Thursday, March 22, 2018

All Pirates Aren't in the Ocean... Book Piracy and How it Affects Authors



 Ruthy note: FIRST!!! Congratulations to Kara on being named a RITA finalist yesterday on her independently released novel "Then There Was You".  Well done, Miss Kara!!! Happy dancing! And now... back to the post.... ;)

I saw a post from the normally unflappable Kara Isaac on facebook and, being the Ace Reporter that I am, I followed up on it. Declining sales, the rise of e-books (which I love), fewer bookstores, fewer stores stocking books/book departments, and the ease of technological pirating isn't just messing with the music industry. It is so relatively easy to reproduce electronic and audible books that this piracy is ridiculous. Compounding the problem is the quiet war between Amazon and traditional publishers. Amazon thinks e-books should be sold at affordable prices. Publishers fought for the right to make their own pricing... and in many cases, their e-books are only a small fraction cheaper than print books, or more expensive than print books, cutting e-sales directly. That makes pirating a very lucrative experience. Read the whole thing... it's great info for authors and readers and any publishing professional.

Kara makes so many good points here. She told me to edit it, that she went on too long. I haven't touched a word... because her points are valid and spot on. I am still amazed by the fact that folks who pay $5 for a cup of coffee quibble over a few dollars for an e-book... that the author might be making .25 on. Here's Kara...

Hi Seekervillians! It is so lovely to be back in Seekerville again and I’m thrilled to be spending my Friday with you (waving from New Zealand).

This post, funnily enough, isn’t because I have a new book coming out but because I *ahem* lost my mind a little (okay, a lot) in a post on Facebook in January and—bonus!—Ruth asked me if I’d like to have a guest post on Seekerville proving that there is a silver lining in every thunderous cloud. :)

For those of you who weren’t privy to my virtual rant you are probably wondering what could cause a Christian romance author to let loose with a very long and direct rant on a very public platform. In a word. Piracy. Specifically, eBook piracy because it is costing authors their careers.

I have two traditionally published contemporary romances, Close To You and Can’t Help Falling. Currently, they are both commercial failures. They’ve had great reviews but the—very humbling—reality is that despite some great reviews they haven't sold the numbers my publisher was hoping for. Some people were a bit shocked when I admitted that in my Facebook post. Not that it was true, pretty much everyone who is in publishing circles these days knows that very few authors are doing well sales wise, but that I was so blunt about it. I fielded queries from people asking if I had thought about the repercussions on my reputation and career of publicly admitting that I was a failure.

I had, admittedly through a slightly cultural different lens since I’m not American, but the conclusion I came to was this. There are many authors who are hurting at the moment. But if no one is willing to tell the truth, if no one is willing to swallow their pride and say I really need you to pay real money for my books because otherwise I might not be able to keep doing this then readers will never know the true extent of the problem. And part of the problem is the proliferation of eBook piracy.


 I know that I am preaching to the choir here because Seekervillians are some of the most wonderful, encouraging, supportive readers of Christian authors that anyone could ever hope to find. But hopefully the information that I share will empower you to talk with friends and family if the topic ever comes up.

So, let’s chat about some of the most common myths floating around out there about eBook piracy.

People Who Download Pirated Books Don’t Buy Them Anyway
The theory behind this one is that people who go online and find free pirated copies of books aren’t going to pay money for them anyway so it doesn’t actually have an impact on the author’s/publisher’s bottom line.

This theory was blown out of the water by a general market YA author called Maggie Stiefvater. Maggie had a four-book series and the first three all hit the bestseller lists. But a strange thing happened with Book #3. The print copies sold just as well as the previous two but the eBook sales dropped precipitously. People are moving away from eBooks she was told. Your series are in natural decline, it happens. Except that didn’t gel with what she was experiencing. When she was at book signings her crowds were larger than ever and there seemed to be more online buzz around the series, not less.

Then her publisher told her that they were cutting the print run of Book#4 in the series to less than half of Book#3. Maggie decided it was time to take on the pirates. First, she asked her publisher not to release any review or advance copies of her book in eBook. Which they reluctantly agreed to. Then her and her brother hatched a plan. They created a PDF of Book#4 exactly the right size and length. But it wasn’t the book. It was the first four chapters over repeated. Followed by a note at the end about how eBook piracy hurts authors.
At midnight, the night the book was released her brother went onto every eBook pirate site that he could find and uploaded the fake version everywhere. The effects were instant. Forums and sites exploded with bewildered activity. Fans asking if anyone had managed to find a link to a legit pdf. Dozens of posts appeared saying that since they hadn’t been able to find a “free” copy, they’d been forced to buy the book.
The first printing sold out in two days. Maggie was on a book tour, and the bookstores she went to didn’t have enough copies to sell to people coming, because online orders had emptied her publisher’s warehouse and they couldn’t print more copies fast enough to keep up with demand. The book went to a second printing, then a third, in its first week. All because her readers couldn’t get their hands on pirated copies.
Publishers Have Deep Pockets and Can Afford To Lose A Few Sales
I went to my first Christian writers conference in 2009. There were almost twenty publishing houses there with editors willing to take pitches from authors and aspiring authors. The last time I went to that same conference in 2016 there were less than half that. The last few years have seen a swathe of publishing houses either closed or significantly cut back their Christian fiction lines. B&H, Harvest House, Abingdon, Love Inspired Historical (mid this year), Heartsong, and Summerside Press are just a few that come to mind who either no longer exist or no longer publish fiction.  (Ruthy note: Franciscan Media/Press also folded their fiction line last year. Gilead Publishing reneged on deals in 2016 (including a few Seekers who went unpaid), and is struggling to re-enter the market.)

