Welcome to my world! Today our topic is “piracy and plagiarism,” and why we should worry about one but not the other…….
So we all know about book piracy. It’s everywhere. There have even been Facebook pages dedicated to promoting pirate sites. And there’s something incredibly demoralizing about finding out that 4,000 people have downloaded a free copy of your book, especially when it hasn’t even sold 1/10th that many.
And we’ve seen lots more instances of plagiarism lately. Kora Knight and Ashley John McLaughlin have had entire books republished by plagiarists with nothing changed but the characters’ names – these plagiarists have even stolen their blurbs!
There’s not much we can do about piracy, and not much we should worry about there. Stay with me here, I’m going to explain. And plagiarists don’t understand that the reason they will fail is the same reason in the end that the pirates fail.
Musicians have dealt with piracy for years. But the rise of pirated music was the fault of greedy record companies, who kept album prices artificially high even as production and manufacturing costs tumbled. And when they insisted that digitally downloaded albums, which cost virtually $0 to deliver, be priced at the same level as CDs, well… they asked for it, and musicians paid the price.
And when Napster first came into being, there was a lot of crap on the market. And it’s hard to say if that was because of lazy musicians or greedy record companies or both, but it was a time when most albums were...total shit. You might find one or two songs on an album that were good, and…a lot of filler to pad it out. And yet, you had to pay fifteen dollars to get those two songs. There was no way to listen to even thirty-second samples of the rest of the album – you just went in blind, based on the quality of that one single.
So in music, piracy was a response to both overpricing and overall crappiness. The same is true of TV/movie piracy. A movie comes out digitally but…guess what! The cost of buying it is the same as the physical disc, and you can’t share or resell it. You don’t even own the copy; you’re only paying full ownership price just to watch it yourself.
And book piracy? Well, as with the big record companies, we can blame Big Publishing for that, too. They did the exact same thing – terrified of cannibalizing their print business with lower cost digital copies, they insisted on pricing the digital copies at the same price. And everybody knew that was bullshit. There’s no paper to buy, no press to run, no trucks to cart them, no warehouse to hold them, no UPS drivers to deliver them. There was no way anyone could justify the same price structure for a paper book as for a digital book.
And so we got book pirates, too. It’s a pretty simple market reaction – black markets are created when official prices are insanely out of whack with real costs. When people know they're being ripped off, they respond by ripping off in turn. Given the choice between overpaying, or getting it for free, guess what?
The tragedy is that the rest of us are getting caught up in this. Self published authors who sell whole novels for, at most, $7 are seeing their books pirated. You can find your pirated book on a site, and send them a DMCA takedown notice (the official notice based on the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act), and they may take it down, or not, and there’s not much you can do about it. You may get a web hosting service to take down a whole site, but then FreeBooks4U just restarts as Free4UBooks on some other host. I know authors who devote enormous amounts of time to takedown notices and even pay services to hunt down and kill their pirated books.
But I say…don’t worry about it. Let it go. And here’s why.
First off, my theory is that most pirates are not readers - they're hoarders. They're not downloading thousands of ebooks to read them. Many “torrent” sites keep track of your “ratio” – that is to say, the amount of content you upload vs. the amount you download. Those who download without uploading are called “leeches.” And some sites even throttle your download speeds if you’re excessively leeching.
So yeah, 4,000 people have “downloaded” your book – but first of all, most of them were never going to be customers in the first place. They probably don’t even read 99% of the books they download, but only download them to reupload 3x times for a higher ratio.
And think about it. How many people do you know who just “idly” read MM romance and erotica in large quantities? How many of them think they’re being overcharged for a $4 novel? (Sure, we’ve all gotten those rotten reviews by some “words by the yard” jerk who’s indignant that he didn’t get 1,000,000 words for .99, but they’re outliers.)
No, our readers are not just voracious but passionate. People who really love books, pay for them. They form attachments to the authors, they binge-read entire back catalogs. You didn't lose 4,000 sales to that pirate site, you lost 0. Because people who pirate books were never going to buy them anyway, and people who love these books practically know the authors personally. They care about us, about our success; they know we need every sale to keep writing. It’s not like we’re John Grisham or James Patterson, a million miles away from our readers, with a billion dollars in the bank. We’re on Facebook personally answering comments and messages and posts, we price our books low, we live on the edge.
I don't even bother fighting piracy sites. Hell, the last time someone pointed me at one that had my books, I said, fine, let me see... and POW! I get a popup from my security software. "Malwarebytes has blocked an intrusion from this site."
So, all those people pirating our books? They’re all getting viruses and spyware and malware installed on their devices. And that’s a pretty good punishment in my book.
Now the real problem is plagiarism. Because that can lead even passionate, well-intentioned readers, willing to pay $ for a book, to end up accidentally taking money away from the creator. Plagiarists pop up all the time lately, and it’s astounding how brazen some of them have been.
But. That same community of passionate, voracious readers who make piracy irrelevant are the same community who are actively defending us from plagiarists.
Look, plagiarists: Do you have any idea how many fans Kora Knight has? Do you really think that the MM readership, constantly looking at every new release for something good to read today, wouldn’t find you? That they wouldn’t call you out? That they wouldn’t spread the word? That Amazon wouldn’t burn you at the stake and refund all the purchases and who knows maybe even pursue criminal charges against you?
Plagiarism in this field is…stupid. You’re going to get caught. If Amazon doesn’t catch you, we will. And your life will become a living hell. And we don’t want to hear any bullshit about how “you never meant to hurt anybody,” either. That’s true, yes, because sociopaths really never mean to hurt anybody – they just mean to get whatever it was they want at any cost, with no thought to anybody else.
So, a big thank you to everyone who “keeps us safe.” You guys and your relentless networking and drum-banging are discouraging those plagiarists from even trying anymore. Keep up the good work!
QUESTION: What are your views on piracy and plagiarism?
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