Thursday, August 15, 2019

Dear O'Abby, how do I keep my book from being pirated?

Dear O’Abby,

I recently did a Google search on my book title and discovered it’s available on several pirate book sites. I issued take-down notices where I could, but I don’t feel like I’ve even scratched the surface of this problem. Do you have any advice?



Dear Pirated,

Unfortunately piracy is rampant in this digital age and it’s almost impossible to stop. Even major operations to take down pirate sites tend to end in failure with the site popping back up weeks or days later with a slightly different name or web address.

But don’t despair. It may look like your book is available in a million places, but in actual fact, many of these sites are just a cover for something else. I don’t advise clicking on your book title to find out, but often the book jacket (or movie poster if it’s a film site) is just a portal to a porn site or, even worse, a virus or phishing operation.

If it actually is a book pirating site, it is often difficult to find any contact details to issue a take-down notice. I’ve also come across sites that state they won’t accept take-downs from a gmail address or other common email providers. Given how quickly these sites pop up and down, you can spend a lot of time issuing take-down notices without it doing much at all.

On the one hand, you can look at priacy as being a positive thing – people are reading your book after all. But on the other hand, you’re not receiving royalties from those readers. And if you are with a publisher, and your book isn’t racking up sales, they may be unwilling to publish another one of your books.

You can argue that the kind of people who pirate books are unlikely to pay for it anyway, and eyeballs are eyeballs, but this isn’t actually the case.  Piracy has a devastating effect on many writing careers with authors getting dropped by publishers for poor sales, series not being completed because the second or third book doesn't sell as many copies as the first, and all because people are illegally downloading the books.

Having good security on your book is an obvious move, but unfortunately pirates can strip DRM in seconds if they know how.  You can individually watermark any files you send out pre-release which will at least let you know where there is a breach in security and who you can't trust.  But by then, the book is already out there, and once it's on one site, chances are it will show up on another and another.
I wish I had better news for you, but in a world where people expect to be able to get whatever they want for free with the click of a mouse, other people are willing to give them just that.  Without any thought about how it might affect the actual owner of that IP.  

If you're looking for a bright side, if people are looking for your book on these sites, at least it might bump you up the Google search rankings a little...

Does anyone else have any good advice about avoiding piracy?  If so, drop it in the comments for us.


  1. I don't use it or endorse it, but I've seen mentions of to manage piracy of books.

  2. This is interesting and scary. You wrote: pirates can strip DRM. What is DRM? Sorry for being such a newb! (

  3. I didn't know this happens. Thanks for the information.

  4. Victoria Strauss recently wrote about a book pirate site on her Writer Beware blog

    I'd report your experience to her. She can provide lots of good info, and warn others, too.

  5. Excellent advice - thanks! (DRM - Digital Rights Management, protects the copyright of electronic media.)


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