Publishers can sometimes carry a few authors whose books don’t make money as long as they have bestsellers that are making a lot of money to keep them in the black.  But eBook piracy affects bestselling authors even more than the midlist and lower authors. So if a publisher used to have a bestseller that was guaranteed to sell 20,000 copies and suddenly they’re only selling 15,000 copies that loss of income has to be accounted for somewhere. Ultimately, publishing is a business and no publisher can continue to exist if the books that they pour thousands of dollars and hundreds of staff hours into creating and marketing aren’t making money.

If an Author Loses A Contract They Can Always Just Indie Publish
I am a huge fan of indie publishing. I have published one book independently and will be releasing another later this year. The income I’ve made from indie publishing Then There Was You is what will be funding my annual conference trip to the US this year and it’s also meant that I have been able to get new books to my readers in between contracts. So you are never going to hear me bashing indie publishing. But, on the flipside, being the author, project manager, publisher and marketer of a book is a huge amount of work and there are some authors for whom it just isn’t a viable option for them. It was a viable option for me last year because I was based out of home for most of the year on maternity leave with my third child and so while nursing, and during naps, and in the middle of the night while rocking a baby, I had the time to research and learn everything I needed to know.
Kara and baby Ari... Stinkin' adorable! She looks like her mama! 
Fast forward six months I’m back at my fulltime day job with three children aged six and under. I could have no more done what I needed to do to indie publishing a book for the first time this year than I could chart a course to the moon. For those authors, losing their contracts means no more books. End of story.

Authors/Publishers Should Just Issue Copyright Violation or Infringement Notices
The reason for my Facebook rant was because that morning I spent two hours issuing 48 infringement notices. I use a service called Blasty that finds the possible pirated copies of my eBooks for me and streamlines me being able to issue those notices. I recently found a complete copy of my sophomore novel, Can’t Help Falling, on a website across 250 webpages. I had to issue an infringement notice for every single page. It took me almost two hours. Right now Blasty has 648 pages for me to review. Six hundred and forty eight. Assuming I only need 30 seconds to review each page that will take me over five hours. Five hours that I could be writing. Five hours that I could spend with my family. Five hours that I would rather be doing anything other than looking at many many sites purporting to offer copies of my books to download for free.


I have many many author friends who don’t even try to fight piracy of their books. It is not worth the stress and discouragement to them.

So how can you spot a pirated eBook? Especially when many publishers use them as a legitimate marketing tool to try and attract new readers to authors. The first thing is that you don’t need to worry about your usual retailer sites like B&N, Amazon, iBooks etc. All of the books that come through them are from publishers and are legitimate. If you are ever on a site that isn’t one of the main retailers then there is an easy way to check if the free book you’re being offered as a download is legit. Jump on over to any of the main retailer websites and see if it’s free there. If it isn’t, then it’s a pirated copy.

For those of you who are on tight budgets there are also HEAPS of ways to support your favorite authors without spending money. Ask your library to buy their books. Request them for Christmas or birthdays. Buy books for friends of family for the same. If you're a review writer, join their influencer teams and receive a review copy. Enter contests and giveaways. If you are lucky enough to receive a free copy and you love the book make sure you share about it on social media and help get the word out. I promise, while we sometimes can’t respond to them all, authors are so grateful for every single mention that we receive.

Thank you so much for having me here today and for all you do to support authors! I’ll be in and out all day since the timezone difference has New Zealand in the small hours of Friday but I’m giving away two paperback or eBook copies of 
"Then There Was You" to two commenters so please stop by and share your thoughts.

Ruthy again! Coffee, tea, discussion cookies and cake inside... let's see what you think, readers and writers... how can we fix this? 


102 comments:

  1. I saw your rant and was happy to see it. Thanks for speaking out. And I googled to see the story about the woman/brother who uploaded fake copies. What I want to know, is how can I upload a similar thing to all the pirate sites? That would be a great Virtual assistant job I think, I'd LOVE someone to write up a tutorial on how to do what he did....hmmmm, now I'm wondering if I should just google "how to pirate ebooks for profit" and hope Big Brother doesn't think I'm underhanded and wanting to do it for profit....but I was thinking, if that story is true, why hasn't every trad publisher who heard of it (and that particular publisher themselves) decided to replicate that? As you said, low sales kill midlisters now, I know for certain how absolutely true that is, but if it's killing their headliners, then if they don't take warning from her story, I'm afraid it'll be a complete indie world one day, because though they have the Stephen Kings, JK Rowlings, and Beverly Lewis's now, in 20 years when they're gone or burnt out or retired, what have you, they won't have their doors open to take in that midlister that will surprise them out of nowhere as being their next headliner, I mean, if Rowling was rejected what, 60/62 times or something like that, it's not like any of them knew what they had, it's all a hope, and if their midlisters drop like flies to piracy and the headliners start selling like midlisters, the trad publishing industry will not be sustainable.

    Why shouldn't all of us flood the pirates in the same way as that lady's brother? Sure, more pirate places would probably pop up on the web, but if you can automate it, surely someone could run the computer and keep up with it in a cubicle. And if we do it long enough that you frustrate plenty enough people chasing the free download til they know it's likely only 10% chance they're going to find the site that has a real thing and that site constantly gets flooded out by fake pirate books and they have to go running around for another, wouldn't they start considering their time better spent by buying the book instead of chasing it around the scary internet black market for hours on end? Maybe I'm niave and haven't considered how better equipped hackers are to stay one step ahead of us, but by golly, why don't we hire some of our own hackers!

