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Thar Be Translation Pirates

Ahoy! Thar be pirates, and not the fun kind.

The scammers are at it again with a new plan to steal the hard work of legitimate authors for their own gain. This time, the target is the foreign language translation market. Several sapphic authors have already been caught up in the attack. Read on for information on how to see if your books have been targeted, and what to do if they have.

This past weekend, I heard from an IHS reader who had discovered some poor-quality translations available in multiple languages via Amazon. While this alone was unsurprising given the availability of cheap translation apps, what came as a shock was realizing the titles and blurbs sounded extremely similar to books that had been published in English, yet the authors of these “translations” seemed completely unrelated.

It turns out scammers have been stealing the English language books by running them through a translation program and publishing the resulting work as their own. Needless to say, aside from the fact this is a blatant copyright violation and theft of intellectual property, the translations are terrible.

As of this writing, at least 6 sapphic authors have been identified as having had their work stolen. All the authors have been contacted. But as you might imagine any time a quick buck is there for the making, this is likely to be an ongoing issue. Donna Jay, one of the authors who was caught up in this mess, was kind enough to explain to me what she did to resolve the problem with Amazon, and to share some advice for other authors.

Identifying scam translations

Not all foreign language translations are scams! Increasingly, both traditionally published and indie authors are paying to have top quality translations made of their works. But in the case of the fakes, a few things stand out:

  1. The same low-quality cover art used for every language, all of which are often published on the same day.
  2. Author name in ALL CAPS. Why? No idea. But this is probably all being done by one or two folks using multiple names, and that’s how they’ve been doing it. Some names they’ve used include: Tom Ogley; Gary Mills; Hadley Smith; Tammy Rios; Don Gill; Rita Silva; Julia Fraley; Tony Bax; Swiss Library; Frank Tyler; Rosa Cohen. (Thanks, Jae, for the research into this!)
  3. Literal translation of the English title, including keeping identifying information of the original series. For example, it became obvious that Sabrina Kane’s work had been targeted because the words “Carlsbad Village” remained in the descriptions.
  4. The blurbs are word-for-word Google Translate versions of the original author’s blurbs. The books themselves are done the same way. It would be obvious to anyone with decent knowledge of the language in question that no human translator came within 100 meters of these things.

What to do if your book is pirated

  1. Go to the Amazon page for the book in question and scroll down to the Report an Issue Section.
  2. Once the form is open you can post up to 50 ASIN/ISBNs in one complaint.
  3. Ensure you also mention the ASINs for the legitimately published book/s that have been pirated or Amazon will request more information before they can complete their investigation.
  4. Donna Jay reports it took about 48 hours for Amazon to pull the offending pirated books from the marketplace.

How we can work together to beat the pirates at their game

  1. If you have a newsletter or social media presence, tell your fans what is happening. If they are fluent in German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, or French, ask them to take a quick look at the sapphic books available on Amazon and see if anything sends up a black pirate flag (which is like a red flag, but works better with our theme).
  2. If a book looks suspicious and you think you know who the English language author was, reach out! Most authors have publicly available email addresses or website contact forms. For those who don’t, contact I Heart SapphFic. We have info for A LOT of authors and are happy to help.
  3. If you don’t immediately recognize the book but still suspect it’s a phony, try posting in some of the big sapphic reader groups on Facebook. Chances are, if you provide an English translation of the blurb, someone will recognize it.
  4. Continue being diligent. Pirates got away with what they were doing because no one was watching. Let’s make it harder for them to steal our work!

And finally, here is a recommendation from Donna and heartily endorsed by IHS. As an author, it’s in your best interest to make sure someone knows how to get a hold of you! Put a contact form on your website, or include an email address on the copyright page of your book. Have a social media account where people can tag you. If you don’t want to be that accessible to the public, consider having an email that is strictly for business. Heck, you can even make up an “agent” and ask people to direct their correspondence there. No one has to know “Sue Morris, my Literary Agent” is actually your cat, and if you choose not to respond to fan emails sent to that address, you can blame Sue.

Ultimately, when pirates get away with scamming Amazon, prices go up and quality goes down. We all lose. While I haven’t come across mention of it yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is happening in other genres, too. If you have friends who read or write outside of  sapphic fiction, please tell them what’s. going on.

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