I’m going to go ahead and start this one with a hard truth. I’ve never been anything but honest with everyone, and so even in the hard moments, when we have to say the things no one wants to hear and no one wants to believe… I try to keep it honest. And with this one, I’m also going to keep it blunt, because will argue about it.
Your book will be stolen by pirates and posted online.
It does not matter if your book is not in KU. It does not matter if you are careful about who you send ARC copies to, or even don’t send ARC copies at all. It doesn’t matter who you use to distribute. It doesn’t matter what kind of steps are involved to protect yourself.
Your book will be stolen by pirates, and it will be posted illegally online.
So you just need to go ahead and accept that fact.
Now, did I say that we’re going to roll over and let this happen? Hell no. Fuck no. We’re not going to let that stand.
But it will happen. And the sooner you accept that, and the sooner your prepare yourself for it, the faster you can get it handled.
So let’s talk about dealing with piracy.
Now, everyone will tell you that there are ways to prevent piracy, and while there are certainly ways to make it less hard, no matter what you do, anything you post or share in any capacity, once it has left your fingertips, you have no control over. Whether it be a soundbite or a piece of art or your manuscript, you have no control over the actions of anyone else. If they want to do illegal things, they’re going to do it, and you don’t really have any way to stop them from doing such things.
Now, a lot of people will tell you that KU is basically a one way ticket to having your book pirated, and sure, I guess it does, because the pirate can access it via KU without having to pay for it? But, that doesn’t change the fact that they could also simply purchase your book, download it, and then return it. Oh, so you won’t share it via Amazon then? Well, no matter where you post your e-book, the pirate can still purchase it, download it, steal it, and then return it.
Keep in mind here, these are not people with morals. They are actively stealing books. So… if they want it, they will get it.
So yes, keeping your book out of KU might help… but not really?
As for ARCs… I will tell you this right now. My ARC copy and my freebie on bookfunnel copy and what I put in Amazon are three different books. You want to know which version it is that ends up on piracy sites? It’s not the first two. So, could sending someone an ARC end up with your book on a piracy site? Maybe? But again… if they want your book, they’re going to get it.
You can’t really stop it. It’s going to happen.
I’m not quite sure where the idea came around from that you don’t hold the copyright for your books? But… if I’ve seen one person say it, I’ve seen ten people, and for every one of them, I’ve seen ten more who are uncertain, and I just… we need to nip this one in the bud.
You hold the copyright to your book unless you sell it away to a publishing company or some other entity. You are the copyright holder. You don’t need a sheet of paper or registration with anyone to be the copyright holder. You hold the copyright.
That stated, can you get a piece of paper from the government verifying that you are the copyright holder? Sure, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are the copyright holder.
That’s part of the copyright page of your book. You saying hey, this is mine. I wrote it. It belongs to me.
(side note, this is where you should include your email address, which will become relevant later down on this page)
Which means, if someone has posted your book illegally online without your permission… you, legally, have the right to tell them to fuck off.
Or at the very least, send them a DMCA complaint.
So, if your book is pirated, which it will be, don’t think you need to gather up important stuff to handle it. You are the owner of your book. Now get your stuff together to fight back.
UPDATED: 15 August 2023
Since I made this post, I have started using MUSO for myself, which has been a huge gamechanger. I finally one day realized, when I found an overwhelming number of illegal copies of The Vampire in the Bookstore, that I was spending a lot more than just time on dealing with pirates. I was spending energy, and spoons, and mental willpower, and I finally just said… it’s $42 a month! Is my mental brain power truly worth more than $42 a month? Is risking my account with Amazon truly worth that much?
And the answer was… no. It wasn’t worth it to me to save that money and do it myself when I could just let a professional company handle it myself.
And since then, I’ve realized a few things with what is scratched out below.
Oh, what they do was accurate. They’re a data company who monitors globally. They handle the takedown process of illegal copies of your books, and provide you the proof you need to show Amazon, if they should ask, that you are doing everything you can to keep your book exclusive to them, if you’re in KU.
It is also only $7 a month per book, but I was wrong about the per Author cost, if you would prefer to have an unlimited number of books. It’s $70. Now, that is exclusive to one pen name, so if you have two then the bulk deal won’t really be worth it until you have more books, but…
They also have an Annual rate of $590 for the year for the Author Profile, so an unlimited number of books. 70 x 12 = $840, so this is a huge deal if you are planning to go that route, and in fact, after my next book, I will be switching to the Author Profile with the annual payment, just to save myself the hassle and stress of shifting in the future. (7 books x $7 each x 12 months in a year = $588, so I will go ahead and lose out on that two dollars for the year knowing that I’ll be releasing another in the near future.
They’re doing great work, and I highly recommend. I barely even check for illegal copies these days.
All you need is to provide proof you are the author, things like an ISBN, send in the money, and they send you daily emails letting you know how many they took down. It’s great. It’s easy. It’s hands off. I recommend it.
