Plagiarism is the noun. Today’s post deals with it in action, as defined in Merriam-Webster’s online Dictionary:
pla·gia·rize | \ ˈplā-jə-ˌrīz also -jē-ə- \
Definition of plagiarize
transitive verb : to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own : use (another’s production) without crediting the source
intransitive verb : to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source
Yesterday (February 19th) news broke on social media of a “bestselling” Romance author’s alleged plagiarism. Well, I guess I can drop the alleged, because the affected author shared screenshots of her original work and the exact replicated paragraphs in the accused author’s work. Word for word, just slid into a different era of story with different character names but with a very similar premise. Not trope, premise.
Trope is: Rags to Riches. Marriage of Convenience. Beauty and the Beast. Friends to Lovers.
Premise is: Aristocratic English firstborn daughter defies father’s marriage plans for her and ends up pregnant by non-consensual means and is shipped across the ocean to America in secret by her mother where she meets a down-to-earth blue-collar type and is compelled into a marriage of convenience with him that initiates a dominoes-effect of life-altering secrets being revealed whereupon the heroine is forced to choose between the life she was raised to lead, the one she’s carved for herself, and the man her heart desires.
If you’ve read my books, you recognise the premise of My Dear One, which is a Marriage of Convenience trope.
My Dear One took me two years to write the first draft (1997-99). One-THOUSAND pages. Over two-hundred thousand words (I discovered Diana Gabaldon’s books about the same time I decided to try my hand at novel writing, and what can I say, I was inspired). Fast-forward almost twenty years, and too many revisions and completely different versions of My Dear One, until I’d whittled it down to the just over 100,000-word story I finally published.
Its sequel, My Own, took me about a year total to write (interspersed over a couple of years of other stuff going on), and three months to revise/polish/format after getting it back from the editor. I’m more than 3/4ths through writing My One True Love, which I had partially written by Nov 2018 between revising My Dear One and writing/revising My Own. My goal is to finish My One True Love’s first draft by month’s end. It’s a process. An honest one.
The day Cristian Serruya was outed for plagiarism Romancelandia blew up on social media. One woman in Suzan Tisdale’s Facebook feed mentioned how this wasn’t an isolated case; she knew of other writers with multiple books out in a year, a pace that defied reality, one with 47 books published in 2018 and 6 already published in the first 6 weeks of 2019. What?
Impossible. The math doesn’t work. I did it.
You’d have to write almost 8000 words a day, every day—perfect prose perfectly fact-checked and researched—AND format, create or buy cover art EVERY WEEK to put out almost forty-eight books in a year, or four a month. Four a MONTH.
One week to write, edit, revise, copy-edit, proofread, format, and publish a 60,000 word+ novel. NOT realistic. Unless you’re cheating (copy-pasting other authors’ works and slapping your name/cover on). Or have a hive of writers/editors/copyeditors and cover artists behind one Bestselling name. So, dear reader, what has this to do with you?
Plagiarists and scammers exist because it works for them. Readers buy their books. They GET paid to steal from other authors. My plea to you is twofold:
- If you’re reading a book and recognize another author’s turn of phrase in it, report it to the original-content author so he/she can inspect for him/herself if it’s a case of plagiarism and, as Courtney Milan did, take action.
- If you’re reading an author who’s churning out multiple books a year, stop and ask yourself if the production seems realistic? Are you reading the author you think you’re reading, or ghost-written/plagiarized work? Then decide if you wish to continue supporting fraud/thievery. If you’re torn, ask yourself how you’d feel if someone stole your shiny new car you had scrimped and saved to buy and sold it for profit, while you had to fight with your insurance company to prove your car was stolen and recoup your loss, because the stolen car’s VIN had been filed off and new plates put on it and the person who stole it claimed it was theirs to sell? Yeah. Hurts, doesn’t it?
I’m not saying that ghost-writing is a bad thing (plagiarism is a bad thing) or fraud. If the book is acknowledged as being ghost-written (as many of James Patterson’s novels are) or as being written in concert with another writer or team of writers, that’s different. I’m specifically calling out ghost-written books claimed as the author’s and suggesting that readers deserve to know when the book they’re reading is authentic—written by the name or THE individual behind the name on the cover—or someone else’s product with the author’s name stamped on it. Is it the author name, or the ghost-writer, whose work you adore? Because for me, to gush and promote and support and recommend an author, I want it to be Her I get all excited about. If I write a book review, get a book signed, or bump into an author I love at a conference, I want to praise or thank the person who actually wrote the story that moved me. I don’t want to get all sappy over a fraud. I want to reward the artist, not the name. And I want you to know that as an author, as an artist, my books are mine. Mine. That is my guarantee to you.
If it has Deborah Small on the cover (it’s a pseudonym—maybe one day I’ll write under my real name) and heartfelt Romance inside, it’s me. Mine. It might take me a little longer to get the book to you, but when I do, you can be confident that it is real, and not written by someone else or cobbled together from a compilation of other authors’ hard work. You deserve at least that much.
The best things in life must come by effort from within, not by gifts from the outside.Fred Corson