Posted on February 12, 2020 at 3:26 PM by Guest Author

Book piracy is an issue that any author could run into. But it doesn’t have to affect your writing career. Learn why it’s important to protect your work and how to do so. 

Table of Contents

What Is Book Piracy?

Put simply, book piracy is the unauthorized reproduction of an author’s copyrighted work. 

As a writer, you’re likely familiar with the concept. More importantly, you’re afraid of running into it yourself (if you haven’t already).

Rest assured you’re not alone. Many authors worry that they’ll miss out on book sales due to illegal downloading and distribution.

But piracy doesn’t just have financial repercussions; it has emotional ones too. Victims of pirate sites often feel angry and violated after learning their work has been stolen — and rightly so.

The issue of book piracy isn’t new; in fact, it’s been around for hundreds of years. Counterfeit versions of physical books are even found on major retail sites, often with smudged text and missing pages. 

However, ebook piracy in particular has become a major cause for concern — and not just among book publishers. 

The Prevalence of Book Piracy Today

Although book piracy has existed for quite some time, the emergence of ebooks has made the process of copying and distributing books online much easier.  

Think about it… 

Ebooks are already in a digital format, which means no scanning or printing is required. In some cases, the operator of a piracy site will upload PDFs that have been reset or retyped.

Regardless of what extra steps are taken, however, the simple fact is that ebooks are more vulnerable to being pirated.  

A 2017 Nielsen consumer survey found that ebook piracy cost U.S. publishers $315 million annually in lost sales.

More recently, data from The Authors Guild revealed that the number has decreased to $300 million.

Still, that’s nothing to scoff at, especially when you think about how authors are losing money too… 

Further, shutting down an ebook pirate is easier said than done. It’s not uncommon for a site to close up shop only to reappear a few months later under a new domain name.

Those fighting against book piracy liken it to a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. 

Why It’s Important to Protect Your Work

If you don’t take steps to protect your work, you could wind up a victim of book piracy.

And although some believe that it should be viewed as an opportunity to reach a broader audience, the reality is that piracy has a number of negative consequences for authors.

For example…  

You don’t receive any compensation. 

If writing is your full-time job, then you can’t afford to miss out on any book sales. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens when your work ends up on a site full of pirated books. Regardless of whether the site charges for your ebook, every download is a sale you didn’t make. 

You lose control over your work.

As an author, you are fiercely protective of your work. You want to maintain control over your intellectual property and have a say in where and how it’s distributed.

But when your book is pirated, that control is taken away. 

You may have to cancel an upcoming book. 

If you’re a writer of serial novels, the success of a preceding book determines whether you can move forward with the next, especially if you work with a traditional publisher.

When sales for book one are down, it suggests that there’s little interest, even if that’s not actually the case. You may have no other choice but to abandon the rest of the series.  

5 Steps to Reduce Book Piracy

Unfortunately, piracy isn’t something that can be avoided altogether — unless, of course, you choose not to publish your work. 

But why let the fear of someone stealing and copying your ebook prevent you from sharing your stories with the world?

The good news is there are some steps you can take to reduce book piracy. 

1) Register for Copyright Protection.

If you haven’t already done so, you should consider registering for copyright protection. Although every original work is copyrighted automatically, registering each one of your books with the U.S. Copyright Office provides extra security. 

If, for example, you learn that someone is attempting to sell a bootleg version online, you’ll have actual proof that the book is your property. It will make the process of getting the pirated book removed much easier. 

2) Set Up Alerts. 

Thanks to technology, there are a number of ways you can keep an eye out for pirated copies of your work. One of the simplest and most affordable is to set up Google Alerts.

All you have to do is select a passage from your ebook and create a Google Alert. Then, if that passage appears anywhere on the internet, you’ll get a notification. 

3) Make Your Book Available in All Formats.  

People often pirate books because they aren’t able to find their preferred format through official channels. To get ahead of this, make sure your book is available in all formats when you release it. 

For example, consider offering the digital version of your book through both Nook and Kindle for your readers’ convenience.

4) Provide Access to Readers in Various Countries.  

If fans (or potential fans) in one country aren’t given access to your book, they’re more likely to get a bootleg copy. That’s why it’s in your best interest to release it globally on the same day. 

By ensuring everyone has an opportunity to read your ebook, no matter where they’re located, you decrease the chances of them searching for a pirated version.  

5) Consider Offering Your First Ebook Free.

Another reason book piracy is so prevalent is because people are wary of purchasing a book they may not like.

Getting a free or low-cost version from a pirate site allows them to “test out” a book before they decide to buy it or any others from an author. 

An easy way to get around this issue is to offer your first ebook free. This allows you to maintain control over your work and eliminate the need for potential readers to pirate your book.

For instance, you could promote your free ebook in our newsletter, giving 220,000 readers a chance to read your story.      


Although book piracy is an issue that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, there are steps you can take to reduce it. 

If you’re worried about your work being stolen, make every effort to not only protect it but also improve accessibility for potential readers. 

In doing so, you can decrease the likelihood of your ebook showing up on pirate sites and maintain control over your work. 

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