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    1. Hi Melissa! I have been pondering this too. My first thought when I read it was how much I wished I had the technology skills to do the same thing! Maggie's post/experiment was only in late 2017 so maybe some are thinking about it? Or maybe they're a bit wary since many pirate sites are well known for being hothouses of Trojan horses/viruses etc. Though that would be worked around if you did it all from a computer that wasn't connected into any other networks so there was no risk if it did get some kind of virus? Like you say, if we can somehow make it so that getting a pirated eBook isn't worth the drama for the reader to ave a few bucks that would be half the battle!

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    2. That's an interesting potential solution but I am wondering if frustrated freebie seeking readers would start posting 1 star reviews out of spite? It seems to me anybody who would knowingly seek out pirated books wouldn't have any scruples.

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    3. I remember in her article she said that by the end of the week the real book was up on all the sites, but she made her point. I bet for most publishers it's not worth the time and effort to prevent piracy for such a short time, even if the first few days/week is the most important.

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  2. All very important.

    I just happen to be reading a book with sea-faring pirates. Also living outside the law and decency.

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    1. Hi Mary! I haven't read a pirate book in ages! Are you enjoying it?

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  3. Hi, Everyone! Thanks so much for having me here today! It's so wonderful to be back in Seekerville again :)

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  4. Kara, congrats on TWO HUGE THINGS!!!! A RITA nomination and a new contract!!!! I was so stinkin' happy to see both! We are happy dancing in Seekerville today/tonight!

    Reminder to all that Kara is a day ahead of us in New Zealand, land of Hobbits and all things Middle Earth, so if the timing is choppy today, it's the earth's fault! :)

    Kara, thank you for agreeing to talk about this over here... I hope the post gets shared many times, I hope we break New Year's Eve Party type records because this hurts us... it hurts publishers... and it's just plain wrong. I love the opportunities indie publishing offers... and the open doors... but I love facets and the availability that traditional publishing offers, too... but this piracy craziness was just begging to happen more when publishers raised their Kindle prices through the roof...

    That's like when my kid used to punish US by stomping off to bed when he got mad...

    :)

    Those hiked prices have a trickle down effect and piracy is part of it.

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    1. But the thing is, they aren't really hiked prices. If you're indie publishing you don't have the overhead that a publishing house does so they can afford to charge less. I was happy when I noticed that ebook prices were comparable to paperback prices because the 'book' book lover in me was hoping it would give print copies a fighting chance at survival.

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    2. Hi Kav! I often have readers asking me why the eBook price for Then There Was You is $3.99 and Close To You and Can't Help Falling $7-9. I explain that I have way less overheads that my publishing company. I don't have to pay for real estate in one of the most expensive cities on earth, or have lawyers on my payroll, all worry about paying for people's insurance or a million other things that comes with being a publisher with full-time staff. I just work off my couch and hire in help as and when I need it which means that I don't have nearly as many costs that I need to recoup to break even so I can afford to make my eBook cheaper.

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  5. Wow. I wasn't aware of this being so wide spread. Applause to you for taking on this issue and winning the Rita award.

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    1. Bettie, thanks for stopping in! Yes, it's crazy and it's wrong and Kara's in New Zealand so she'll be here later...

      Glad you're here!

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    2. Hi Bettie! I wasn't aware it was either until late last year. I mean I'd heard people talk about eBook piracy but had assumed that it was one of those things that only affected the "big" authors. It wasn't until I stumbled upon a FB discussion by people who said they read Christian fiction and were defending their "right" to access free eBooks that I thought I should look into it and see if my books might be floating around out there. I was stunned by what I found. As of today I've issued over 400 infringement notices :(

      Thank you for the RITA congrats. I couldn't be more stunned or thrilled that Then There Was You is a finalist!

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  6. Wow, such an interesting post. Truly mind-boggling. Thank you Ruthy and Kara for sharing this information. Congratulations on your Rita final, Kara!

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    1. Laura!!! A TWO TIME/DOUBLE GOLDEN HEART FINALIST!!!!!! I did a shout out here yesterday, I'm so stinkin' proud of you!!!

      HAPPY DANCING!!!!!!!

      And yeah, this is the kind of information that needs to be shared... whoever thought pirate romance was exciting didn't lose thousands of dollars of bread-and-milk money to book pirates, right???

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    2. Hi Laura, HUGE congrats on your GH double-final! That is such an amazing achievement! Will you be at conference in Denver in July to bathe in your accomplishments?!

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    3. Congrats, Laura!!! Two-time GH finalist! Oh my gosh! When it rains, it pours! With blessings!!!

      So excited for you...and for Kara with her RITA nominee! Woot! You ladies rock!

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    4. Thank you, ladies! I was thrilled to final. Such an exciting day!

      Kara, I'm not sure yet about Denver, but I'm hoping to be there. Would love to meet some of the wonderful writers I've "met" online - especially Seekers and Villagers!

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  7. Good morning, Kara. I'm so glad you've joined us here at Seekerville and congratulations on the RITA nomination. Very cool.

    I have to say, your post really opened my eyes. I had no idea that piracy was so prevalent. And as one who is quite technologically challenged, I am amazed at the hoops you've jumped through in order to combat this. Kudos to you for stepping up to let the whole world know what's really going on out there. Thank you, Kara.

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    1. Mindy, it is an eye-opener, isn't it? What are people thinking?

