Stolen Stories: The dark side of free ebooks

Imagine having crafted an object, perhaps a new invention, or the perfect WarCraft character. Think of how many hours you would have to put into that object, the research that went into it, the time spent working on one little problem or the hours spent lying in bed while trying to work out a bug instead of sleeping.  Writing is like that, a story is almost always sitting in the back of your mind, awaiting the chance to be worked on and loving crafted. Many writers simply enjoy the process and love the feedback to help them become better, so they offer up their work to the world for free. I was one of those writers, posting many of my stories on a free erotica site for the enjoyment of others, naive to the dangers those stories could face.


Sure, I expected the usual amount of backlash. For every story you write there are bound to be people that don’t enjoy it, and honest criticism by them can be the best help as they point out flaws. Then there are those who choose to troll the stories, taking out their anger at the world upon the author without fail. But beyond them are those who offer words of encouragement, that give feedback telling what they felt worked and what they didn’t enjoy. Bringing that bit of happiness to them is often thanks enough alone. And so with that in mind, I wrote and posted, reveling in the positive feedback, working on the negative, and generally trying to not let the trolling bother me. But there is one more type of person on those free sites, and they are the worst kind.


There are people who feel that it is only fair that they go about and steal other people’s stories off of the free sites. Years ago the primarily culprits were other adult themed sites looking to bulk up their offerings. When caught many of them would either offer to properly tribute the story before agreeing to take it down, or simply take it down as requested. Only a couple of sites gave much in the way of headache but they oft bowed down to the owner of the free site.


Now those days are gone, replaced not by sites that often had something to protect, a larger whole than a simple story. Instead we have solitary individuals who have found that by flooding the ebook market they can reap large gains with minimal work. They troll through the free sites, pulling out story after story. Some bother to make a few changes to names of characters, titles, or layout, and others simply use the entire story. These begotten goods are then posted to ebook retailers, generally in large amounts over a short period of time.


These actions leave the hobbyist writer at a disadvantage, often finding their precious work stolen only when a loyal reader reports it to them. They then have to track down every site their book has gone to, with some sites taking their pleas to have it removed seriously, and others making the author jump through hoops to protect their work. Nothing is more insulting than having your story stolen and then having to fight, often being required to reveal your true identity which is a big roadblock for writers of erotica.


This is where I find myself. I started on a free site and I certainly enjoyed the site. For all the lumps I took, I gained much more in knowledge and friends gained. Yet, in the last couple of years I’ve seen the number of stories stolen from that site rise dramatically. The thieves are often blatant, stealing a hundred or two hundred stories, slapping a quick cover on a stolen photo and publishing it. These works mean a lot to me, many hours go into each one.


There isn’t much the average reader can do to help with the problem, except that if you notice a work you know to be by a favorite author, please let them know. Maybe, perhaps, the more that readers know this happens it can be slowed. Most likely not, but as they used to sign off with on GI Joe, “knowing is half the battle.”