Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Pirating: what it looks like when you don't catch it...

This is a screenshot of my pirated books on

That's right. My own POD - had fraudulent versions of my book listed in their catalog. This post will detail every painful step I was forced to take.

Internet Fraud /Copyright protection tips are posted in a thousand places. Most of them advise you to contact the entity who has stolen from you, and to demand they cease and desist: demand they remove the stolen content.
DO NOT DO THIS. LEAVE THAT FRAUD TRAIL ALONE - DO NOT TIP OFF THE PIRATE. The prompt removal of the stolen material gives online retailers their best excuse to do nothing further for you.

Copy this text and keep it somewhere with all your publishing files:
  1. Make note of every change the pirate made - new cover, new title, ISBN, alterations to copyright text...
  2. Take a screenshot of every page where you can find a fake of your book.
  3. Make a list of every URL where the fake can be found.
  4. Make a list of every title and every author who might have had material stolen and reposted with yours.
  5. Try every possible way to find other links to the book pirate. List every URL you can find.
  6. Report the incident to this link:
  7. Click to report your stolen content right on the website where it appears. Do all your books first.
  8. Click to report all the stolen content right on the website where it appears.
  9. Save every email response you get from the website. Put case numbers on one of your other lists.
10. Attempt to contact every other author who had stolen material posted with yours.
11. Share every URL and your case number with every author, so they can make their own claims.
12. Keep track of dates for every step; finding the materials, reporting the materials, contacting authors.

I just found these March 4, 5 pm.  Oh, look at that - one of the dipshits thinks they can sell a first chapter sample at $4.50!
BTW:  Lulu has no method for authors to report this directly.

Why find these only now? Don't I visit Lulu all the time?
Yes. I visit my project dashboard, and my storefront. I rarely use their search engines for my own work.

How long have these been up there?
Perhaps since mid February. I don't know yet. Lulu has just been contacted about this, reports made from each fraudulent listing. But, Lulu doesn't react to any support tickets for perhaps 48 hours. I just have to wait.

Why are they using stupid, cheap covers?
Because it is a lot of work to steal cover art. Pirate one of my covers, and it may LOOK so bad that buyers are put off.

Why in hell would they put my name on the damned book?
They are stupid enough to believe my name will sell. They don't want credit for writing it - they want to bleed my sales away from me.

How could they get away with this?
Easily. They got PDFs of my work, and reloaded them onto Lulu, using their own account. All they need, is for a buyer to click purchase from that link, and the pirate gets the money.

Not my ISBN.
Doesn't Lulu look for this sort of thing; doubled up titles, strange versions, obvious fakes?
No. Why should they? That would take a massive amount of work on their end. There is not a retailer in existence that will police your work for you. One of the listings even has a new ISBN. You would think that Lulu would at least contact me to say my book, my name has had such an edit.
You will go insane thinking your POD cares this could happen.

Wouldn't I have noticed this on Google?
Very good question. NO. I would have seen my title, my name, Lulu.....and wouldn't have looked any further. I might have seen them, if I used Google images to search my titles. But there are sporadic real time scans of the Internet on those engines. These covers might not pop up for a good while on Google. (I've been checking there and cannot find the fake covers anywhere, yet.)
How is this being reported to Lulu?
I went to each fraudulent listing, which I will now call F**kers. I copied the URL of that page, and went to the bottom of the listing to the report this content button. There, I screamed with lots of caps, and pasted the listing. Lulu does not have a MY BOOK HAS BEEN RIPPED OFF  button. They don't make it very easy to report F**kers.

Have they responded yet?

See those two books on this F**ker page? Right hand side? Wanna bet those are pirated by the same asshole who has mine?

What can you do, to find and prevent this?
Clone yourself.  You need to constantly search yourself on the major outlets. If you sell lots of books, search around every week. You could lose a lot of money in a week. Imagine not knowing for a month. Two months.
Google yourself, and follow all the listings until you disappear. Any strange URL - go there. And, yes, I think it might be wise to see if any strange covers come up when you look for Google images on your title.

Am I going to recover any stolen sales?
Ha hahahahah hahaha ha.  Those F**kers are GONE.
Update: my search to see how many of my titles were stolen, uncovered a storefront on with six pages of different authors and books being listed. My book, Shared, was there along with them. This one pirate was stupid enough to make a storefront page, to suck sales from every author shown. Naturally the user has been reported. Still no word from Lulu after 12 hours.