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    2. Good morning, Mindy! Thanks for the congratulations. I couldn't be more thrilled or stunned :)

      I wasn't aware it was such an issue until late last year. I'd heard people talk about eBook piracy but had assumed that it was one of those things that only affected the "big" authors. It wasn't until I stumbled upon a FB discussion by people who said they read Christian fiction who were defending their "right" to access free eBooks that I thought I should look into it and see if my books might be floating around out there. I was stunned by what I found. As of today I've issued over 400 infringement notices :(

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  8. Good morning, Kara! At least it's morning HERE. :) And thank you for bringing up this very important issue that is killing off authors and publishers.

    Where's the "what's in it for me" for a piracy site that's giving away ebooks for FREE? I would have thought they'd be selling them at a discounted price and pocketing the $$. Is free merely a lure to get people to their sites in hopes they will actually purchase other pirated books?

    I've also heard that when an author is looking in possible piracy sites you need to have a STRONG security on your computer because some sites are bait to get readers looking for free in there to click on something that infects their computer with a virus or spyware.

    What's especially sad is that readers who are Christian may be among those going to piracy sites looking for free Christian books by a favorite authors--and that robs an author.

    Congrats on the RITA finals!!

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    1. I was wondering the same thing -- what's in it for the piracy site if they are not getting paid? And if it's just to spread a virus or spyware wouldn't people have figured that out and stopped using them?

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    2. Websites get paid for advertising... so if you have a lot of hits on a page and you're signed up for advertising, then you make money based on people coming to your page and click-throughs....

      So maybe it's that simple. Or jokers who just like to get away with things because who's going to go after them, especially if they're not based in-country?

      Interpol is probably busy solving murders for Agatha Christie!!!!!

      But yes, that people who call themselves "Christian" are stealing books... Hey, there's a commandment "app" for that! It says... Don't do it!

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    3. Good morning Glynna! Advertising is one of the things that is in it for the sites. There are a couple of others that people often don't even realise and they certainly wouldn't want pirated eBooks if they knew! Some sites infect their books with malware so once you download a book the malware roams through your computer looking for things like credit card details or information it can use to steal your identity. Often it's not until weeks or months after the fact that this gets discovered and people don't connect it back to the eBook/s. The other thing some do is collect email addresses and sell them to unscrupulous people like hackers. So it can be a big price to pay to save a few bucks!

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  9. Kara, I'm so happy you broke through the "cone of silence" surrounding this piracy problem. And thanks to Ruthy for inviting you to post. While an editor at Abingdon almost 10 years ago, I personally sent out cease and decease letters/emails to some of these crooks offering free copies of my authors books. I wish someone would come up with a service to put a stop to it, but they flourish across the globe. One bad actor was located in the Cayman Islands.

    Congratulations on all your good news!!

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    1. Barbara, you've nailed a main part of the problem... that in some countries there's no one to police this stuff, and the sites can be anywhere.... because the internet is a global entity. And I expect when they get forced to shut down one site... they're up and running the next day on another. BAH. HUMBUG!

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    2. Hi Barbara! Thank you for your congratulations. It certainly has been one for the record books :)

      Yes, people ask me why the FBI doesn't just "take down" the sites but almost none of them (if any) are based in the US. They're all offshore in countries that either have no copyright laws or government's that have much bigger problems than trying to enforce them!

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  10. Hi Kara and Ruthy!
    I read your well-deserved rant when it first appeared on FB and was shocked that this was happening to authors! You had every right to be filled with righteous indignation and I support you and other authors in your attempts to deal with piracy, it's theft, pure and simple. And in Christian fiction no less! smh

    There are many benefits to being connected to our world via the WWW, but there's also the potential for wrongdoing. As a reader, I just want to apologize to you for those who have wronged you this way and I'm praying God will bless you mightily regardless of what these book pirates are doing.

    I agree with Melissa, if there was a way to thwart their efforts I think that would be great, to beat them at their own game. Cheering you all on as ideas on this move forward!

    I've read Can't Help Falling, it was great, looking forward to your newest one!

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    1. Tracey is right. It's, simply, theft.

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    2. Hi Tracey and Kaybee. Yes, that's exactly my view too and it's amazing how people think it's acceptable just because it's on the internet and they don't "know" the author. The same people who wouldn't dream of shoplifting or leaving a restaurant without having paid think there is nothing wrong with downloading pirated eBooks!

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    3. Agreed on all counts. Stealing is stealing.

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  11. First congrats, Kara! We just ordered Close to You for the church library...unpacked it last night and it was immediately snatched up. Another print book sold! :)

    What a great post! We all know this happens, but hopefully, you've started the ball rolling to take action. I'm thinking many people who download those books don't understand that this is stealing or the harm it's causing. I'm wondering if part of the responsibility could be placed on the fact that readers can download so many books for free from Amazon, etc. When they see it on another site they may think it's just another legitimate outlet.

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    1. Hi Sandra, thank you so much! Every sale counts and I hope your church readers enjoy it!

