Book pirates. They don't ride on ships, there's no bodice-ripping or treasure chests, but their nickname still fits because they are going to steal your ebook. It's a guarantee. They are going to steal it, and post it online for others to download for free.
So, when that happens, what should you do?
I'm fairly laid back about pirates. I don't believe that readers who pirate are going to buy books. They aren't going to do it. If they don't find your books on their sites, they'll hunt harder, then they'll read something else. They don't give up on piracy and decide to start paying for books. So pirates are already 'lost' to me, in terms of income potential. With that said... there's the possibility that one of them will read my books and recommend them to a paying customer. And a pirate may leave a review on Goodreads which might convince a paying customer to purchase it. Those two possibilities have helped me to bury my head in the sand and pretend pirates don't exist.
I recently read a VERY persuasive article by author Maggie Stiefvater with hard proof that her bestselling young adult series lost thousands of sales due to pirates. This article, coupled with constant urging by my husband, gave me the push to enter the piracy-fighting game.
Here's the deal. If you've found out that your books are being pirated, you have three choices ahead of you:
1. Do Nothing. Adopt my la-la-la-la-la *fingers in ears, looking the other way* attitude. It's not a bad route to take, as long as you can get over the idea that freebie hunters are devouring your book.
2. Make it a little harder on the freebie-hunters. Give a half-hearted effort and remove 80% of the places where a pirate might find your book. This path will cost you about $7-$13 and thirty minutes per month. I tell you more about this below.
3. Hunt down those pirates and take your ebooks back. It is a full-time job in an underground world that 99% of us don't understand, so you either need to clear off your calendar or hire a professional. A professional will cost you $750-$2,000+ to erase your books from 99% pirate sites, plus an ongoing monthly fee that is more reasonable.
Pick a choice. Read these three options over, do some soul-searching, and make a decision. Then, come back to this article and continue on.
Got your choice?
Did you pick #1? If so, nothing more to read here. Go on with your writing!
If you picked #2 - and you want to make a dent in your piracy problem without emptying out your calendar (or your wallet) - then sign up for Blasty. Blasty works with search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) and hosting platforms to remove piracy sites from showing up in search results. It doesn't remove your book from those sites, it just means that when a freebie hunter searches the internet for 'book XYZ free pdf' or 'book XYZ free download' - those sites won't show up. A hardcore pirater is going to visit the sites they use and find your book, so you aren't stopping them. But you ARE stopping the curious reader who has been waiting for your book to go on sale, or is snooping around online and doesn't have the ability to resist a free copy of your book that is right THERE for the taking.
For example, here's what I get when I Google 'good girl free pdf'. As you can see, the top result is a pirate site, and clicking on that link takes you to an easy and immediate view/download of its ebook.
I did the same search using my latest release, Double Down. Keep in mind that I use Blasty. It brought up some books that weren't mine, so I edited the search to be 'double down alessandra torre free pdf'. As you can see, the first page of results is all legitimate retailer sites with the exception of one page which brought up a dead link that showed that Double Down had been removed from their site (wahoo!).
I like Blasty for two reasons. First, it's ridiculously easy to set up. Within ten minutes I had signed up and had added all of my books. Note, if you DO use Blasty, be SURE not to add in any books that are permafree OR that you do free promos with. This is important, because otherwise Blasty could report legitimate blog sites they are simply trying to help you promo your free book. Eeek!
Secondly, I like Blasty because it removed SEVEN THOUSAND piracy links from search engine results in four days. Wow. And I still get emails every few days of more removals that they have found and eradicated.
If you're sold and ready to sign up for Blasty immediately (I did!), be sure to read the 'a few other things' section that I have at the bottom of this post.
Okay, let's move on to those of you who chose #3.
If you're a hands-on author, you can fight the piracy yourself by contacting each piracy site and using their 'contact us' form and asking them to remove your title(s). It may take multiple attempt to contact them, and you might not get any response at all. Then ask Google to remove the site from their search engine results by using this form. Umm.... did I mention Blasty removed 7,000 sites for me in 4 days? Be prepared for A LOT of work. After you ask Google to remove the site, do the same with Bing and Yahoo. If you've still got some energy, reach out to the hosting platform (ex. GoDaddy) that hosts the illegal site and report the site to them.
The easier (yet more expensive) way is to let a Piracy Assistant do it all for you. Page Angels is a company that knows piracy sites in and out and hunt your ebooks down like it's their full-time job (oh wait! it is!). I have gotten STRONG recommendations from several NYT Bestsellers who rave about them and vouch for their price tag, stating it is well worth the expense.
In closing, a few other things about Blasty:
1. I said in this post that Blasty only removes books from search engine listings, NOT from the actual site. Blasty did inform me that "in 80% of the cases, the host of the webpage also proceeds to the full removal of the infringement within 72h. We're implementing new escalation strategies which will help rise this ratio to 90% by the end of the year." So there is a strong possibility that your books will be removed from these pages as well. And I have noticed that many of the old piracy links I click on (such as the one in the example above) do bring up error messages that state that the content was removed.
2. You may want to turn off auto-blast. Some authors say that Blasty reports legitimate blog sites and pisses bloggers off so you need to be the one in charge of deciding which websites it will report, and which it won't. This thought terrified me, so I reached out to Blasty's CEO, who promptly replied with this message:
Blasty's algorithm has been specially designed and trained to make the difference between legal blog posts (which includes legal reviews and free book promos) and infringing blog posts. We had one incident which happened for 2 days back in April when an algorithm change caused a series of wrong ratings, and some dissatisfaction with it. The problem has been solved. No wrong rating of this kind has been identified since then.
Blasty users can also add blogs to their list of legal sources. Websites included in this list are ignored by Blasty's monitoring system.
Finally, in case a wrong Blast happens, Blasty users can cancel it at any time with the click of a button from the Blast page. This immediately submits a reinstatement request for the page to Google, Bing, Yahoo and the host of the webpage. The webpage is then restored within 24h exactly as it was before the Blast.
Personally, I decided, after reviewing a large chunk of the 7,000 sites that Blasty removed, and after hearing the explanation from Blasty, to leave auto-blast on.
What's your stance on fighting piracy? Have you found any solutions that I don't mention here?