your efforts, accept it as just another way of growing your fan base. You do want to reach more readers, don’t you? Or are you writing just for the money? If you are in it just for the money, then by all means, keep sending those cease and desist’s and waste time on the runaround. Most writers just want to be read, no matter how they come to that. Money is just an added bonus. Seriously, you just had a 25684 NEW READERS that wouldn’t have given your book a time of day otherwise, 25684 potential fans with friends and family. Is that really such a bad thing?

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    Mike S December 3, 2015

    faulty logic to the max here.
    Tell you what — the next 20 weeks this year, go to work and do your job for free.
    You are not losing anything — after all, all those customers would have done business with your company regardless if you are paid or not .
    And besides you just did a wonderful thing from the goodness of your heart.

    This is theft pure and simple.
    Don’t try to rationalize it or justify it with some warped logic to try and make it seem acceptable

    Reply
      catie December 4, 2015

      My logic is faulty? Your comparison is totally nonsensical.

      People that pirate you are NOT your boss. They are NOT your company nor your clients. You do NOT work for them. To even suggest that is ridiculous. You work for the people that pay for your work. If you want to compare it to a 9-5 job, this would be a more fitting example: a customer walks into your bar and asks if you’ll give him a cup of coffee for free. You say no, they walk out. Have you lost a customer? No. Because a) you never had that customer to begin with, and b) you don’t want a customer who doesn’t pay. You lost no busines, because there was no busines to lose.

      But losses are part of any kind of trading busines. Produce goes bad, products go beyond expiry date, items get damaged in transport, bread goes stale. Unsold books get destroyed. There’s no use crying over a broken bottle of milk that fell off the shelf. Those losses are all an accepted part of doing busines. The same logic applies for pirated copies.

      Pirating is theft, yes, but trying to stop it is like trying to stp an avalanche. You can’t. Instead, you should focus on your paying customers instead. And there are paying customers. Just because something is available to steal doesn’t mean everybody will steal it. And if you’re not getting enough paying customers… Well, you should think about why that is. Maybe your coffee just isn’t worth the money you’re charging for it.

      Reply
        Parker Williams January 15, 2017

        How about this?

        I will come into your house and take what I want. I mean, who does it hurt if I swipe that nice, new big screen TV you just bought?

        Justifying piracy in any way is wrong. I would rather these people not read my books than pass them around, when I have a mortgage to pay, food to put on my table, dogs and cats to feed.

        Piracy is no different than coming into my house and taking money from my wallet. It shouldn’t be excused with a wave of the hand and a ‘they’re not your customers’. I agree with that point. They’re shoplifters, and should be prosecuted.

        Reply
    Paula Cappa April 16, 2016

    You make very good points, Catie. Most readers of freebies are not buyers anyway. And yes, the free offers are linked to scams of buying a subscription for $99 a year through another scam credit card service. It’s a huge runaround to try to stop them or shut them down. Although I do think reporting the offending website to Google DMCA Reporting Tool and the Internet Crime Complaint Center is important because it puts these websites on the list as guilty of copyright infringement. And alerting the domain hosts is another way of alerting who the bad guys are. It’s the best we can do.
    Google DMCA Reporting Tool: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-notice?hl=en&pid=0&pli=1
    Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3): http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

    Reply

Great post, Rachel. I love that you included the advice about YouTube.. that’s a great area for authors to (maybe) find links to their pirated ebooks. Also, there are some paid brand management apps/websites and then there’s the free Google Alerts which does almost just as good of a job. 🙂

Reply

[…] 5 How-to Tips: Handling the Dreaded eBook Pirates by guest @macpetreshock […]

Reply

[…] I found this article online while I was researching, and it has a lot of good tips in it, as well as a cease and desist letter. Be proactive about protecting your work. If you’re worried about pirating (some people are, some people aren’t) then there are things you can do to combat it. […]

Reply
Tina August 13, 2015

Thanks so much for the tips. You can also look up the entity who registered the website (on WHOIS) and contact them with an email, although some of these websites can’t be reached.

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Jess Welsby October 12, 2015

I am so very grateful for this advice. I can now dry my eyes and fight back.

