The Two-Dollar Hustle by Heather and S.D. Vassall Pirating an author’s manuscript is what I refer to as a two-dollar hustle. You steal someo...

Guest Post || The Two-Dollar Hustle by Heather and S.D. Vassall

The Two-Dollar Hustle by Heather and S.D. Vassall

Pirating an author’s manuscript is what I refer to as a two-dollar hustle. You steal someone’s work, sell it, collect your profits, and call it a day. Career pirates will sell their ‘booty’ through other sites quickly; that way they make money, not only from their first upload—that will most likely be taken down within sixty days—but through those secondary sources which might never be removed.

It’s not sexy or glamorous, and it doesn’t provide large sums of money like a big heist, but unlike a heist, it’s a low risk enterprise. And, best of all, it likely provides a steady stream of cash. One two-dollar hustle might not bring in big bucks, but a few hundred of them and the pirate has sustainable income flowing in. Most pirates are career criminals They’ll set up 100 two-dollar hustles over the course of a weekend. Even better for the pirate is the fact that their income is tax-free.

It’s hard to protect a manuscript from being pirated. What makes it worse is the large corporations make piracy easier. They tend to have loose policies and multiple departments that don’t communicate with each other. It’s common to get bounced back and forth between departments till you finally reach someone who can finally get the situation resolved. We spent the last week sending email after email, talking to reps from different departments, filling out forms, and the process is still ongoing.

It's disheartening that there’s so much piracy taking place in the book industry. The pirates aren’t going to quit. They’ve found their niche and they’re going to stay there. And the ones running their two-dollar hustles aren’t really worried about what might happen to them. They’re good at their business, and they tend to remain anonymous, even when their acts are discovered. The worst that generally happens to them is their pirated book gets taken down. They aren’t worried about legal actions or punishment; corporations and law enforcement agencies generally aren’t going to devote much energy, time or resources towards tracking down and punishing someone doing a two-dollar hustle.

We, as authors and publishers have to keep trudging forward. We have to keep writing and
publishing. We have to stay diligent in our best efforts to protect our work. It’s hard, and it can be disheartening, but we have to keep moving forward. The only way we’ll have any success against piracy is to keep striving. It takes patience. And tenacity—remember that word!

Our emotions have run the gamut this week from shock to fear to disbelief and finally to rage. How dare someone do this to one of our authors! How dare someone do it to us! We’ve spent twenty plus hours talking to four different departments at Amazon, filing copyright  infringement claims, searching for other pirated copies online, updating readers, and working with our publicist and lawyer. We’ve talked to other publishers and authors. We’ve agonized over how to protect our other authors and the next two upcoming book launches. It was exhausting. But we’re not giving up; we’ve got loads of tenacity (if you only remember one thing from this article, remember that word!).

We’ve put together a survival list for publishers, for if and when they get plundered by pirates. 

Many thanks to Andrew at Dark Lit Press for the tips he provided.

What you’ll need to survive piracy:
  • Coffee. Don’t skip this step.
  • Open communication with the author and/or artist. Remember that the theft effects you
  • both, but for them this is bigger than that. This is a violation.
  • Make sure your whole team knows, including your publicist, bookkeeper, and lawyer.
  • Continually update your team.
  • The contract between the author and publisher.
  • The contract between the cover artist and the publisher or author.
  • Screenshot of where you got the ISBN (be sure to get your own ISBN).
  • Screenshot of any other dashboards where you have the book published.
  • A cease-and-desist letter from your lawyer.
  • The tenacity (don’t forget this word) to keep calling and keep submitting forms over and over again.
  • A sense of humor.
  • A support group. Reach out to other publishers, editors, and authors you know. Gather as many tips as you can.
  • The tenacity (there it is again!) to keep calling and keep submitting forms over and over again.
  • Learn to channel your rage and frustration into perseverance.
  • Patience.
  • Sleep.
  • Exercise and/or meditation of some kind. Self-care is key if you’re going to keep fighting.
  • The tenacity to keep calling and keep submitting forms over and over again (we’re tenacious in our attempts to make sure you remember tenacity!).

We hope other writers and presses don’t have to deal with their work being pirated. Unfortunately, as common as piracy is, most of you will have to deal with it at some point. Just remember—if and when it happens—not to lose heart or give up. Be patient, be tenacious (we can’t stress that enough!), and keep moving forward. It’s all we can do.

Ad astra per aspera!