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A few weeks ago I found out someone had stolen my eBook and placed it on Amazon for sale. How did they do that, you ask? They pretended to be me. Brooke Rothman was selling Brooke Rothman’s book—only it clearly was not me.

The next 12 hours were rough. I barely slept. I cried. I felt massively violated. If you’ve read my book, you know it’s quite personal. It contains my stories, excerpts from interviews I conducted and my creative exercises. Better yet, the eBook didn’t just show up on Amazon US. It showed up on Amazon Canada, UK, India, Denmark, and Japan. Yep. Japan.

You can only imagine what I dealt with in those first few hours of this eBook theft awareness. It was a bit of shock mixed with thoughts like the following, “I want to find this person and smash a frying pan in his face.”  (Sorry if that’s violent, but it’s honestly what I thought at the time.)

Then I got over my disappointment in humanity or whatever that was and got to work. When something “bad” happens, you have to turn it around. You have to find the humor. (My book was global!) And you have to help and inform other people. I truly believe this happened to me for a reason. {Tweet it!}

This next part is important so if you read nothing else in this blog post I want you to read this. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.

How to Protect Your Work

  1. The first thing I did was to start the process of officially registering my book with the US Copyright office. Some people will say that your work is copyrighted the moment it’s created. Maybe that’s true but after speaking to a copyright lawyer, I don’t think it can ever hurt to have official documentation. In my opinion, the $35 is worth the peace of mind. Register your property here. http://www.copyright.gov/eco  (Quick disclaimer: I am still in the process of getting my copyright approved. In my opinion, the system is a bit archaic and the communication is poor to non-existent. However, I have faith the road blocks I’m encountering will be dealt with and this will be resolved soon.)
  1. Register your book with Amazon and get an ASIN. ASIN stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number. It is unique to every book so if you have this, it will most likely be harder for people to steal your work. The person who stole my book had an ASIN number so I’m still waiting to see what will happen once I repost the book myself on Amazon. Don’t make the same mistake I did and allow someone else to get there first.
  1. After your property is launched, scan the web for illegal distribution frequently. I happened to have googled my name and the name of my book. Otherwise, I might never have known this was happening.
  1. If you find something amiss, write a DMCA takedown notice to the publication where your work has been illegally posted. Companies should comply with this request as part of United States copyright law.

To be clear, this should not stop you from creating and putting your stuff out there, but I wanted to give you the heads up to be vigilant with your work. Do a little more research than I did when I put my book out there and follow the points outlined above. I can’t promise this will keep your work completely safe, but I do believe it will help make the process smoother.