      I think you're right. Because many publishers use free books as the occasional legitimate marketing tool it's both normalized books being free/very cheap and also some don't know the difference between a legitimate retailer and the unscrupulous websites. When I indie published Then There Was You I made a very conscious decision that I was never going to give it away for free because I didn't want to contribute to that problem. So far my readers have been very supportive of that :)

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  12. Wow. SO much to think about.
    Agree with the need to support and promote each other. I'm on a tight budget and also 20 miles from a Barnes and Noble, let alone a Christian bookstore, are there any left? But I do have access to a Walmart, so I buy a lot of Love Inspired, usually by my friends. Just picked up Jan Drexler's latest along with a quart of milk. I also have a local library that is friendly to Christian fiction, and I keep up with the trends and do reviews through them.
    This is a sobering look at something I haven't thought about yet. Sheesh. Just barely signed my first contract and can't imagine anyone wanting to pirate me but who knows? Thank you, Kara.
    Snowed in AGAIN and making good use of the time. Had to rewrite a chapter in my WIP. Not just rewrite it the way we understand rewriting, but rewrite from scratch because the COMPUTER ATE IT. Fortunately I remembered most of it. Sheesh.
    Blogger hasn't eaten my Seekerville comments lately, so there's that.
    In and out today,
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. "The Amish Nanny's Sweetheart" and a quart of milk? What a great combination! ;-)

      Thank you, Kathy!

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    2. You just need some whoopi pies to go with that. :-)

      Kathy, I buy my Love Inspired books directly from Harlequin. They are cheaper than in the store -- $5.40 instead of $7.50 (in Canada) and it's free shipping if you order a few.

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    3. Oh no, Kathy! There would be no amount of tears if my computer ate my latest chapter in my WIP. Once my computer had a total crash and ate everything including all of my WIP and my baby brain hadn't backed my manuscript up online. $400 in specialist IT recovery costs later...

      I was the same. For two years I thought that eBook piracy was something that only affected "big" authors of which I am definitely not one. It was only late last year that I realized that it affects almost all of us. Pirates don't really care how big we are or not!

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  13. Kara, Congratulations on your RITA finalist book. Very exciting.
    This time zone thing always strikes me as strange. Hard to imagine I am just getting started on Thursday morning and you will soon be waking up to Friday morning.

    I'm so sorry you are having problems with piracy. I wouldn't even know how to find such books. I only go to Amazon when I want an ebook. I wish the publishers could find a way to shut down these people.

    Please put me in the drawing for your book!

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    1. Hi Sandy! thank you so much. I couldn't be more stunned or thrilled. It is funny isn't it! When I fly to the US in July I will have two Saturdays but then have no Sunday on the way back. Leave US on Saturday and just arrive back in NZ on Monday!

      We also format out dates differently in New Zealand. We go day/month/year e.g. 22/3/18 so when I signed my publishing contract I realized that not only had I signed it a day in the future to my publisher but to them it would look like I had signed it in December!

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  14. Kara, thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Like so many others, I wouldn't know where to begin technologically to combat this. I'm keeping this article with the suggestions you've offered at the end. And I would love a free print copy of Then There Was You--a LEGITIMATE free copy!

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    1. Hi Linda! Thank you for dropping by! Yes, definitely a legitimate copy :) Though, apparently and sadly, there are some horrible people who also try to pirate paperback copies but thankfully because it's much harder and more effort that is few and far between.

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  15. First of all, Congratulations, Kara!!! I am so excited for your RITA final!!!

    Second, Thank you, Ruthy for inviting Kara to write this post.

    Kara, I read your rant in January. I'm sure you had no idea, but I was yelling "hear, hear" through the whole thing.

    The problem is that I feel helpless in the face of this piracy, and I know I'm not the only author who feels this way. Like you said, who has five hours in a day to deal with this stuff? Especially since you'll probably have to do the same thing all over again in another day or two.

    I'm trying very hard not to get angry here. We need to focus our anger on a solution.

    This would be a great business for someone to start - anti-piracy for authors. I'm sure there would be tons of authors willing to pay a small fee...something like those identity-theft services...

    When I look at the entertainment industry and the way they've been fighting piracy for years, it's pretty discouraging. But that doesn't mean I won't fight, anyway! I'll start with educating my own readers - on my Facebook author page and through my newsletter and other outlets. I know many people don't realize that they're stealing when they download a "free" e-book from these sites.

    Thanks for speaking out and educating us!

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    1. I was wondering if this was something readers could do for authors. You have street teams of reviewers, what about street teams of pirate blasters. lol

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    2. Kav, I would love for that to work. Wouldn't it be nice to have a pirate-blaster service that took them out at mid URL????? I'd love that!

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    3. Hi Jan, I couldn't be more stunned or thrilled about the final!

      I think that Blasty is definitely a great service. I think I pay $70 a year for the basic package which streamlines the infringement notification down to the push of a button at the author's end once you've set up your details and books. There's no way I would be doing it without Blasty. And Blasty only notifies the search engines to get it taken down from search results to make the sites so much harder to find, not the sites themselves as most of them aren't based in the US so aren't subject to US copyright law.

      It would take easily twenty times more time to do it myself manually to notify Google etc about every single site. But a service where once a certain amount of infringements had been confirmed the whole site just got blasted would be amazing!

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  16. Thanks for being here and thanks for being so open about the issues. If we won't talk about things, we can't fix the problems! And congrats on being a RITA finalist! I'm in the middle of reading Can't Help Falling, which I won from you and love! You can bet I'll be reviewing and sharing it when I'm finished.

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    1. Thanks so much, Glynis! I'm so glad you're enjoying Peter and Emelia's story and congratulations on winning it :)

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  17. Kara, congratulations on your RITA final! How exciting!

    Your post is truly eye-opening. Having recently subscribed to the Blasty service, I'm amazed and confounded (not to mention angered!) by these piracy sites. Blasty sends me dozens of possible infringements every week, and, like you, I review each one manually before clicking the "blast" button. It's a pain.

    Love that YA author's solution! As others have said, it would be great if we could figure out a relatively easy way to repeat her technique.

