Two weeks ago I self-published my chick lit novel (a FREE romance ebook!! YAY!) Champagne and Lemon Drops. Within 48 hours there was a pirated version competing against my own on Amazon.com. And they were virtually indistinguishable. (You can read the full tale of digital piracy here.) At first I thought it was a glitch, but after more snooping and chatting with others I discovered digital plagiarism was afoot.
Therefore, today's tips are about how to go about finding your pirated writing online. This is not a discussion about digital piracy or DRM or whether publishing traditionally will somehow save you (it won't). This is about how to find your pirated works, because if you are lucky, illegal copies are going to surface. (Lucky because it means you aren't completely obscure and other people feel you have something profitable on your hands.) Why these tips? Because at the end of the day if you can't find your pirated novel online, how are you going to request its removal?
The bad news: Book plagiarism and piracy is common.
The good news: It is actually difficult for pirates to make money from your pirated novel.
How to Find Your Pirated Works Online:
1. Don't Use Google Alerts
You didn't expect that one, did you? Truth is, Google Alerts generally culls the 'best' of the net even if you choose for it to report "everything." If you take away one thing from this post, take away this: DO NOT rely on Google Alerts to email you notices as an effective way to watch for piracy.
Why? I've had Google Alerts on my name for years and 99 times out of a 100 it alerts me that my name has appeared… on my blog. Thanks. Helpful. Really. Not. Has Google Alerts found a mention for my novel's title yet? No.
2. Use Google Search Tools
While the answer might not be Google Alerts, it is still in the Google family: Google (the search engine). Cozy up with it.
The only problem with Googling is that you end up sifting through the same stuff every day--and if you are getting your name and book title out there, you have more to look through each day. This is where Google's search tools come in. (See the screenshot below.) You'll notice when you click on "Search Tools" you can search by timeframe. (P.S. Yes, you can use other search engines--just be sure they have a timeframe search feature so you don't waste your time.)
|Google Search Tools. Choose Your Timeframe.|
Note: If you find your book listed on a file sharing site or a free ebook site, be careful! Make sure your firewall and virus software is up to date before you visit that site. In fact, in some cases you might not even want to go there. Why? Because some of these sites use ebooks as bait in order to get your email address, credit card info, or to place malware (eg. keyloggers) on your computer. If your browser warns you the site is nefarious, don't. go. there. You might consider the free add-on WOT (Web of Trust) for your browser--it's a smart idea. It will tell you if a site is safe or not with a green, yellow, or red circle. See screenshot below:
|The Red Circle on the Right Means Evil Site: Do Not Enter! (WOT in Action.)|
3. What to Search For: Three Things That Help Find Pirated Content
Google your name (in quotes), your book title (in quotes) and a unique sentence from your book (in quotes). You can't trust that the pirate is going to use your name on your title and on your content. Smart pirates mix it up.
Why quotes? Because you receive more accurate results. No point sifting through recipes for lemon drop champagne punch, right? Although it really does sound yummy!
4. Search Regularly
I recommend doing this daily. Yes. Daily. If not daily, every other day. The faster you are able to report piracy, the faster your content is removed. And if you can't do it daily, definitely do during in the weeks following some wonky stats (good or bad), you release a new book, or one of your books gets a new shot in the arm with some extra attention whether it is a blog tour, review from a fairly well-known reviewer, or hitting a bestseller/breakout list.
5. Search Book Sale Sites
Even if you are vigilant about searching for your title, name, and a sentence from your novel, you aren't going to discover whether there is a pirated copy on Amazon or your other ebook vendors sites. (At least my pirated version on Amazon didn't show up in my Google searches.) You will want to also keep an eye on your downloads--if they suddenly drop off or make a leap you may have a pirated copy working with/against you.
Note: You are going to want to search for both your name and your title on Amazon.com as well as a foreign Amazon site (trust me on this--Amazon is very good at dealing with piracy and sometimes you can't see pirated copies on the regular .com site). Yes, it is extra work, but it is also worth it. This advice applies to other bookselling sites.
Tip: If in doubt, don't shrug it off, contact the site owner and provide as much information as possible to find out if it is a pirate at work or just a glitch.
If you are interested in reading more about piracy, check out FTWA blogger Charlee Vale's post about her tussle with piracy as a photographer--a must read if you are considering getting professional author photos. As well, if you think your book has been pirated or you want to read more about piracy as well as learn how to get your pirated book off of Amazon, read this post on The Helpful Writer which includes more helpful tips as well as my full piracy story.
P.S. If you've dealt with piracy or have comments on this subject leave us a comment below.
Jean Oram is a contemporary romance author who provides a helpful tip a week on her writing blog, TheHelpfulWriter.com. She also has a website for her chick lit books at www.jeanoram.com. You can find Jean on Twitter as @jeanoram and on Facebook. You can download a FREE copy of her ebook Champagne and Lemon Drops on Smashwords (all ebook formats).