Believe it or not, contrary to what you have been told, not only piracy is good for authors, but also it has numerous benefits which you couldn’t enjoy without it – especially if you are an independently published author.
As outrageous as this may sound, take a moment and think – what is the biggest enemy of any author?
It’s the historical nemesis of any author. It makes it hard for budding authors to reach audiences, it makes it hard for veteran authors to keep their audience. It’s very hard to break out of obscurity too – if you are left to use traditional means like publishers, traditional marketing, word of mouth, publicity stunts or ‘hitting it big’.
But piracy changes that.
People who pirate your books will give you much more recognition than what you can push through ordinary channels and effort. Your book having thousands of seeders in The Pirate Bay is much bigger endorsement for your book than any publisher could do.
Since research shows that people who are pirating something would not be actually buying them if they were forced to, you can say that most of these people are not your direct audience. However, getting to these people IS a major benefit in that, they not only may convert to your readers in future, but also they will increase your audience through word of mouth.
And then there are other ways to use piracy. For example, Iron Maiden uses piracy numbers to determine where should they hold a concert. (source) This approach has been very beneficial for them according to what they say. They are always selling out on concerts. For you as an author, the piracy stats of your ebooks or normal books per country would indicate where your book could do well, if it was published in print. Traditionally you would have to leave this to the people in your publisher (if you are with a huge publisher), and they would decide. Independently it would be risky for you or your small publisher to make estimates or test waters.
Each and every pirated ebook is a channel in between you and an existing reader or a potential reader. Even dropping a simple link in your ebook to your web page with some tip, some info, an easter egg or whatever you may imagine, can bring massive traffic and directly convert to sales of other items, services, and at the minimum advertising revenue. That also can be employed to increase your social media following, which is much better to reach audiences for a budding author on a permanent basis than any traditional means which were available before.
This is valid for all kinds of piracy. Therefore it is no surprise that a lot of software companies are trying to underhandedly bump up piracy for their products to reach people (source) or budding musicians’ stuff accidentally ‘leaking’ into pirate bay, and many more stuff. Or, Microsoft wants people to pirate their software if they are going to pirate anything. (source)
Long story short, Piracy, combined with the new means the digital world made possible, brings immense freedom and opportunities for all authors. The catch is to adapt to the times and utilize these new benefits. The reward for this is unprecedented freedom and broad frontiers as never seen or explored be fore.