Amanda Luedeke

April 4, 2013

Thursdays with Amanda: Book Piracy, Idea Piracy, and What Happens When You Live in Fear


Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon andBarnes & Noble.

I received a question the other week on the danger of posting ideas, content, and other deliciously stealable things online.

Then this week, I fielded a few emails from authors who are seeing their books available for free on some pretty sketchy sites.

So, BECAUSE I’m a big fan of ebooks, and BECAUSE I’ve encouraged writers to throw their content online and therefore subject it to the all of the content pirates that lurk about, I figured I should say a few things about this very unfortunate…yet inevitable…problem.

1. There is no way to fully prevent others from stealing your work. Especially if you publish anything digitally. Amazon brags about their DRM anti-piracy thing-a-majig, but it’s really a bunch of fluff. There’s zero way for us to adequately patrol and safeguard digital content.

2. There will always be people looking to get things for free. There will always be people who abuse creative content. The good news is these people aren’t as prevalent in the book industry as they are in, say, the music industry. Piracy FOREVER changed music. We aren’t seeing it doing much to change publishing, because while it exists, it’s not as prevalent, and the music industry paved the way for lots of anti-piracy legislation that has helped minimize the problem.

3. There is always a chance someone will steal your book idea. And this doesn’t just happen online. Go to a writer’s conference or critique group or MFA program and tell your idea to the wrong person and BAM. It’s stolen.

4. There is always a chance someone will steal your words. I mean goodness…plagiarism has been a problem long before the Internet. That’s why in high school we all had to learn how to cite things properly. A few years ago, there was a major novel with a major publisher that was pulled because of plagiarism allegations–and the novels being stolen from were all published print books…not ebooks. Plagiarism happens regardless of the medium.

Okay, so what can you take from all of this? 

1. Realize that piracy isn’t the end of the world. So, you find your book on a weird foreign website and they’re giving it away for free? Keep calm and demand they take the book down. Chances are the people who read free books aren’t going to buy them anyway–I mean these aren’t your current fans you’re going to be losing. These are people looking for a literal steal. So keep calm, do what needs to be done, and move on.

2. Recognize that any time you communicate an idea or a first chapter or a chunk of text, you’re running the risk of it being stolen. Be smart with how you share your work. If you’re communicating a book idea, make sure that it’s not going to take you the next five years to crank the thing out! For my novel that’s currently being shopped, I told only a handful of close friends my idea. Once I had it written, I told a few more. And now that it’s on submission, I’m open to telling the world.

3. Know the alternative…Okay, so you panic and take down your blog and lock up your manuscripts and require agents and editors to sign a release form before they look (this has happened before…we NEVER sign). What are you left with? You’re left with a story idea that’s never going to see the light of day. You’re left with meaningful blog posts and online content and short stories that will never help or entertain others. Understand that while there is risk in putting your stuff out there, THE REWARD IS FAR GREATER.

What questions do you have about book and idea piracy? 

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  • Robin Patchen says:

    To be such a great writer that my words are worth stealing–I could live with that. Not that I wouldn’t try to stop piracy, but still….

  • Cherry Odelberg says:

    Well, that sounds sane.

  • Julie Coleman says:

    My son helped free me up on this. He told me my worst fear should not be that someone might steal my content. It should be obscurity. He was right.

  • Meghan Carver says:

    By “communicate” would you include entering your first pages and idea in a contest? As newbies, we’re eager for some feedback, and one of the easiest ways to get that feedback is through a contest. But what are the chances of a judge taking an idea and getting something published before I can? In CBA, I’ve heard that it doesn’t happen so much, but we’re all still human. Thanks for taking questions, Amanda.

    • Guest says:

      I’d consider a contest as a safe zone, no matter what you write. But on the flip side, I don’t alway see the value of a contest that judges incomplete manuscripts. :/

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      I’d consider a contest to be a safe zone, regardless of what you write. 🙂

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