Thoughts On Illegal Online Distribution Of Your Book

Deborah sent me an email asking:

“I just read an article where you send people a pdf of the book to get a review.  Are you concerned that this might be put online as a free book?  I have written several books and if you look for the name of the books, you will find people who claim to have a copy.”

My thoughts on this:

If you’re talking about someone selling a copycat book on Amazon (it’s rare but has been known to happen), I’d be upset and I’d have Amazon take it down.

But if you mean people uploading copies of the book to those illegal torrent sites and stuff like that, I actually don’t care about that at all. Why? Well, it’s definitely not a normal opinion, but:

  1. Most indie authors don’t have an illegal download problem, we have a discoverability problem! I think illegal copies of my book might actually drive HIGHER sales, the way some studies indicate that indie bands sell more digital downloads AFTER they are discovered through illegal music downloads. I always have a lot of lead magnates in my books, so if a thousand people download a free copy, and some become real fans who buy or signup for my email and later buy something, that’s great.
  2. I don’t think illegal download people are really my buyers; just because they download it for free doesn’t necessarily mean they’d go to Amazon and pay for a copy. (Yes this contradicts #1)
  3. Even if it does drain sales a little bit—which I’m not sure it does—I’d rather just stay focused on writing good books and finding great fans for them. And distributing PDFs makes that easier.
  4. For now, my life is about making an impact not maximizing income. Now if I had bad income I’d probably feel differently about it. I once had really nice expensive mountain bikes stolen out of my garage. I wish it didn’t happen, but since it did, I just hoped whoever stole them really needed the money or really enjoyed mountain biking. Clearly they were worse off than I. Similarly, if my books can help enrich the lives of the online thieves in some way, I feel good about.

My view might change if I different sales results, but I don’t think so. If my book isn’t selling well, than very few people are going to be interested or going to find it on the illegal download sites. If my book is selling a bazillion copies, then I can afford to have one-tenth of a billion copies pirated.