Update: (March 5, 8:30 am)  I've been contacting nearly every pirated author on the Lulu F**ker page. It seems every one of them has uploaded to I won't blame that website for this - and have contacted their support team - but it explains why someone in Siberia would want a copy of my books. No word from Lulu. I want to pressure those two sites to share information and find the user.

Update: (March 5, 9:15 am)  You will not believe this. That Lulu user is a real person in Turkey. I found them on Facebook. I've been in contact with them on FB messages. Guess what she said.
"I took down the page - Hope you don't mind."
My brain is leaking.

I feel like Caesar, ready to give a thumbs up, or thumbs down on this kid.

Update: (March 6, 8:30 am)  Lulu contacted me about one of the reports. They are referring the matter to their specialists unit and tell me it will be 2-3 days before I hear from that group. Nearly all the other authors have contacted me, there were a few I could not get a message to. {side note to other authors - you need an email address mention on nearly every site profile you have. Imagine this happening to you and you cannot be contacted about it.} Now we wait to see what action Lulu will take against this pirate.

Update: (March 9, Noon)  After waiting for about 5 days, I've received about 5 replies from Lulu. I had reported several dozen stolen titles using their normal process, they did not email respond to every report click I made. But, they told me they were going to look into the matter, and they did. However, there was nothing they could do further to help - I had already done all the work. My correspondence with the book pirate resulted in all the fake ebooks being removed from Lulu, and all the Google links have died off.

Just now, I received the best news from Lulu. The pirate made no sales. She was exposed before she could steal a cent from 52 stolen books. We are a very relieved bunch of authors. But, I'm still quite angry at Lulu. Why?  Because they will never to anything beyond removing the pirate account. That is the extent of their actions against copyright material theft. Once it is gone from their site, they are done. That is bullshit.

Piracy happens because it is easy. If the only penalty is to be forced over to another site, well, just set up shop somewhere else and keep on ripping off authors. The very first thing Lulu should have done, is give me resources to continue reporting this crime. They didn't. Lulu should be ashamed.

They won't be. They aren't in this business to correct any ills, just to make money. Unfortunately, I need their lazy asses to make any money myself. I just have to be my own watchdog, and policeman, and lawyer. I will be all those too. I'm going to report this pirate to the appropriate agencies in the U.S. and in Turkey. Internet crime should be treated as crime. I'm happy to be one of the voices demanding it.

Go check your stuff guys...don't hang around here.


  1. This is sickening. Parasites. I hope Lulu takes down those pirated versions and soon. There must be a way to trace these thieves.

  2. I'm in the process of moving Trevor's Song to CreateSpace. I wonder if I should look into moving The Demo Tapes twins, as well. I wasn't going to, but ...

  3. We're going to be seeing this more and more, I think.

    It always made me uncomfortable, offering PDF and text versions of my books on Smashwords - who is going to actually READ them in that format? But they can always be pirated. I don't know how much it helps me (if in fact it does), but I deselected those options when I published there.

  4. THANK YOU for sharing this. I am furious for you - for all of us authors. I just checked my own. So far, so good, but now know I MUST be vigilant.

  5. Wow. Subscribing to your RSS feed now so I won't miss the resolution of this . . . or what else you learn.

    @Nell -- that sounds like really good advice.

  6. Yikes! Joel, I'm so sorry. I can't believe this person was bold enough to use the very outlet you publish through in order to pirate your books!

    I recently received a Google alert for my novel Enemies and Playmates. It appears as a torrent download. It, too, has been pirated but it is not being sold. Just distributed free to all sorts of people. The whole thing is very discouraging. We're just beginning to get a glimpse of what's been going on in the digital music industry for years. They haven't fixed their issues. I wonder if we'll be able to.

  7. Thanks for making us aware of this problem, Joel. I'll be upgrading my Google alerts in a few minutes. But I expect that book pirates will be like cockroaches. No matter what barriers you erect, they'll always find a way in.

  8. That sucks, Joel. I like your passion in fighting it. I've kind of given up, since once you report the f***ers they might take down your work but it will be up again in nanoseconds. I think this goes back to the myth that authors are rolling in the cash. *laughs*

  9. Wow, that's horrible! I hope all the authors pressure Lulu until something is done because it needs to be done. Just because you self pub doesn't make it any less wrong to have your work pirated.

  10. wow, this makes me suddenly feel so much less paranoid. I google my own work on a regular basis, name, title, lines from the first chapter, the lot. If I see it somewhere that I've not seen it before, then I check it out. It takes time, but it's worth it to try and prevent this sort of thin from happening.



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