If you’re not aware already, there have been a number of cases documenting piracy and plagiarism on the the Amazon marketplace (and probably iBookstore and Barnes & Noble, although I haven’t read specifics on that). My wife sent me an article the other day from Fast Company (via an NPR article), but I’ve read it before — I’ve even been a victim of it. Basically, these digital “entrepreneurs” steal already published content from free sites like literotica, throw a cover onto it, and upload it to the Kindle store as their own (via Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP). Sometimes, they get discovered and the plagiarized content is removed. Often times, they fly under the radar. Either way, they’ve probably made some money off the hard work of others — money that the authors will never get back.
Obviously, this is a bad situation and those practicing these get-rich-quick scams are the real problem, but piracy has been around since the dial-up days and isn’t going away any time soon. What authors need to be aware of is the risk involved when posting your content — for free — on the internet. Sites like literotica and eroticstories are great places to gain instant access to huge audiences. It’s like going to an open mic night in a coffee shop the size of a college football stadium. Authors just need to be aware that there’s a small percentage of readers out there with nefarious motives. As cynical as it sounds, you need to assume that your work will be stolen.
Before posting, you need to ask yourself “why?” Is it to share your work so that others can appreciate it? Is it to increase your exposure and market your “premium” body of work? Is it to engage with a large community of like-minded individuals and authors? Do you like the idea of people getting off on your stories? If your answer is, “To make money off of that content,” then you need to re-evaluate whether you should post at all (see the assumption in the paragraph above; I bolded it for a reason).
There is an optimistic angle to this story (I’m an optimist; I manage to find this stuff). For all the reasons that digital piracy is now so easy, so is self-publishing. All you need is a cover, a word processor, a little tech savvy, and some patience, and you can preempt that awful feeling of being violated — and make some money in the process! You could also go find a publisher to do the work above, and with the ebook revolution, more and more of these are coming online.
There’s a trade-off, of course. Free story sites don’t allow for marketing commercial products (a bad policy, if you ask me, but that’s another blog post for the future), so you probably won’t get the same exposure selling on Amazon (and other sites). It all goes back to those questions I posed above. Why are you posting? To share? Or to make money? Which is more important? Know the realities of your decision and find out what solution works best for you.