(old section for MUSO below)
This feels like an important time to note Muso, which, I’m always surprised to find out more authors don’t know about. Now I will note that I do not personally use Muso, but I know a lot of authors who do. This is a paid service, and I’ve considered it, and it’s one of those like milestone goals for myself I have, to be able to pay someone else to do this all for me, but right now I have a pretty good system down of handling pirates, so, I don’t mind doing it myself for the moment. So, what is Muso? Muso is a data company which monitors and reports global piracy. They do more than just working with authors to find illegal copies of their books, but, they also offer this service to indie authors, at an honestly reasonable price, given what in all they do. They will find illegal copies of your book, have it removed from search engines, send them a DMCA takedown notice, and report back to you that it’s handled. So, when Amazon maybe one day comes at you and says “hey we found this fuckery”, you can sit there and say “It has already been handled, here’s the proof that I’ve filed a copyright claim against them”. Yeah. Muso takes care of that for you. But… it’s $7 a month for one book, and their unlimited number of books doesn’t cap out until $260, and that’s per author, so if you have multiple names… Again, I think it’s a reasonable cost. If you have only one book, that’s $84 a year to protect yourself against Amazon KDP coming for you for breaking your KU contract. But, it’s not for everyone. That stated, again, just wanted to give them a shout out. They’re doing great work.
But what if you want to handle it yourself?
Searching for illegal copies of your book
Okay, kids. It’s time to think like a pirate.
You take your book title… and add the words… DOWNLOAD. And search. And… yeah.
Now, are you going to find LEGAL THINGS IN YOUR SEARCH? Yes, you are. I find bookstores, I find book reviewers, I find of course the Amazon link and goodreads link. I find my website. I find legal real honest fine stuff. I also find a lot of piracy sites.
From there, I just… open a few thousand tabs and save them all to one big folder on my laptop, because we’re gonna do it again, this time with DOWNLOAD PDF, and then you’re gonna do it again with DOWNLOAD EBOOK, and then again with DOWNLOAD FREE.
You get the idea.
Rinse and repeat for all of your books. Just… keep going. It’s going to going to hurt your soul.
Until eventually, you have one giant folder filled with all these websites offering free downloads of your book.
Now, get a little techy minute, and organize them. I like to do bookmark manager. Organize them by website name. And for all of the websites where you found only one of your books on search… go and check and see if they have your other books as well and you somehow missed it. Yeah. Not kidding. Grab those and add them to the folder as well.
You’re going to basically keep going until you have one giant folder filled with all of the websites stealing from you.
And then, it is time to report them to google for search removal.
Now, one of the easiest ways to slow and your books being found on piracy sites is to get it removed from the search engine. This should also hopefully help with Amazon, because if they can’t find the website, because it’s not popping up in search, then…
In general, this little thing is easy to use. You fill out your name, inform them you are the copyright holder, you’re reporting from the account with which it is noted on your copyright page is your email address, and you give them a link to Amazon or wherever showing where your book is available LEGALLY.
And then, you past in the drop down list all of the places where your book is illegally accessible.
This will take time to copy and paste and fill it all out, but, Google is really quick about this sort of thing.
Rinse and repeat for all books and all websites, making sure that you don’t miss any.
And then boom. Those searches won’t appear on google anymore.
Now time to get your book removed from the piracy site altogether.
DMCA Complaint Email
On every single website, it is legally required that they have a way for you to contact them. Most likely, it is at the very bottom and it’s titled… DMCA.
You click that. You find their email address. Wham bam thank you ma’am.
Sometimes it’s harder. Sometimes they want a form? But, if you do a form, that won’t include everything you need to send them.
You need the contact email. And sometimes that email won’t work so you need to search again. It’s a pain.
But you need to send them a DMCA take down email.
Once you find the email address, try and find the date your book was posted as well, and grab the link.
You’re going to input them into an email I’m going to give you, which will come with instructions. I have about 15 of these drafted and ready for me to input the data as needed. I recommend that you do the same.
Without further ado… the email. Instructions to follow. PLEASE READ THE FLIPPING INSTRUCTIONS.
<SUBJECT> URGENT: Attn: DMCA Office
First and foremost, your title should be… urgent, attn, etc. That’s the title. UNLESS THE WEBSITE TELLS YOU TO TITLE IT SOMETHING ELSE. But yeah. Subject. That’s important.
Next, you want to fill in the ___BLANKS___ with your title, the links, and the date.
INSERT YOUR AUTHOR NAME WHERE IT SAYS TO. Author name.
See in the email where it says that you are the owner of the copyright and you can prove that because you’re emailing them from the email that is also listed on the copyright page for the author? Yeah. See? I told you that would come up again later.
AND FINALLY. YOUR SIGNATURE.
Not a typed thing. Your signature. You need your signature, as in image, inserted. Not attached. Inserted. Your signature must be inserted in the email.
Now I’m sure you’re asking yourself, Elle, why do we need to do it this way? Why are you insistent about wording? Why the signature?
Because a lawyer wrote this up, and they said to do it this way, and I’m not a lawyer nor am I a law girly, so when a lawyer says this is the way you need to submit a DMCA complaint, I do as I am told, because again, I am not a lawyer girly. Copy and paste, friend. Do as you’re told.
And there you have it.
There’s nothing you can do to stop pirates. You have choices on how to handle them.
Just don’t let them go unhandled, because one day, that might bite you in the ass.
Good luck, my dears.
Next time, we will hopefully be talking about my 2022 wrap up… as soon as I figure out how I want to format that big boi dataporn.