Well, that didn't take long!
I made the unpleasant discovery that my first published book, The Weaver's Boy, was uploaded without my consent to an ebook seller with whom I have no commercial relationship. In other words, my book has been pirated and someone has attempted to profit from it without paying me royalties. Once I discovered this, I moved immediately to issue a DCMA takedown request and in fairness, the vendor complied quickly, delisting the book.
Now, I'm prepared to tolerate a little filesharing among individuals -- but having some arsehole attempt to profit from my copyrighted works, is definitely not cool. I fear the floodgates have opened. It's been pirated once and it's only a matter of time before its propagated through countless filesharing sites -- if it's not already available. With many such sites blocked in Australia by Government mandate, I can't even legally check to protect my own copyright2.
The weak link, I'm fairly confident is an aggregator service I use called Draft2Digital. While I like their service and have been happy, they've now told me the retailers Kobo and Tolino don't support Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) on books distributed via D2D. In an ideal world, I'd release my books without DRM to my readers -- even at the risk of interpersonal sharing. After all, my primary aim as an author is to be read. However, shipping books DRM-free makes it far too easy for plagiarism and illegal selling. So, I've decided to remove my book from sale from Kobo and Tolino until I can work out separate agreements with them -- if I even bother, since my sales figures outside the big three1 honestly don't warrant the administrative overhead of managing yet another publishing account.
Piracy is a reality of the digital age and it will never go away. I suppose I should be flattered that someone bothered -- unless of course it was the result of some kind of automated attack on one of the retailers I used. Intellectually, I always knew it would happen but that didn't prepare me for the feelings of anger and frustration when it actually did. Oddly enough, it's not about the money and I'll explain why in a moment.
There's a variety of reasons why people pirate -- at least there's a variety of justifications people use from political and ideological to financial. Reality it is generally comes down to an unwillingness to part with money -- even though the majority of indie published books, mine included, cost less than a coffee in a typical Melbourne café. I note my status as an indie author because I'm not J.K. Rowling or Stephen King and never will be. I don't have a big publisher backing me, to pay my editorial, design or legal costs. I'm just a guy writing books in the wee hours of the night, bearing all costs to bring my stories to market.
I'm not J.K. Rowling or Stephen King and never will be.
I'm yet to be convinced of the argument that piracy helps authors. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't and I have no problem with inter-personal lending, which many ebook readers support. Whatever the justification, I'm not going to make a moral judgement. People pirate because they can and when it comes down to it, most people don't think twice. The optimist in me hopes that among the countless people who may come to download my book, maybe some of them will convert to loyal readers who see enough value in my stories to buy one every now and again.
I'm just a guy writing books in the wee hours of the night, bearing all costs to bring my stories to market
I'm beginning to see why many authors are turning to crowd-funding and patronage sites like Patreon. Perhaps there's merit in me doing that one day, making my stories available in return for a monthly donation. Even publishing through Amazon isn't all its cracked up to be. As an Australian without a US bank account it will take me a very, very long time before I see a royalty payment from my largest market, Amazon.com and I may never see anything from the smaller markets like Canada and Germany where I've sold a couple of books here and there.
The truth is, I'm in the process of writing a book I intend to give away for free. But forgive me if, as the author, I reserve the right to do so on my terms. Therein is lies my contention with the pirates and bootleggers who are illegally selling my book -- it's not about the money, rather its the violation of my right to choose how and when I distribute my works that hurts. I don't just want to throw my stuff over a wall and forget about it -- I want to build rapport with my readers. I can't do that through dodgy retailers or torrent sites where I can't even distribute updates to my book when I make them!
Oh well, C'est La Vie. Stay tuned for more stories and articles.