I ended my war against piracy this month.
For a long time, I would get incensed when I’d see free versions of my books lying all around the internet for the taking. It seemed there were thieves here, there, and everywhere. I spent endless hours sending notices to offenders, demanding they take down what was rightfully mine.
Over a year ago, I discovered (thanks to a Facebook friend) MUSO, a service that does all that stuff for you–it hunts down offenders and sends them takedown notices (at your request). I was, shortly thereafter, also contacted by DMCA Force for the same type of service. Both services operated a little differently, but I loved them both for different reasons, and where one was lacking, the other seemed to be strong.
There were still pirated copies out there, but that was beside the point. If I found new pirated copies, all I had to do was send the info to one of the companies covering me (one was much easier than the other when it came to completing this process) and they’d take care of the problem. Both companies have amazing customer service and I still to this day highly recommend them both to writers who feel the need to battle piracy. For less than a dollar a day, you can have one of these companies doing just that for you.
But there are STILL lots of pirated copies of my books out there out there.
Ah, what’s a writer to do? Frankly, it really is a full-time job just hunting that stuff down and sending the notices. It is worth every penny to let a company do it for you if you wish to fight piracy.
That said, I was paying over $50 a month (split between both companies), and I don’t know if it helped. Don’t get me wrong–I know the sites contacted took down their copies of my books (and usually kept them down). What I mean is this: How many readers took the free copies offered by all those sites? How much did those pirated copies cut into my sales? Would the readers who stole my books have ever paid for them?
Recently, I read a book by David Gaughran called Let’s Get Digital. I consider myself somewhat of an indie writer “expert,” simply because I’ve learned everything the hard way, but I’m not so cocksure and full of myself that I don’t take advice or continue learning. Much of the info in Gaughran’s book was stuff I already knew but there were some gems of advice that made me glad I picked it up.
One of those gems dealt with piracy.
Let me tell you the most frustrating part of fighting piracy. It’s like being a teenager with an acne problem. That one annoying zit finally goes away, and another pops up a few centimeters away. It is an unending battle. That said, there was one site that angered me more than any other, and that was because it charged for those copies and gave readers the impression that dollars spent on the site went to a good cause.
I emailed the company (this was in the days before I employed MUSO and DMCA Force) and called them on their bullshit. The site owner just kind of gave me a smarmy smile (yes, I could practically see it in the email) and challenged me. He lives in Canada and I live in the U.S.–so whatcha gonna do? It was that site in particular that drove me to MUSO and DMCA Force. Those companies are very good at their jobs and, if you are an author and want to fight against piracy, I highly recommend them both for myriad reasons.
However, this month, I made a choice. I am no longer fighting piracy.
The list of why is long, but let me tell you the main reasons. While I am not one to give up just because something is a losing battle, I have begun to seriously doubt that I am losing a ton of money this way. And, honestly, being pirated so damn much tells me people must want to read my books. There’s a demand for them. I don’t sell them for exorbitant prices, so I think that honest people will pay for my books–and that’s what Gaughran talked about in his book (sentiments previously echoed by folks like Neil Gaiman and Joe Konrath). We, as writers, want to be read, and there’s an even better chance of being read if people are talking about our books. There have been enough informal experiments (if you will) conducted by these folks to suggest that having books pirated is a good thing. No, it’s not good in that someone is stealing from you, but I see the logic. Aside from that, I can tell you that I don’t think I am losing $50+ a month in sales due to piracy. Again, it’s because I think honest people will continue to be honest, and cheaters and thieves will always be cheaters and thieves. I can thwart one attempt, but if I have one site take down one of my books, another will pop up with that book less than a day later, and Mr. Thief will get his copy there instead. My time is more valuable than that, and, at the end of the day, I have to put faith in my fellow human beings. I would like to believe that more people are honest than not, and for those who aren’t, I no longer wish to spend my precious time, money, and emotions on them when those resources are better spent doing the things I love (actual writing, for instance).
I understand and respect why other authors still feel the need to fight piracy. For me, though, I am pulling my troops out of the battle. I have other, more important, wars to fight.