Saturday, November 21, 2009

Yo-ho-ho and a copy of your book – Argh!!

Captain Jack aside, those mythical pirates of days gone by are gushy wimps compared to the crafty robbers of today. Some never leave a computer - ready and able to steal an author's hard work and not once, but thousands of times.

Ten years back, many students in my school were beyond poor and needy. Sadly, these children, neither loved nor cared for, would pirate lunch money, even winter jackets with cool finesse. Watching a Kindergartener give a lunch lady the slip to return to the classroom and pilfer every new box of crayons in less than five minutes was not uncommon. Today, they are the young adults who switched such honed skills from crayons to e-books, music, and artwork. They read books on their phones and negotiate the internet like a video game. But not all pirates come from abject poverty and neglect. In fact, most on today’s web-bandits are educated, middle to upper-class individuals who steal from modern modes of technology simply because they can. And as our world changes, anything posted on the internet is fair game.

Musicians have gotten wise, now it’s time for authors to do their homework. All authors. True, the best-sellers may lose a little in royalties. But can you? Would the ever-illusive goal of sky-high sales say to your publisher that what you write has a following and is being read? Of course! Yet many of us will never know. Our genre at The Black Rose Line often has an underground following, which includes millions of readers with unique techno-competency. And you'd be right to say that book pirates come in any age, size, or gender.

Scary, huh? Also reality.

Piracy sites are insidious. Once discovered, they disappear only to resurface with another name. And they don’t just pirate one book – they pirate thousands! Some charge – as little as 5 cents a copy to download! Owned by individuals who can crack any code and vanish, these sites are filled with "stuff" that can infect any unsuspecting computer.

In a recent workshop, I learned that 65% of Amazon books are pirated. It’s shocking. And paranormals tend to be right up there with hard-core Science Fiction and Erotica. No author, not the biggie or the newbie, is able to stop this. Song writers, poets, artists, filmmakers, musicians can’t stop it either. The loss of hard-earned royalties to piracy sites is suspected to be in the millions of dollars and there’s no end in site. The guest speaker likened piracy to lending a book to a friend. We all do this – to a few individuals. Now think about lending an e-book that is pirated and downloaded. Think of the websites dedicated to reading our genre. Now add the closet vamp-lovers who sneak a peek at our sensual heroes and heroines in untraceable downloads, perhaps to read and trash in a week. Scary indeed! Large houses that have begun to publish e-books are starting to take notice. Big authors are starting to demand action.

Moral character, anyone? How about “Thou shall not steal” or “That’s not yours, so don’t touch it”? Pirates steal our work because they can – it’s that simple. No encryption is too difficult to break. So what do we do? We educate ourselves about this matter. Google the term, read the articles, but above all, DO NOT click on some unknown site because you see your book listed there and think you can demand they stop! Report the abuse, swallow the loss of another royalty, and get your mouse far away from the site. In other words, grit your teeth and let it go.

Many organizations exist that have knowledge about e-book piracy. You just have to investigate a bit. Recently, I found such a group that has brought this to our government’s attention. I applaud the effort and truly hope they can raise awareness of piracy on the web. Don’t dismiss the effect on your sales. Be aware and form an opinion. Then, take a stance.

After all, you might have a best-seller and not even know it.

Mickey Flagg
Visit for November news.


  1. Thanks, Mickey! Informative post. I'm a musician, too, so I tend to think about piracy, but had no idea that 65% of Amazon's books were pirated. Ah, or is that ARGH! the age of techno!

  2. It's scary, isn't it? I know a few authors with multiple books listed on these sites. They are livid, but there's not too much you can do. Some author loops keep this issue front and center - as we all should. And yay, Pen! ARGH is right :)