It took me four years to write The Daddy of all Mysteries; The True Story of my Parents’ Secret Love and the Search for a Father I Never Knew. It was also the culmination of about 20-years of research and then the gruelling task of self-publishing the 112,000-word epic.

To then find a PDF version on the internet being offered for FREE… broke my heart.

I’m told that many of these websites trick people into downloading what is advertised as a free PDF book, film or music – only to find that their computer has been left with a nasty virus.

Perhaps this is proof that… there really is no such thing as a free lunch.

Thank you, Melissa, for taking the time to give this invaluable advice.

Jess Welsby
Indie author

Reply
virginiaseastark December 5, 2015

My books Dalton’s Daughter and Tales from Space 1 are being pirated by Lybrary.com and they have been incredibly rude to me about it. I have sent them a cease and desist order and they claim to have the rights from Ingram Spark who I cancelled my contract with years ago, Check for your titles there, quite a few of my friends have found their books on it.

Reply

[…] what happened to Melissa Petreshock. A pirate site gave away her book Fire of Stars and Dragons. Almost 26,000 copies went up in smoke before she found […]

Reply
Angela Verdenius March 28, 2016

It’s stealing, plain and simple. It’s also heartbreaking to know that someone has simply stolen your property. Not every place has a DMCA contact page, or as one site has done to me, they have the DMCA email address but simply return my email to them unopened, effectively ignoring me. People who use pirate sites – do they really know or care that they are stealing? Would they walk into a book shop and simply steal a book? What makes it so different to do on the ‘net apart from the fact that it keeps them nameless and faceless? Oh wait, there’s the answer…

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Mike M. April 8, 2016

I thought no one would even bother scanning 400 data-filled pages of my hardcover, non-fiction music reference book, TeenBeat Mayhem!, that I wrote (20 years of work from start to completion) and self-published in October, 2012.

My targeted audience is certainly a niche market, one that i had culled from years of self promotion in the pre and current internet age. I’ve managed to sell 2/3 of my print run.

In four months, my book was converted to a free pdf download, without my consent, of course, and in direct violation as noted on my verso page.

I would love to punch the freeloaders in the face, with some sample comments left on these freeloader websites:

“Thank you so much for offering the pdf. I was waiting for a free download”
Outright theft is just that. I’m so tired of people whining and complaining that they can;t afford to buy something. Get another job to afford the item(s) you want, visit a library, or go without.

Reply

[…] It is important for an author to set Google Alerts for their name as well as their book. Bad Redhead Media has written an excellent post on dealing with […]

Reply
Paula Cappa April 16, 2016

I have Google alerts but didn’t get any notices and my book was pirated in three different places that I could.

Reply
trishlesage April 19, 2016

So many people have pirated my ebooks that I’ve had to completely take my ebooks off from the internet, including Amazon. I only sell print books now directly off from my website.

I send cease and desist emails to the owners of pirating websites, but as this article mentions, it’s not always possible to even find a way to contact the website owners. When a pirating website does not offer their contact information, I look up which web hosting company is hosting the website, and I contact the web hosting company and tell them that a website that they are providing web hosting services to is guilty of copyright infringement. You can find out who is hosting a website by visiting the following website: https://www.webhostinghero.com/who-is-hosting/

When I am able to contact pirating websites, I send them a very strong email. I threaten them. I tell them that copyright infringement is illegal and is punishable by imprisonment and fines and that I as an author of pirated material have the right to sue those who are pirating my books. I also tell them that I will sue them for everything that they have, and I will seek criminal prosecution. This has worked thus far. They have immediately taken down my ebooks after receiving such emails from me. Sometimes you have to be ruthless to knock some sense into their thick skulls, and you have to threaten them.

Reply
    Cole December 30, 2016

    In the digital age we are in, it’s easier for thieves to pirate our work. However, even if you convert to hard cover only you still run the risk of being pirated. Nothing is stopping someone from buying your book and outsourcing the task of converting your book to digital form.

    Nothing we can do to stop pirates. Just focus on the positives and don’t worry about a few missed sales here and there. Build a name for yourself via a blog and collect emails to grow your customer base.

    Reply
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