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    1. Hi Myra! Thank you so much. I couldn't be more stunned or thrilled. I was the same when I subscribed to Blasty. I couldn't believe the number of alerts I got and continue to receive!

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  18. So, I read your rant on Facebook and was gobsmacked and appalled. Who would even think of such a thing? And what reader would actually think to search for free books like that? I mean, it's obvious that it's pirated and you'd be cheating an author. But when you point out how it can impact the whole publishing industry! Well, I'm fighting mad now too.

    And, honestly, I really do place part of the blame on cheaply priced indie books. They have distorted a novel's value and lulled readers into thinking that books are only worth a few bucks. And, without them realizing it, they've let that attitude carry over into regular published books and that has hurt everyone.

    I'm at a point in my life where I am no longer financially responsible for small people. :-) And since I live alone, I answer only to me so when my book buying budget occasionally topples the grocery budget there's no one to get on my case. Hence, I do spend a good bit on my reading habit -- but hey, I don't have any other expensive habits and I don't drink coffee at all never mind the fancy dancy pricey kind so I feel justified. Even so, I can't afford ALL the books I want to read so I partner with my library and request books too. And though review opportunities are getting slimmer for non ebook reading Canadians, I do still get a few a month for review. So it's a balancing act each month but one I'm willing to do in order to keep me reading!

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    1. Hi Kaz. Yes, it is unfortunately true. The free/99c indie eBooks that traditional publishers were then forced to try and compete have devalued for consumers what a book is actually worth. I have seen readers deem a $6 eBook as "outrageously expensive" and many proudly state that they will never pay more than $1.99 for a book which is heartbreaking!

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  19. Good morning from New Zealand, everyone! Thank you so much for all your comments and support. A pesky thing called a day job will be calling to me soon but I am going to try and answer as many comments as I can before I go and then I'll be back later today to keep responding ;)

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  20. Regarding requesting your library to buy books you want to read: this is something all of us can do and it doesn't cost anything so perfect for people who are on a budget.

    My library allows a patron to request up to 5 books a month. That sounds like a drop in the bucket but what if all the Seekervillagers requested their library to buy 5 books a month? I don't know how many followers Seekerville has -- let's say 500 though I think it's more. But if we use 500 has the number and all 500 of us requested 5 book purchases a month that would be 2,500 Christian fiction books a month and 30,000 Christian Fiction books a year!!!! That would have to help the market, wouldn't it?

    It takes me about twenty minutes to fill out my request library forms online. I need to be prepared with the author, title, publisher and ISBN # for each book. Easy peasy.

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    1. It's so true! There are literally tens of thousands of libraries in the USA. Imagine the impact for Christian fiction if all avid readers asked their local library to buy just one new book a month! It would be such a huge boost for publishers with Christian fiction and authors.

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    2. Kav, that's a great idea! I love it!!!!

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  21. Congrats, Kara! And thank you for sharing the example of Maggie's book and the impact piracy had on her sales. That is astounding and undeniable. I, too, read your FB post and was sick about the publisher being disappointed in sales and livid about the piracy issue. I'm new to this publishing gig, but when I discovered through Talkwalker that my book was available for free download, I panicked and contacted my small publisher, but there was nothing they could do. Being an unknown debut author, I doubt anyone searched for a free download of my book like readers did Maggie's...but it's the principle. I'm going to check into Blasty ASAP. Thank you for all the valuable information.

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    1. Hi Karen. I highly recommend Blasty! It allows you to start with a free version to see what kind of results you get and then upgrade to a paid version and use their "blasting" services once you have a chance to see what kind of search results show up.

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  22. Thank you for being brave enough to share about this! I've started using blasty since your FB post. It's crazy how new sites pop up everyday.

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    1. Janet, it's like watching Candace play "WHACK A PEST" on Phineas & Ferb... You hit one down, two more pop up.

      Brats.

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    2. Hi Janet! Lovely to see you here! I know. When I first started using Blasty I wondered if it was making things worse. Then I read that more start showing up because as some are removed from Googles search engines the new "layer" then appear in the search results :(

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  23. What a great...and frustrating...post. You'd like to thing readers of Christian fiction wouldn't by a pirate copy. Is it possible people don't REALIZE what they are buying is stolen?

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    1. I think the unfortunate thing is that they do know... and how sad is that? It's like file sharing music... which I don't do, although I do make my car CDs (yes, I still have and use a CD player!!!) from songs I bought... but that way I don't ruin stuff in the car because we're a little rough in that car!

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    2. Mary! Congratulations on 50 books!! Honestly, I think that could be the case for a small minority but I think that the overwhelming majority know exactly what they're doing and either don't care or think they're somehow entitled to free books.

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  24. Kara, great post! Thanks for joining us today. I hate piracy and have notified my publisher a few times when I found sites that have my book illegally. Sad, isn't it? Virtue seems to be a thing of the past in a lot of circles these days.

    I'm super excited about your RITA final! I'll be at RWA Denver and cheering at the Awards Ceremony. I still remember meeting you at the 2009 ACFW conference, I believe. You were on a bus, heading back to the hotel from Grapevine (Dallas area) with a couple other gals from either New Zealand or Australia. That was you, wasn't it? I was with a group of Seekers. We had toured Grapevine and enjoyed dinner there and were also returning to the hotel.

    Congrats on your success and on your precious little one! She's adorable!

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    1. Hi Debby! Yes, I remember seeing you all on the shuttle well. I was in awe of being in the company of some famous Seekers :) Though 2009 was my first ACFW and it was in Denver and now I'm trying to remember which one was in Dallas. Maybe 2010? Or 2012? Looking forward to seeing you in Denver!

