Every author feels the threat of piracy. It exists. We know it could happen, and at some point you have to make a choice about how to feel about it – do you spend every waking minute scouring the web for pirate sites to see if your books are there, or do you just say fuck it and if someone alerts you, great, otherwise, I got a life to live?
I didn’t think it would happen to me so soon. And I never expected it to happen the way it did.
Right about the time I started writing the first draft of Hidden Scars two years ago, I started writing an erotic romance story. Hidden Scars was the first story I’d written that took out the euphemisms and replaced them with actual slang terms, but still stayed shy of the line of erotic romance. I had a hard time writing those scenes (they made me uncomfortable), so I started the other story in part to work through that discomfort – if I could write about sex, and all the filthy words we use to describe it, I’d be a better romance writer for it. Also, I couldn’t get this image out of my head, and I had to write about it. A few months later, I had a complete erotic romance story.
It was posted to Literotica as Impulse Control. And it was the first of several stories I wrote and posted to the site, under the username Radiodemon.
Last winter, I wrote a story for their Valentine’s Day contest about a young woman struggling to be comfortable in her own skin and a man she meets at a speed-dating event on Valentine’s Day. Over the course of a single night, Hannah and Alex got to know one another and tried not to fall in love. Readers loved that story, enough it took second place in the contest.
Apparently, someone loved that story to the point they copy and pasted it into a document, chopped it into several parts, slapped some covers and some pen names on it, and tried to sell it on Amazon last week.
A fellow Lit user sent me an email notifying me that someone was trying to rip me off. So I went to Amazon, used the links she’d sent, and thought, nah, that’s not my story. Can’t be. The tags are all wrong. But since it was free, I downloaded parts one and three just to be sure.
Yup. It was The Perfect Man.
I was furious. So angry I was shaking and on the verge of tears. I loved that story, and once I’d fulfilled my contest obligations (users can’t remove stories from the site themselves, you have to contact the site admin to have them do it, and contest placers have to remain up for 24 months), I was going to take it down, edit it, and sell it myself. And this person, whoever they were, decided they wanted to profit from my work.
I felt impotent, for a while. I had proof I’d written the story, but since it was posted under a username and not my real name, I didn’t know if Amazon would just take my word for it. I hold the rights to the story, but I hadn’t registered it under copyright, so I didn’t know if I have copyright protection.
I was embarrassed, too. I mean, let’s be honest and call Literotica what it is – a porn site. It’s a place that people will admit to visiting and perusing the stories, but very few people actually come out and say, yup, I write smut, and I post it there. There’s a wide variety of stories available, and most of them are straight up porn, no character development, no plot, just sex in all its myriad forms. If you dig, you can find stories that are worth your time – some that are diamonds in the rough and need some polishing, some that are little nuggets of escapism that give you everything you want in a few thousand words – a well-thought-out plot, fleshed out characters, and sex that doesn’t involve physically impossible feats.
I always figured at some point I’d take some or all of my stories down. I never edited any of them before posting, so there are plot holes, character flaws that don’t make sense, and yeah, there’s some sexual ridiculousness in there, too. I was writing those stories for a particular audience. If I was going to republish it under my own name, it’d be edited properly before it went live. Rehab was originally a Lit story. I never planned on coming out and saying I was Radiodemon. There are other users with stories far more popular than mine. I figured some people would miss them, but if I was lucky, they’d find the republished ones and buy my other works, too, all without me having to actually say anything.
It struck me that by not acknowledging those stories I came off as ashamed of them. I’m not. I’m also not ashamed I wrote and posted them on Lit. For a while, Literotica was my safe place for writing erotic romance. I could try out the genre anonymously, work through my mental blocks, and pick up some feedback along the way. Some readers simply left encouraging comments; a few actually had constructive criticism, for which I’m grateful. And yeah, there were a couple of trolls. There always are. And I pissed off a couple of readers with how the story ends for Jane and Logan (the couple from Impulse Control). Am I totally weird that those pissed off comments made my day? I loved knowing that people were so invested in my story that when things didn’t turn out they way they hoped, they got mad.
Some people might ask why I was so upset about it. It was always a risk, posting those stories where anyone could copy them and claim them as their own. I’d actually seen evidence of it on Lit not too long ago. Someone posted a story that was a copy and paste of another story that had been posted to Lit several years earlier. And naive me, I thought that was the worst of it. People would take those stories, post them on other free sites, and claim the credit.
But this pirate decided to try and profit from The Perfect Man, which is why it was so upsetting. I wasn’t making any money from that story. I never would have published it the way it was written, all drafty and unformatted. The pirate went about publishing the story in the strangest way. It was, literally, a copy and paste job into a document. At the bottom of each Lit page for the stories is a line with the following information:
byradiodemon© 49 comments/ 66932 views/ 151 favorites
That line showed up at the end of the third part that was published to Amazon. The formatting was nonexistent. They didn’t bother to change the title and published the three parts under three different names. The tags are all wrong; there’s no BDSM themes, no D/s, certainly no billionaires (unless paramedics are suddenly raking in the dough). It wasn’t even the whole story. The weirdest part?
It was published through Kindle Unlimited, where the price was set to free for most of the weekend. With Kindle Unlimited, the author makes money on borrows and sales alike, so the only thing I can figure is whoever it was was getting money from borrows.
I’d contacted KDP support in addition to filling out Amazon’s copyright infringement form and sending them a cease and desist email, mailing the hard copy of the letter this morning. I never did hear back from KDP support. The auto-response I got from the copyright department was investigations could take several days. Aggravating, but understandable. Within 24 hours of my initial request (through the form), parts two and three were down. Whether it was the author(s) who removed them or the copyright department who did, I don’t know, but part one is still available.
I also emailed the site admin for Literotica and requested the removal of all my stories, including The Perfect Man. As of this morning, all my stories have been taken down from the Lit site. I didn’t want to do it. People were still finding, reading, and favoriting that story a year later. They’re still finding, reading, and favoriting my other stories, too.
Some will reappear. I’m rewriting the first part of Jane and Logan’s story, and if I finish it, those readers who were upset at how it ended might get their wish for a different ending 🙂 Jack and Bailey, the hero and heroine of Ten Years, will absolutely get their story expanded. And next Valentine’s Day, I’ll be releasing the edited version of The Perfect Man.
Until then, if you found this post because you’re a Lit reader, I’m truly sorry that one person’s greed resulted in a loss for all of you. But if anyone’s going to profit from my stories, it’s going to be me, and only me.
Bottom line – I learned that my stories are mine, no matter where I’ve posted them or under what name, and I do have legal measures I can take. I’m leaving Lit behind. It served its purpose, and it gave me the push and the support I was looking for, but it’s time to take off the training wheels.