Saturday 3 October 2020

Dealing with Pirates


It’s sickening, isn’t it, after all of your hard work, and all of ours, that someone is advertising your book on a website and allowing it to be downloaded for free?

This is illegal.

It is also illegal to download such material.

The first time it happened to me I contacted my publisher in a panic. The reply?  Sigh. “We can ask them to take it down but they’ll put probably put it back up again.” Slight pause. “You’ll probably find that your sales go up, actually.” 

Not satisfied I contacted the Society of Authors.  I almost got the same sigh.  “Yes, it probably will go straight back up. Or up on another site.”  But the Society of Authors is fighting hard on this in a more collective way. We need to remember that they’re not there just for what they can do for us individually, though of course their contract-vetting service is excellent. Part of our fee gives them the resources to take on major concerns.

They did suggest sending a standard letter.

“Dear XXX,

I note that you are offering as a free download of XXX from your site. This is illegal as you are not licensed to copy this material. Please remove this immediately. We have informed our solicitors.

Yours faithfully,


I’ve had a 100% success rate with this and usually as well a grovelling reply. But. I don’t actively look for them.  

You can also tackle the illegal reader. At every opportunity, when you have any contact form a reader, ask them how they heard about your book.  This will give you some valuable marketing information anyway. If they happen to mention a free download, politely point out that they’re breaking the law. They’ll probably never do it again and that helps all of us. If they plead poverty can you offer a free book in exchange for a review? You can use the mobi-file we send to you if the book hasn’t yet got 50 reviews.   

Why isn’t this policed properly?  It’s difficult to and perhaps law-enforcers have more pressing problems.  The EU passed a new law recently which dealt nicely with this BUT our government decided not to take it on. They are concerned about free material being available for schools. There is a lot of discussion about this on the Society of Authors web site and ALCS.   Worth a letter to your MP? Mine has had several on this and related matters, as well as other matters. I’m expecting the “You again?” reply soon.

Does it increase sales, and if so, why and how? 

It did in my case and we think it’s because usually you have to read a PDF of a poor scan. If somebody likes what they’re reading they’ll go and buy the book. 

Why do they do this?  Maybe they charge a subscription fee.  But they’re still taking a huge risk.  If they’re prosecuted and lose thy can end up with huge fees and a jail sentence.  So can the reader. And sometimes they’re just trying to get information about people for other reasons.  Most criminals live on adrenalin anyway. A few in this case may have that altruistic idea that content should be free.

This is what I’m doing as a writer: 

Goggling my latest publication once a month – only looking at the first four pages of hits

Sending out custom letter to all abusers

Naming and shaming them on all appropriate social media platforms

As a publisher, I’m Googling the core ISBN numbers once a month       

Image by Prawny from Pixabay   

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