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  25. Ah, Kara, I love your honesty and bravery and...fight! It can be discouraging and exhausting to have to be your own police force when it comes to piracy. Education is a good place to start, because I don't think most people mean to rip off an author or publisher, they just don't consider the consequences. Most people wouldn't think of walking into your house and taking money from your purse or nick one of your possessions, but they don't have any qualms about getting what they think is a 'deal' that is really theft.

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    1. It's so true, Erica. They seem to think it isn't stealing or it's not "as bad" if it happens over the internet!

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  26. OOOO, and YES! Congrats on the RITA! You go, girl! So happy for you!

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  27. So happy for you, getting that Rita final, Kara! That's really cool.
    Piracy is not okay. Thanks for shining a light on that. It's not a gray area. It is stealing.
    Also, I want to encourage you, Kara. Keep writing. I made VERY LITTLE MONEY the first 4 years I was published. Then I started making very decent money. Now? Yeah, now I make what I always dreamed of making. It takes time to build a following and to find your audience. It takes time for readers to discover you. It takes busting your butt writing every. Single. Day. of your life, putting out as many quality, edited books as you can. The more you write, the better. So, yes, it's been 7 and a half years since my first book came out, and I'm doing very well, and that's why I say, be encouraged. It takes a few years, but you're a great author, from all the buzz I've heard about your books, so you'll get there.

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    1. I agree with what Melanie is saying here... I'm not saying it's always "fair" initially, but the bottom rung is still a rung...

      Melanie, I also agree that at least here in America so much of it becomes volume. Maybe not for a few... but for the normal author, the midlister. So producing books, building that audience... Great stuff. Longevity...

      But in the meantime, the fact that people are stealing things... that's so bad.

      I wonder what people think?

      That everyone is Nora Roberts?

      That we all bring home John Grisham wages?

      And probably most people don't realize that the reason they see the same authors on the bookshelves of their area stores week after week after week after week is because a lot of those are backlist books, the publishers are trying hard (understandably considering the financial climate) to generate cash without having to pay out extra OR risk big losses.

      Precarious environment... and fewer avenues to sell, fewer shelves, fewer stores, shrinking opportunities... except when you look at indie publishing and pricing.

      But who wants all the power in one hand???

      We have a conundrum, but I do like seeing authors take their business into their own hands, and it's cool to see romance authors (overwhelmingly women) be brave enough to step out.

      But the piracy of books is a thorn in all our sides.

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    2. Thanks so much, Melanie! I just signed a new contract with S&S and that was what one of the executives said to my editor. If you believe in her writing then we keep building because often it takes a few books to connect authors to their readers. So I feel very blessed that they took that approach.

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    3. Kara, I'm so glad they had that foresight, because it's true. And the response to your stories is marvelous... but none of us like to think of our work as failing... :( I have a few novellas that have barely seen the light of day... and others that flew out the door... And when sales for my Franciscan books went nowhere, they returned the rights to me because the books were critically beautiful but no one saw them on a very tight marketing budget. And they didn't understand how the fiction system works. But it was still a great experience, and I enjoyed working with them totally. A great company, a great group of people.

      So the disappointments are there, but they're mingled with the successes, and with publishing in a bit of a flux, I'm still landing on my feet, so that's okay!

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  28. My wonderful agent just sent a notice to all of her clients to come read this post today. Natasha is no-nonsense when it comes to this business, and she loves helping authors help themselves.

    Thank you, Natasha!

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  29. Hi Kara! It's nice to virtually meet you and any friend of Ruthy's and all that! THANK YOU in big shouty caps for expending your energy to tackle this subject. Every time I think about it I have to go take a nap. (Kinda like when Ruth tackles another home improvement project when I've spent five years THINKING about putting in new flooring, lol.)
    Here's my question.
    WHY do these pirate sites exist at all? Nobody gives away something for nothing. I suspect that they're up to something no good and readers are getting more than a stolen story when they download from these sites.
    I'm just saying NOTHING is free and these are NOT benevolent pirates necessarily seeking to actively hurt writers but seeking to benefit themselves in some capacity. I suspect they're spreading some nasty crawler programs with each download.
    But I also like-to-near-LOVE the idea of uploading the first four chapters on loop (with the aforementioned note like Maggie's brother so cleverly did for her). Wouldn't it be a clever disinformation scheme to do that with EVERY SINGLE EBOOK UPLOADED FOREVER AND EVER AMEN?
    It probably wouldn't take anymore time than all the hours spent trying to take the darn things down!
    Good luck with your writing, Kara, and on your award, I'm wishing wonderful sales your way.
    Cheers!

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    1. Stephanie! I love seeing you over here, it makes my life WORTHWHILE! :)

      Hey, while you were off exploring pyramids, I was ordering broken bathtubs. We are like in parallel universes! :)

      I agree... there's something more than just being stealing jerks, and nasty program bugs might be the thing... and of course if you invite a bug into your system, or a Trojan Horse, then Norton and friends can't block it because you opened the door.

      Steph, such good questions. But then... you're crazy smart. And your grandkid has a great name. :)

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    2. Hi Stephanie. You are absolutely right! They aren't doing it because they are benevolent and have some deep rooted belief about everyone having fee access to books, that's for sure. There's a raft of reasons. They make money off advertising on their sites so sometimes it's that. Sometimes they are collecting email addresses and selling them. Other times they are infecting some of the eBooks with viruses or Trojan horses to infect peoples computers to try and steal information that can be used for identity theft. Many many reasons why people should stay away beyond it being bad for authors!

