Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Argh! Is Piracy a Problem for Novelists?

This discussion comes up periodically on different online discussion sites and it rose up again recently on one I belong to. Everyone can cite one or two instances where an author decided to aggressively go after someone who had, they perceived, stolen their work.

Personally, I wouldn’t judge the author’s reaction as an indication that it’s a problem. What you should do it figure out what the effect on the author is. The bottom line is income, right? Does a pirated book hurt their sales?

(This is assuming that the book IS pirated. Usually, when you see a copy of your book for sale somewhere that you didn’t authorize, especially if it’s offered free or for a very low price, the site doesn’t have your book. They’ve merely copied the cover and anyone who tries to download it will be infected with a computer virus. You don’t have to worry about those sites one little bit.)

How does the rare actual pirated copy hurt you? If it does. Think about it. People who download from the sites that are giving your book away, just want free books. They’re not going to buy your book anyway. So you haven’t lost a sale. The sites that are selling your book deeply discounted may be taking away a sale, but you are gaining a reader.

What’s the biggest challenge for a published writer? Selling your books, right? In order to sell them, you have to attempt to tell people about them. If no one knows you or your books, has never heard of you, no one will buy your stuff.

As many (including Joanna Penn below) will point out, you should be more concerned about obscurity than piracy. The more people that read your works, the more chances you have of creating fans, some of whom will spread the word. And spreading the word is what you want.

Read what Joanna Penn says about Cory Doctorow’s experiences.

This site gives the same advice, let it go. But it goes on to detail steps to take if you’re determined to get justice for your title.

This article also has a link to creating a strong, effective copyright page.
Having a proper copyright page is enough to take legal action, should you decide to pursue that.

However, if you’re taking legal action, this site has details on registering your copyright with the US Copyright Office.
This site also has useful information on using quotes, lyrics, real people, etc.

The final step, getting the book offer off the online site, is the hardest. You can hire a service for this if you’re serious about not having copies of your book in random places.  Details at the end of this site, mentioned above:

I do not choose to spend my time and money going after pirates. Rather, I consider it flattery when someone else thinks they can make tons of money stealing my books. Good luck to them! It doesn’t work all that well for me, as you well know if you’re also a writer who hasn’t made it to the New York Times bestseller list yet.

pirate flag from
pirate from


  1. I have never been worried about piracy. As you say Obscurity is a far bigger problem for me. KB Inglee

  2. NIce common-sense advice, Kaye. Thanks for posting it. I think new and even unpublished writers worry about piracy more than those with a track record.

  3. Interesting post, Kaye. I wish I had some pirates to worry about.

  4. Mr. Kevin Tipple posted this article on Facebook and this is my response to him:

    Kevin Tipple, thank you for posting this. Given the facts, 95% or more of all the current authors really lie in obscurity and only a very small percentage earn enough from their books to live on.

    But we keep trying.

    My books are on pirate site after pirate site---I don't know why. AND...I am NOT flattered as this writer states!

    Death itself is obscurity---who remembers their great grandparents and what they did? BUT writing leaves a legacy after death and I think every writer hopes their work will survive after their demise!

    Charlie Steel, Author

  5. Thanks for the comments, agreeing and dissenting.

  6. I think I’d be flattered more than threatened.

  7. Hey Kaye!

    Maggie Stiefvater had a very different take on book piracy- it directly costs her sales. I thought her story was really interesting. Hopefully the link will be allowed here!