Has Your Book Walked the Plank?

Woot … you’ve got your book—congrats for sure.

You are now a “published” author; some sales are coming in; you are promoting it in every channel you can think of, and then an online OMG moment hits. It may be a not-so “Yo-Ho-Ho” time for you and your book. You’ve done an online search and discovered that your book is being sold by someone(s)o you have never heard of—someone(s) you never engaged in selling your book. Could there be pirates in your book’s midst?

Your book is now being sold and you are clueless as to how it got in his or her coffers.

  • Have your words been lifted … gulp … plagiarized and now is being published with someone else’s name on it?
  • Has it been snagged and being either sold with all moneys going to “someone” you have no idea about?
  • Is it being used as a “hook” to lure in an unsuspecting book buyer to pitch something else too, even directing them to naughty sites?

Again, you are clueless how your book landed there. Most likely, what has happened is that your book has been kidnapped … pirated: it has walked the infringement plank.

The last thing that most of us want to think about is that we need to “police” our work—to be on the lookout for someone (person or company) that has lifted our work and using it for their benefit. Yet, all of the need to be on the alert. Think of this as one of those post-publication duties added to the authoring To-Do list once the book is out.

For copyright protection, if you’ve taken the steps to register your work, enforcing your copyright through the court system is a little easier–if it becomes a necessity. One of the challenges is identifying which part of your work has been copied.

My disclaimer: years ago, I took back the right of my book GenderTraps from a traditional publisher (one of the biggies). One Saturday AM, I was doing a search on Google with a link I had been given to see what libraries my titles were in. The squirrel that I can be, I’m now wondering where else are my books and I started putting in Amazon Europe and other places. And aha … there was GenderTraps.


Through Amazon Canada, I ordered a copy … yup, here my book was in French.

Now, I had never placed the book there; I had no information about foreign rights from my former publisher with a delightful email or letter saying that rights had been sold to France, Belgium, Germany or anything connected with the UK—in fact, I never got a dime from the publisher for any foreign right sales (typically an author would get 50%) … but golly, here my book was with a new cover, the same title and yes, my name was clearly on the cover and available in those countries. And printed in other languages. And … I hadn’t gotten a dime for it. I was not happy.

The letter I had clearly reverted all rights back to me from the publisher and was dated prior to any of these new publications. I had a decision to make.

No, I did not sue the publisher—what I did do was have my attorney send a cease and desist letter. Why? To engage in a copyright infringement suit takes bucks—often very big bucks. In my case, I was dealing with a major publisher that had deep pockets and could sink me in legal fees. And, I would have to prove my damages—actual moneys lost and/or not received based on book sales in foreign countries and any advances to the publishers. As someone who had already published a dozen books with traditional publishers by that time, I knew that royalty statements could be challenging to figure out—previous experiences with publishers had occurred where not all sales were reported and I had to work hard to get what was due me. Sometimes, I didn’t succeed.

In other words, skullduggery exists. A suit could suck mega thousands of my moneys; the time involved plus the emotional drain wasn’t a path I wanted to go down.

Discovery of Infringement

Interesting, it’s often a “fan” who will bring it to your attention that your work has been zapped and an infringement is in play. What do you do next?  Good question. Here are four steps to take to protect your and your book:

1.  Notifying the author/freelancer/publisher that your work has been infringed upon and that you are protecting your copyright.

  1.  You may want to contact an intellectual property attorney if a significant amount of your work has been lifted and discuss the best way to proceed with the “alleged” words.
  2.  If your work has not been registered yet with the U.S. Copyright office, and the alleged infringement is significant, get it done pronto—if you do choose to pursue legal action, having your book formally registered with the Copyright office will increase the amount you can collect on damages if awarded… 
  3.  Deal with book piracy. Matey … you’ve got a problem. You to either start putting energy into tracking your book and where it lands you or work with someone who will do it for you.

Book piracy costs publishing over $200 million a year–don’t let you or your book become a victim. Get help. Last year, I did a podcast on it via AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing that is a benefit to all AuthorU members. Listen HERE.  
Discover the Bad Guys via Piracy Trace.

It’s an automated platform that searches the entire web looking for copies of your work. With an always-on scanning approach, you can rest assured if it’s been copied, it will find it. There is a free 30-day trial… after that, to track one book, its $1 per month; up to 5 titles, $4. Your book may be on the plank with pirates! Start with Piracy Trace HERE

Next … take the offender down!

You must create a Take Down Notice for pirated books! One of the critical notices to send to any website hosting company is the DMCA (stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act). Your next step is to go to IPWatchDog.com and download the sample letter. Do a copy and paste with your information, then submit it to any hosting company that is carrying your books and shouldn’t be. The clock starts to tick with a 24-hour window to remove your material.  

One of the critical notices to send to any website hosting company is the DMCA oversight. With IPWatchDog.com’s sample letter, do a copy and paste with your information (do not change any wording in the sample letter—just sub in the title of your book and other related info for it; use the rest of the notice as is), then submit it to any hosting company that is carrying your books and shouldn’t be. The clock starts to tick with a 24-hour window to remove your material. Your source is here.  

As always, we authors need to be proactive: in marketing our books and in protecting them.
Do a search with the Piracy Trace tool linked above and see if your books are floating somewhere they shouldn’t be. Then, if they are, use the IP Watchdog tool and start the notification take-down process.

I bet many of you will be surprised. And, you are welcome.




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Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. She empowers authors and is the Founder of AuthorU.org, a membership organization created for the serious author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the ’80s. Judith is the author of 35 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (Foreword IndieFab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences. Book #35 was published in 2016: How to Avoid 101 Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers & Boo-Boos. Get your copy now.

Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Book Publishing Unplugged, a three-day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. In 2017, the dates are June 22-24th.  Her audio and workbook series, Creating Your Book and Author Platform is now available. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for “AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing” on the Toginet Network at bit.ly/PublishingShow.

Follow @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU, and join the Facebook group Book Publishing with The Book Shepherd. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact Judith at Judith@Briles.com.

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