About once a month or so, an author I know writes a panicked post about finding their book on an illegal download site. (Just for clarification, It’s a different author each time. But it would be kind of funny if it was the same author posting every month.)
Generally here’s what happens. They either create a Google Alert for their name, book title, or both, or they do a search for the same. Along with the usual sites, they see something weird. It’s usually a site they don’t recognize, with a strange name. When they open the site, they discover their book, which might not even be out yet, is being downloaded by a band of illegal book pirates going by a name like Literary-ARGH.com. Okay, that’s not really the name of the site, but it would be almost as cool as the same author panicking every month. In fact, I might buy that domain name.
Anyway, they see their book available for free download by some nefarious overseas outfit. It might even show that this book has been downloaded thousands of times. All illegally.
Of course, the author freaks out. They think they are losing tons of money. They might contact their publisher, or try to contact the site to force them to stop downloading the book. And, worst of all, they lose sleep and stress about it.
Here’s the thing. Yes, downloading anything–be it movies, music, games, or books–without paying for it is bad. It is stealing. The people who produced these products are not getting paid for their work. If you go to these sites and download stuff illegally, stop it! Right now.
Okay, with that said, let me talk to you, the author, who just found your book on one of these sites. Stop worrying. Really. Don’t lose another minute of sleep about it. Here’s why.
- In all likelihood, your book isn’t really being downloaded illegally. I know. It looks like your book. It has the title, cover, author name, etc. But the file, if there is any file at all, is probably not your book. It’s a scam the websites do to get people to provide personal information. At best, people fill out the forms and get nothing. At worst, they end up downloading a virus. (Another good reason to not use these sites.)
These sites simply download information about new books and list them hoping to trick people into coming to their site. It’s called phishing. 99 times out of 100, your book is not being downloaded at all.
- But what if it is? There are definitely sites where you can go to download illegal copies of books, music, movies, etc. The sites where you really can download this stuff are less common than the phishing sites, and unlike the fake sites, they don’t list every book ever published. But they are real. So, what if someone has copied your e-book and uploaded it to one of these sites?
First, be aware that the kinds of people who tend to download illegal copies of books probably weren’t going to buy your book anyway. Your normal reader, doesn’t go to these sites. They go to legal sources to buy your book. So, while it is illegal, and annoying, you aren’t actually losing enough money to stress about. In fact . . .
- It could be a good thing. I was once talking to an author who was complaining about all of the books he didn’t get paid for. Library copies that get checked out over and over, books people loan to their friends and family, used books being resold. He was trying to tell me how much money he was losing. What I pointed out to him though, was that while he might be losing a few dollars in the short run, he was gaining lots of readers in the long run. Readers who might not buy “this” book, but who could buy lots of his future books.
I told him that if I could get one million people to read my book without paying a cent, I would do it in a heart beat. Heck, I’d pay to have a million people read my book. Think of it. A million new fans of your writing! How valuable would that be?
Now there is a big difference between checking a book out of the library and downloading an illegal copy. But, in the end, I am still getting a new reader who may become a fan and buy more of my books. In fact, there are many authors who give away free downloads of their books for that very reason. And the crazy thing is that many of the people who download the free copies end up buying print copies of the same book
So, to recap, your books probably aren’t being downloaded, and even if they are, you really aren’t losing much if any money, but you are potentially gaining new readers who will buy more of your books down the road.
So save your stress for things like chocolate chip cookies that end up being raisin cookies, or why Tomorrowland had so many plot holes, or why anyone would ever cancel a TV series like Firefly. But don’t stress about finding your book on a pirate site. In fact, stay away from those sites altogether. Because they might give your a virus, and that IS something to stress about.