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How to Fight Back on Book Piracy

How do you fight back on book piracy without giving the pirate more traffic? Here's how to make things difficult for book piracy websites.

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How to handle book piracy, book piracy websites

without Giving the Pirate More Traffic

This week Facebook blew up in my author community due to the re-emergence of a particular book pirating site. Book pirates suck. Book piracy websites are a dime a dozen. But don’t go looking for them; you’ll get malware and all sorts of crap installed on your devices. We’ll talk about book piracy, DMCAs, and how to make the incomes of book pirates absolutely miserable!

People got vocal. He got more traffic and even more users, collected a ton of ad money. Travis thanked us all. He won in a way. (Until he lost, went broke, and didn’t pay the judgment. The author who sued him in Texas court is still waiting for payment. Is Travis living out of a conversion van?)

I stood quiet, because I knew more traffic is what he wants, even though he’s not currently completely monetized on his site. And the more traffic we send him and other book piracy websites, the bigger he gets, the more users he gets, and the more money he’ll make when he sells the site to someone else (who may not understand the copyright violations happening).

Or, when he decides to monetize his little online store (which to me, makes absolutely no sense when your entire user base is based on people who don’t want to have to pay for books).

Let me key everyone in on a few things beyond DMCA reports and de-listing sites like his on Google. There are ways to win the war on piracy.

There are ways to subtly fight back without giving him more traffic.

Of course, yes, go through the ways and means of completing his DMCA form. But here are a few ways that you can 1) prevent your epub file from being misused and uploaded by other users to sites like that and 2) how to make his entire user base absolutely miserable and not want to return to his site and 3) make it utterly painful, revealing, and undesirable to upload your epub files to his site:

Primary Source – ARC Copies

The primary source I’ve determined where his users are getting files from are your galley uploads – NetGalley, your publisher’s pre-release galley, and from direct file transfer from YOU when you send out your ARC copies to your teams.

Stop sending actual files and stick to .mobi-based files as ARC reader access, and use a service that only provides a .mobi file instead. Put a watermark at the bottom that makes it undesirable to upload – like “NOT THE FINAL BOOK”.

Try uploading the file with a big watermark going zig-zag across the back as a PDF prior to converting to a .mobi. This will be a complete buzzkill for pirate copy readers, because they’re looking to score the real thing without having all that gobbly-goo all over it. True ARC readers will understand.

You could even contemplate not publishing in epub format, and go exclusive on Amazon or only publish .mobi or .pdf copies watermarked and licensed with the purchaser’s name at the bottom of the file. It is a long, painstaking pain in the ass for pirates to remove that info.

Remember, you’ll want to make things UNDESIRABLE for book pirates. Make it hard.Look for what the pirate sites have in common. The ones everyone has been pointing to and linking to that I’ve seen have been epub and text files. That means they’re using non-DRM files and possible Calibre for file conversion.Consider not publishing epub-based files and uploading to review sites. I realize this may mean that you have to make some necessary business decisions on where to upload your books.

But until you’re able to identify the leak and the source, I would recommend taking these steps. Maybe avoid free-for-all sites like NetGalley and such, where the pirates may be lurking. Focus more on your own tribe and accept less reviews from a smaller team. That way, you can get back to writing. You can also worry less about your book being uploaded and pirated by people you don’t know.

Make the Pirate’s Site Undesirable

Here’s the fun part, where we can all take part. Toy with book pirate sites that allow users to upload book copies. Upload FAKE copies of books, with fake covers, and make the interior completely bogus. Or, use your real covers and upload the bogus interiors. If the database gets filled with these, the users of these sites will get frustrated and not want to return. Because you’ve just made it hard to find real books with the actual interior, as there’s no previewing on these sites that I have found.

This could be a lot of fun if we all banded together. In essence, you’re wrecking his traffic with bogus material. No one likes visiting a website and getting bogus downloads. They won’t return. This is a surefire way to fire back and teach pirate downloaders a lesson. Waste their time!

Watermarking Your Book Files

Watermark your files. Keep your ARC group tight. Know who they are. Report people on Booksprout and other ARC release management software if you think they’re pirating your books. Consider using a service to have your book sent out with a downloader’s identifiers on it (this can be done if you make the ARC $0 or free), and make it a licensed ARC copy and not just any copy. That way you make it undesirable for them to upload it anywhere else.

Remember – book piracy websites like this are not going to go away. All people have to do is clone a website such as that and host it on a server in China, making it even more difficult to 1) communicate with government regulators there and 2) get the material removed. They’ll keep popping up, left and right. They’re already in a position to sell files on the black market, exchange, clone, and so on.

Who is Distributing Your Book to Pirate Sites?

Do you know who is distributing your book to pirate sites? Guess what. You can find out. By reverse searching your book and following the profiles of the posters, you can often backtrack that data to a social media profile. That typically reveals an email address (if you know what you’re doing). You can then report the infringing poster to the platform, if they’ve been posting links to your protected material, and get them barred from the apps and sites.

Sounds like a game of whack-a-mole, right? There are services you can sign up for to handle this, as well. In addition, I use SEMRush for branding and name alerts. So if my book gets uploaded somewhere without my permission, I find out and can take care of business.

Next, start to get to know the people on your ARC team. Are they the culprits? Carefully inspect profiles, email addresses, and reverse search them to see if anything less than above-par comes out in a search result. I know a ton of authors who have had ‘sleeping pirates’ embedded in their ARC teams. A quick reverse search often reveals their true identity and what their intentions are.

Conclusion

If you do happen to spot an unauthorized copy of your book on a site somewhere, get started processing a DMCA straight away. Don’t wait. Keep records of each and every DMCA you submit to any book piracy websites, and use a standard DMCA takedown notice for each book, each website, and date stamp each submission. Noncompliance with your takedown notices should be progressed with legal action!

So it’s better to work on PREVENTION and DETERRENCE than it is to respond with social outrage and give him the exact result people like this guy want. Together, as a community, we can work together and essentially sabotage the pirates’ efforts. Let’s do this.


Also published on Medium.

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She is a writer, graphic designer, and Pinterest nerd. BFA in Graphic Design, a BS in Marketing, and minored in computer science, Spanish, and Business Administration. Classical pianist. Prolific and bestselling author of Pinterest Marketing, and boundary-pushing template creator. Goat wrangler and mommy to six adorable boys.

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