I am an evangelist for digital publishing and getting your work out there on the internet. But I keep getting the same question over and over again when I talk to people about it.
“What if my work gets pirated?”
Kirk Biglione and I talked about this in the last podcast as well, so here are some important points to remember:
Yes, piracy happens.
People may steal your work and try to sell it, especially if you are not releasing your books in a format people want. iTunes and the music industry did not collapse when music went digital but those who didn't make their work available were pirated anyway. JK Rowling didn't release Harry Potter in ebook format so it was scanned and put online very quickly. If she had released an ebook version, there would have been less to pirate!
Most people prefer to buy ebooks rather than take stolen copies.
Your reading public are book lovers and voracious readers. Most people are law-abiding citizens. Some people will abuse the privilege but most are honest and want to compensate you. Trust your public. I have a personal example of this. I saw from my stats that one lady had bought 2 copies of the same ebook from my site. I emailed her assuming she must have clicked the button twice by mistake, and tried to refund her. She explained that she had bought a copy for herself and one for a friend. I was thrilled by this honesty!
Some authors are allowing piracy deliberately in order to promote book sales.
Paulo Coelho, author of many books including the worldwide hit “The Alchemist”, leaked his ebooks in Russia on piracy networks deliberately. His sales went from 1000 to over 1 million per year. He says “Don't be fooled by the publishers who say that piracy costs authors money“.
Piracy could be seen as marketing.
Many authors now give ebooks away for free and it is a recommended strategy to gain more readers for a print copy, or at least for a second book. In this podcast, Kirk Biglione and Brian O'Leary discuss the findings of a piracy investigation showing a correlation: “Sales grew after free content was distributed, whether it was pirated or deliberate”
If you find your work has been pirated, address it immediately.
Soon after I launched some of my online courses, I found that my premium course material had been extracted and put online by someone, basically offering for free what I had created over months of work. I was upset and furious. I contacted the web hosting service for the site and requested that the site be shut down for breach of copyright. The site was gone within 24 hours. You can monitor your web presence through Google Alerts which will send you an email daily of any mentions of you on the web. Set up your name, your book names, your company name and anything else you want to monitor, and act decisively.
Obscurity is a greater threat to authors than piracy.
This quote is from Tim O'Reilly, from O'Reilly Media and is absolutely true. It is better to be pirated and out there in the public getting some eyeballs than it is to have your unpirated, unseen manuscript sitting in a drawer where no one can find it or you.
2013 – Tim Ferriss used Bit Torrent file sharing site for the launch of the Four Hour Chef and generated hundreds of thousands of sales from free downloads of the book