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  30. Thanks so much Kara (and Seekerville!) for spotlighting this important issue. I read your post in January, cheering all the way, and second (or is it third?) the pirate-blasting ideas mentioned above. Love your work Kara- and congratulations on a well deserved Rita nomination!

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    1. Thanks so much, Carolyn!! It still doesn't feel real. I have to keep checking their website to make sure it's true!

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  31. First Kara, congratulations on being a RITA finalist! That is wonderful!!!!
    I am glad that you shared this. I don't know what writing site I read about Maggie Stiefvater, but I remember being stunned. I really had no idea how prevalent ebook piracy was. Frankly I simply had no idea that there were sites that offered this. Why aren't they shut down?

    I am glad that you and others are getting the word out. I also like the suggestions for checking to see if the book you might want to snag for free is pirated. I am too much of a safe player in life. I prefer paper, but I have definitely bought my share of ebooks although I typically go for the ones in the monthly deals listing on Amazon. There is also the Overdrive app which works with your library. It is a great system.

    Thanks again ladies. I hope this truly stops. You should not have to spend any time fighting this. It needs to stop.

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    1. Thanks so much, Kelly! I'm so thrilled :) The main reasons most of the sites aren't shut down is because they either operate out of countries that don't have copyright laws or their government's have much bigger issues to worry about than copyright infringement. That's why most of the infringement notices authors issue are with places like Google to get them to remove our pirated books from search results instead of with the website itself.

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    2. Good to know. Thanks again Kara!

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  32. Kara, thank you for expounding on this subject. The scope and magnitude of this situation is mind boggling and heartbreaking.

    Congratulations again on being named a Rita finalist!

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    1. Hi Beth Erin, thank you so much! It is mind boggling and heartbreaking. I'm so glad that I believe God is in control of it all.

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  33. Thanks for bringing this to everyone's attention. Definitely something that needs awareness! Hugs!

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    1. Hi Angela! Yes, hopefully the more people are aware the more they will feel empowered to step into conversations where people are saying it's okay and stand up for authors :)

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  34. KARA, thank you for bringing this issue to our attention! Congratulations on your RITA nomination and new contract!!!

    Blessings and ((((HUGS))))

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    1. Hi Caryl, thank you so much! I'm so thrilled :)

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  35. I'm adding this in here... other countries aren't required to play by our rules. My son was a Lego dealer on e-bay. He'd buy Legos, make his own sets, armies, castles, etc. and re-sell them. Absolutely legal cottage industry.

    Enter CHINA... There are now thousands of companies molding knock-off Legos in China and selling them worldwide for a 1/4 of the price that Lego was getting... They aren't restricted by our patent and copyright laws. And their compatible sets (which are virtually identical except they don't say Lego) have identical boxes except for the wording. Star Wars...Duplo... And these are being sold via Internet all over the world. Rules and laws are only as strong as the people willing to follow them... after that, chaos reigns.

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  36. I think I have to think about this in the context that it is stealing when you take someone else's work.
    Great article Kara!
    Becky

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    1. Thanks, Becky! Thanks for stopping by :)

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  37. Congratulations on being a RITA finalist! Thank you for your thoughts on ebook pirating. Being a reader, I had no idea there were sites out there that could pirate books. I tend to be pretty naive or have my head in the sand! Keep on keeping on. The Lord is on the side of righteousness. Some days it may seem that the wrong side is winning but in the end, righteousness will prevail!

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    1. Hi, Anne. Thanks so much! I'm both stunned and thrilled :) I am very thankful that I know God is in control of all of this. I can't imagine not having that faith.

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  38. As a reader I never even knew about piracy in books until about two years ago when I read an author's tale of woe. It makes me mad! Why does it seem more acceptable to cheat people now days? Ugh, it makes me lose faith in humans. I adore that you told your story and brought it to light for those of us who aren't authors. I will continue to pray that this stops and you authors and publishers don't keep getting hurt by it.

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    1. Hi Susan. Thanks so much! Appreciate your prayers :)

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  39. I'm a day late because I just realized I came by yesterday to read and never left a comment!

    Kara, first congratulations on the RITA nomination!! And thanks for bringing this problem to light. I'm so naive that it blows me away to hear how many people steal books. I'm sure there are some people who don't realize what they're doing. But I imagine most people know, they just think they're not hurting anything. I know quite a few people who do this with movies and music and have tried to educate them. I used to frustrate my kids when I wouldn't let them download music from free sites like all their friends did. I told them they had to buy their music because it would be like people stealing money from me to download my books.

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    1. Hi, Missy! Thank you, it's still sinking in :) That's such a great example to your kids. I think a lot of people think that if you've "made it" by having a book published then you have plenty of readers and are making plenty of money and so them grabbing a freebie doesn't hurt anyone. Wouldn't it be nice if that was true!

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  40. Congrats, Kara. Sorry I am late stopping by; was out of town yesterday. Would love to win your book ...E or print! Have read some of your books and really enjoyed them!
    THANKS

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  41. Thanx, Kara. Congratulations on yourRITA nomination!!!! I appreciate your honesty and try to support my Christian authors through word of month and social media influencing. I love free books as well as the next person, but buy to support the genre. Lately I have been receiving the second book in a series to review, so of course I have to buy the first book to read and review!!!! Thanx for the giveaway!

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    1. Thanks so much for all your support, Jennifer. Both in helping to spread the word and buying :)

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