Affiliates and Thieves

I know pirating is a big issue with authors, and has been since nearly the inception of the e-book trade. As an author myself, I’ve ignored the download sites as nothing more than a nuisance in the past. My husband has even laughed at me on occasion because my biggest complaint was that they had a bad copy of my book, not that they actually were stealing it. Others might question my reasons for this, but my only defense is that the amount of legitimate downloads compared to pirated copies was not even a speck on the horizon.

As most know, retailers offer incentives to the public to promote their websites by allowing them to join what they call an affiliate program. The affiliate receives a small percentage of sales when customers follow a link from their website and then purchase an item. The idea behind it I believe is sound. A win–win if you will, for everyone.

What burns in my gut today though, is a trend I’ve just begun to notice in the industry concerning affiliate programs and pirating. Today alone I’ve come across two websites that offer my books as a free download, but also list a legit link to either Smashwords or Amazon. Both links are affiliate links. These type of links are easy to spot because they have additional references in them that are unusual to the website. In Smashwords case, it will be a ?ref=”name” at the end of the link.

So they are making money off my books, and stealing them? Do these retailers not monitor affiliates at all? That’s a disturbing thought, considering they are then linked to pirating by association. I don’t like the idea of thieves making money off my books period. As authors, we work months, sometimes years, to produce our work. I think we are due at least a token amount of respect for our hard work, and that is blatant disrespect in my opinion.

The thought that crosses my mind more abundantly than any other is this: Why do these websites offer both options? What incentive do they have to give a link to my book at an upload site? Are these pirating websites now offering incentives of their own to bring in customers? That’s not a question I myself can answer, but maybe someone with more research capabilities can find the truth. My only purpose in this post is to put the question out their, and make others aware of the possibility.

Like I said, I don’t begrudge others their affiliate links. Making legitimate money off of programs that authors opt in for is fair, in my opinion. In Smashwords case, they offer several choices for authors, one of which is an opt out option. So they’re not forced to participate. I myself, offer more of a percentage of my sales to affiliates because I consider it a type of advertising.

I don’t believe in throwing away the basket because of a few bad apples either. I want to make it clear, I’m a supporter of affiliate programs. The programs themselves are sound, they just maybe need to be monitored more closely.