Pirated eBooks: Authors Face a Bigger Enemy and it’s Not Piracy

Pirated eBooks: Authors Face a Bigger Enemy and it’s Not Piracy

This long debated topic of authors being concerned with pirated eBooks arose once again the other week with a conversation with an author and seems to be still making it’s way around the nether-webs on the tongues of writers and authors entering the marketplace.

The real question is…

What can authors continue to do about obscurity?

I wanted to address this issue here. You see ‘obscurity’, not piracy is actually an authors biggest concern. If someone finds a pirated copy that’s one more person that actually now ‘knows’ about you, the undiscovered upcoming author.

If they’re a reader and enjoyed your book, they might just Google you for other books you’ve written to buy.

  • Do you have Search Engine Optimization (SEO) working for you, so when these readers type your name or book title into Google, find you?
  • Is your book priced well?

If you answered with a resounding ‘yes’ to both of these, you’ve potentially sold another book and piracy has just served as word of mouth marketing. Best-selling author Tim Ferris actually did just this, by giving away parts of the book and lots of content through various sites for free download. This resulted in sales.

The real issue lies with…

No one knowing about you, no one talking about you, no one tweeting about your book and no book clubs sharing your book. This is obscurity and it’s what authors need to focus on overcoming in an ever increasing competitive marketplace.

If the book is good the person will say it was good to friends before they say how they got it. Those ‘friends’ will remember the book title, search it on Amazon and if the book is not over priced they’ll grab it. The high value yet low price point range acts as another filter of convenience.

Pro-active bestselling thinkers

Some authors like J.C. Hutchins and New York Times bestselling author Scott Sigler gave away their books for free in audio book form. This is where they built a loyal fan base as they offered no barrier of entry to try before the buy.

If you could get it for free, why bother looking for a pirate copy right?

Releasing their books for free in this manner actually improved their sales considerably as their now avid fans wanted to have a complete book copy of their new favourite stories and because the books were so competitively priced, it made for an easy decision.

Best selling author Neil Gaiman was quoted in a video interview earlier this year, who came to the conclusion that what piracy really amounted to what was “people lending books“, he said.

[U]nderstanding that gave me a whole new idea of the shape of copyright and what the web was doing. Because the biggest thing the web was doing is allowing people to hear things, allowing people to read things, allowing people to see things they might never have otherwise seen. And I think, basically, that’s an incredibly good thing.”- Neil Gaiman

The real shame here is having the notion of ‘piracy’ paralyze an author, stunting their creative marketing and sales efforts only to then find themselves drowning in obscurity.


10 Responses to Pirated eBooks: Authors Face a Bigger Enemy and it’s Not Piracy

  1. Didn’t Seth Godin release one of his books for free on the internet before actually selling it? The same model of build the buzz first by getting your content out there, then monetise second?

    • Yes Seth is a big advocate of giving books away for free, during a launch process window before selling the book or permanently to grow mind share and an audience. He’s suggested new emerging authors to give their first book away completely free, then monetize the next book that follows.

  2. Agreed and I have every intention of giving away a few copies of my novel as I see it working for other emerging writers. However, I can see giving away books in bulk would be easier for the self publisher. What about if you have been accepted by a larger publisher? Will they allow you to give away books for free?

    • Hi Rebecca, great comment! If your signed and bound to one of the big 6 then they’ll be calling all the shots and they won’t let you simply give out your books for free to build your audience. In today’s market they’ll include rights to your eBooks and audio books and you’ll still be responsible for all the marketing.

      You would do your best to keep the digital eBook rights, but don’t count on it. If you self publish the correct way with your own imprint then you can have access to book stores offline and online, get assistance from the best of professionals creating your book like our ex-Scholastic/Penguin editors here, while having the freedom to get creative with executing your marketing ideas such as giving copies away for free.

      There’s pro’s and con’s to both, so do your research and all the best with your publishing pursuits. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Thoroughly agree. Nobody is calling for the closure of public libraries, and while in some countries authors get a nominal fee per lend of their book, it is still ‘fee free’ to the borrower!

  4. They say that ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’. We all like to try before we buy, and the idea of making available snippets from my book appeals to me. I often donate books for charity raffles and give away the odd book to friends. I can see exactly what Anthony is saying about these freebooters doing us a favour by rescuing our work from obscurity … however piracy still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Life Love Tarot second edition will be available on Kindle in the near future and I would rather give away profits to my selected charity then be robbed. xx Dawn Alice

    • Thanks for the great comment Dawn. Those who pirate are a minority and wouldn’t have bought the book anyway. The other way to fight it and generally sell more, is to offer great value that is over and above just the price of book. This added value you can’t get via any other means, except in purchasing a copy. I’ve bought many products where the value was over and above the price of entry. it works.

  5. Yes, true Anthony. One sets a value on their own creative projects, and nobody can ever take that away. All artistic work whether it is a book, painting or music … doesn’t matter; it is all about self-worth. Eventually an author aspires to graduating through their labour-of-love to survival in the real world of making a living.
    xx Dawn Alice

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