I Have Pirated Myself

Ebook Piracy - I Have Pirated MyselfWhy would I pirate my own ebooks?

There have been two words that have sent shivers down the spines of owners of digital content on the Internet. Piracy and BitTorrent. Piracy being the act of copying and BitTorrent being the vehicle to distribute the pirated content around the Internet – to over 400 million active BitTorrent users.

Well, it had to happen eventually that Bittorrent sites got into a trouble with copyright owners, and the law, and in the last year or so, many have either closed down or been closed down. Except for a few enterprising Bittorrent sites that have cleaned up their act by removing all the illegal files, and have been reborn as legal content distributors to this pool of 400 million users.

When I thought about free content distribution for ebooks, the conclusion came to my mind that Amazon is probably the primary provider of free content distribution through their KDP Select program. Of which, I am not a fan as it necessitates granting exclusivity of the ebook rights to Amazon for a fixed period. However, there is no doubt that free ebooks are becoming a fundamental component of ebook marketing, and in building an author profile.

So I put two and two together. 400 million active BitTorrent users is quite a pool of people + I don’t like Amazon’s demand for exclusivity just to be able to give my ebooks away = Pirate my own ebook and put it on BitTorrent.

I used one of my earlier books to provide a reading taste and selected Mininova as my Bittorrent client. The result has been outstanding. On average, my ebook is being downloaded 400 times per day. Now even if only a small percentage actually read the book, this will provide ongoing marketing for my name and other books 24/7, for free and without having to grant exclusivity to anyone.

It’s not for every author, but it is an alternative means of promotion.

UPDATE: I stumbled across a free ebook site, and found one of my self-pirated ebooks on offer. It was pleasing to see over 2,000 downloads in less than one month. But even more pleasing to read nearly 100 comments. For a now out of print book, it’s publicity, and any is good huh?

22 thoughts on “I Have Pirated Myself”

  1. Serban V.C. Enache

    Let me be the first to congratulate you, Mr. Haines. Imagine how many writers and nonwriters are out there, who think 400 million people are just “douches”, as Jack Black calls them, who don’t like to pay for software, films, music etc. That’s simply not true. People have a lot of reasons for why they use open source sites. I can’t really call it piracy, because they’re not getting the copyright stuff and then selling it to others at bellow market price, while keeping the profits for themselves. The scene groups and the others put the thing free/open source out of principle, as well as for fun. In short. The audience of so called pirate sites are not automatically the target audience of producers. They’re not lowering their sales. The companies do that via their idiotic and anticonsumer friendly features such as: the absence of LAN, the imposing of DRM, the imposing of prelaunch DLCs, overpricing their goods, failing to live up to their word to the customers and fan base etc. Not all those 400 million people download stuff because they’re cheap and don’t like to spend. You can’t expect every guy from third world countries to have the means to pay, like those guys from the developed world. Those who appreciate something, will buy.
    I hope you added in the torrent’s description: If you like this book, BUY IT. Show your support for the author. You should also consider thepiratebay, isohunt, and other torrent sites with more national/regional niches.
    Once again congrats, Mr. Heins. Hope to hear from you sooner rather than later, that your sales have spiked upwards.

  2. Intriguing, wondering though about the anonymity factor. it feels like you should be getting something more back from all those downloads. perhaps an email address at least.

    1. I’m not silly Tom. My free book is complete with all my social media links, buy links to my other 14 books and my website etc. if anyone who downloads the ebook reads it, they will definitely know where to find me.

  3. Lorinda J. Taylor

    Well, this is pretty much over my cyberhead. I think I’ve learned how to use Smashwords enough to be able to write about how to download from it, but I wouldn’t dare to try something like this Bittorrent. I don’t have a clue what file sharing is all about and I’d be sure to get hopelessly entangled and probably ripped off! I need a teenage geek for a friend! LOL! So I guess I’ll just keep plodding along with Smashwords and Amazon.

  4. Nicolai Grunnet

    As an author about to publish my first book ever, I have to admit this idea is actually very interesting. As Serban mentions, would it be possible to put my book up for sale on, say Amazon and Smashwords and at the same time release it on torrent, encouraging people to buy it if they so wish? Or would it have to be available for free everywhere, in order not to get into any legal trouble?

    I do believe there is a huge potential in this area; from what I’ve heard so far, some bands and aspiring musicians have been doing the same with success. It would only seem logical to me to at least try it out. I must say, 400 times a day seems like an impressive number to me.

    1. The only possible conflict I can see Nicolai is with Amazon’s KDPS. They insist on exclusivity, but once a file is on BitTorrent, there is no turning it off. So I wouldn’t recommend it if you plan to use KDPS at any point.

  5. There’s a few over generalizations here that kind of make me worry. First, though a few torrent sites have shut down in the last year, this is neither unusual nor a sign that torrent sights are cleaning up there act. One need only search for the words “Piratebay” + “any chart topper” on Google and you’ll find links to the most notorious and heavily prosecuted torrent site – still full of pirate booty, still going strong.

    Which brings me to my second worry, torrents are not the best way to go to share something you want control over. Once it’s out as a torrent, each and every one of the seeders can easily repost or reseed the torrent, making a temporary promotional measure into an unstoppable flood. There are other options, Smashwords (a service I’ve seen mentioned here before) allows you to give away your ebooks with ease, for example.

    Both things said, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have put your book up for torrent. I am saying that it’s not something I would recommend for anyone who is inclined to hysterical fainting at the thought of digital theft.

