“Avast ye maties.” Keehaul the varmit.” are expressions made popular by Hollywood, showing a pirates lifestyle as rebel going after the establishment. A well-known amusement park has a popular ride idealizing the pirate lifestyle that attracts millions a year. Most people feel as if they can identify with pirates.
With all things Hollywood and in amusement parks, the truth is much further from fiction than people are willing to believe. Everyone loves to cheer for the little guy, and pirates are seen as that, but there is another little guy suffering from attacks by an internet version of these criminals daily… the author.
Now, I can hear a lot of people protesting. So, you lost a few dollars in royalties. It’s not like you’re starving. Anyone can sell a book these days. Quit crying and write another book.
Okay. I get what you’re saying, but I believe you might be wrong. You see, I’m an author and I think I have a way to make you understand just what it feels like to discover a site like I did and see what they’re doing to my sales.
Imagine if you will that your income is dependent on the whim of people searching for your talent in an online marketplace. You’re in competition with thousands of others who claim to be as good as you are. You have to brand your name, so people recognize it and promote yourself every single day, no matter how you feel. You have to convince others, through reviews and a constant barrage of new work that you are the best person for the job. And you’re just starting to become known, get more jobs, earn more money.
Then imagine one day that all comes tumbling down because a website with their server in one country and based in another country hacks your information. People can now purchase your product or services and you don’t get paid for them. Think about your income cut by 10, 20, or even 50% overnight, because of this illegal company operating without a care about your lifestyle.
Can’t happen you say. Oh, but it does, and it happens every single day to authors all around the world. We are tasked with entertaining our audience with new and fresh material far faster than most other people have to change how they do their jobs. In addition to writing a book, the modern author must allot a certain amount of time each day to promoting their work and inducing sales. When pirates take our hard work and sell or give it away on a website, they are stealing from us, and they are rarely punished.
Let’s use some examples in other jobs.
Your doctor suddenly closes his office. The reason? His patients and their insurance companies have said he’s not as a doctor on the other side of town, so they’re not paying him for what he’s already provided.
Your mechanic charges a lot more than the guy down the road. You’re upset. It’s your hard earned money. So you refuse to pay and drive off, laughing at how you’re going to the cheaper mechanic and also taught this guy a lesson.
Your local grocery store charges a little more than a store in another town. You decide that since this is too expensive, you can take what you want and walk out the door without paying.
Wait a minute, you cry, people would be arrested and go to trial for doing those things. And you’re right, that’s exactly what happens when you steal from someone.
Unless you’re an author and someone creates a website and gives away your work. I can already hear the protest forming in your mind, but it’s the truth. These pirate sites operate just like this, stealing our work and selling or giving it away for little or nothing. Once they’re discovered, they fold up their tent and move on to another website, uploading books and operating in the exact same manner until they are caught again, only to repeat their actions.
Recovering the lost royalties is an exercise in futility. Imagine that you found your paycheck had one-third less pay in it, and this went on for months and months. Sometimes the amount will increase, sometimes it will decrease. Now, think about the author working hard to present you with a story you’ll love, one you’ll enjoy many more times.
Is it fair for this author to forget about all the lost sales because of pirates? Is it really fair to work hard for months or years on something, only to have a complete stranger reap the rewards?
Oh, one other thing. Many sites that offer these books for free, which is still stealing from an author, will usually give you a free gift you never expected and won’t be aware of until you’re in the hot seat financially. Have you scanned your computer for malware or phishing viruses after downloading a book from a site that sounds too good to be true. Might be a good idea to do that.