    1. Serban V.C. Enache

      @Y.K. Greene
      If your book is not DRM, you cannot control it. DRM is a very unpopular feature anyway, and the scene groups can still crack and patch them. Whatever aggregator you choose to use, if someone wants to put your ebooks up on torrents sites they will. Worrying about it is pointless, because those worries are based on the assumption that all those who read your book for free aren’t going to pay for it, because their “douches” or something. To me, that logic is both insulting to readers and the author. The BIGGEST enemy of an indie author is obscurity. Thepiratebay never drove a business into bankruptcy. But the corporate establishment likes to use the open-source torrent sites as scapegoats, for their failures to live up to the expectations and promises of the fans. Everything can be pirated. It’s not worth worrying about it. The torrent market is not necessarily your particular market, but it can be, once they’ve discovered you as an author (I’m referring to those that read the books they download), and if they liked your work, they will check out your blog, they will check out your other books, they will check out the samples, they will buy.

      1. You’re right Serban. Lack of sales is not an author’s enemy, it is obscurity. Trying to overcome this by endeavouring to manipulate or use Amazon algorithms to one’s advantage might be fine for some, but boy, is it a painful process. KDP’s free giveaways are ok too, but for only 5 days in 90 and you need to give away your rights to Amazon. An author can offer books for free on a website or blog, but the traffic is usually so light, it’s not worth the effort in setting it all up.

        Bittorrent may not be for some, but as I’ve mentioned before on this thread, 400 million users is quite a target market. But it’s just one idea. It’s worth remembering how Justin Bieber and Gangnam Style got started with short free YouTube videos.

        As for piracy and copying, I agree, it’s a given on the Internet and worrying about it is pointless. If someone really wants something for free, they will find a way to get it. It’s not difficult. But this fear of what a small number of people might do, ignores the fact that there are millions upon millions of Internet users who buy online. But they won’t ever buy from you if they can’t find you or have never heard of you.

      2. Yes obscurity is an indie authors biggest obstacle however there are a lot of ways to get noticed on the internet that I wouldn’t recommend:

        1. Create an account on 4chan, start posting on the /b/ boards and give everyone your pen name and links to your books.
        2. Head to a different site full of readers and controversial topics, start argument (for/against or for fruit loops it really doesn’t matter) be sure to link to your book’s buy page when doing so.
        3. Nudity.

        All of the above will gain you eyes and notoriety, might even gain you a slew of ‘reviews’ all over the internet, not recommended for everyone. Potentially harmful for your brand in the long term.

        The above examples are extreme, to make a point, but torrents are another thing I don’t recommend to everyone; especially those who don’t already know a LOT about them, their controversy, the torrent communities (yes there is such a thing) and what type of people you’ll be able to reach with a torrent of your work.

        I’d, at least, recommend anyone that’s interested in posting torrents of their work get a comment account at TorrentFreak, read the posts there and interact with the commentators (they will be your target audience after all) as well as, getting a few torrents of other books (ideally you’d be looking at what is most downloaded, why, how it’s formatted, who uploaded it, what links are included etc) and reading the comments on popular book torrents (again, these are your target audience). If, after that, you still think torrents are the way to go to gain more recognition – then go for it.

        As for “my” worry about my work being pirated – I don’t have any. I’m an experienced net user since the early 90’s, I’ve worked in the VOD porn industry, I know more about piracy, fear of piracy and the idiotic statements of those who are terrified at the thought of it than most – I am NOT one of them. I’m also familiar with pirates, the ‘gimme’ culture and people who haven’t really looked into it as much as they’d like to make others think. Then there’s the whole other side of people who are blissfully ignorant all around on the subject – I am NOT one of them either. As always I recommend people do their own research, especially when it comes to something with so much potential (good or bad).

  6. I use Smashwords to give away book 1 in our ‘A Vested Interest’ series. Eventually Amazon notices and makes your book free at Amazon by ‘price matching’ It took about 1 month at amazon.com and 5 months at amazon.co.uk. The other amazon stores still have not price matched.
    I also considered bit torrent and news servers but decided against it since it’s just possible that downloaders there might be encouraged to upload some of the other, non-free books.
    Of course, the argument could be made that any piracy gets your name out there and is essentially ‘free promotion’. It doesn’t quite feel that way when you actually find one of your books on a torrent or news server though.

    1. I understand the torrent hesitation. It is like entering a world free of any intellectual property concepts.

  7. Serban V.C. Enache

    Mr. Haines, have you any interesting stats to share vis-a-vis downloads/hits, after you’ve included your book to Mininova? I’m very curious to know, since there are so many myths concerning open source sites.

  8. Serban V.C. Enache

    Damn it. I’ve double posted. Please delete the clone and this one, Mr. Haines. I apologize.

  9. Serban, I understand that we are all experimenting with publicizing, and the whole deal with giving away a little to get something back, but I’m looking at the Pirate Bay page, and it just seems a real turn-off to see the ads for “Ugly Girls Need Love” The lack of control over what is displayed seems a real problem with this method. But, maybe that’s just me! Good luck with your promotion!

    1. Serban V.C. Enache

      I understand your point of view, sir. But the people browsing through TBP might not necessarily share that feeling, or might ignore the adds alltogether. The preferences of audiences vary from context to context (from site to site). Thank you for the encouragement; I will definitely need luck. Obscurity is very unpleasant.

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