Let’s Talk About Plagiarism

By now, I’m sure most of you are aware of #copypastecris that’s been going on in the romance community. In short, “author” Cristiane Serruya has been accused of plagiarizing lines/paragraphs from other published authors. According to bestselling author Nora Roberts, the total count is up to 51 books and 34 authors plagiarized. Serruya at first claimed a ghostwriter was at fault on twitter, but she’s since closed virtually all of her social media accounts. In another instance (and I hate that I can’t find the article for this), at least one ghostwriter claimed that Serruya fed them lines/phrases to put into the book, but the ghostwriter had no idea they were plagiarized text.

It’s been quite the scandal, and it has writers up in arms, and for good reason. No one wants to have their work stolen. Writers spend days, weeks, months, and years perfecting their craft. To see it in someone else’s book…I can only imagine how that must feel. I know I’d be enraged and feel betrayed as well to see the language from The Purple Door District pop up somewhere else.

So what do we take away from all of this? What can we do to fight against these acts?

Well, first off, if you notice that a book you’re reading has familiar phrases from other books, please report it. The more we catch plagiarizers, the better chance we may have of exposing them and taking them out of the market.

When it comes to ghostwriters, let’s take a breath. I’ve seen a lot of facebook frames going around that say, “I write my own books,” which is great. But at the same time, I think it can belittle ghostwriters. Sadly, I’m sure there are ghosts who plagiarize on purpose, just as there are named authors who do the same. But many ghostwriters are also just trying to make an honest living. They write for people who don’t necessarily have that talent but still have a story to tell. They create articles, posts, books, and more. Just like authors, they’re trying to survive on their skill without even having their name on their written piece. And, in some cases, established authors will become ghostwriters if a publishing house has a similar idea as a query they pitched and the house wants to keep the rights.

Ghostwriters aren’t bad, just as Indie authors aren’t bad. There are ghostwriters, indie authors, and traditional authors, however, who give everyone else a bad name. There’s been a lot of hatred towards ghostwriters as a result of this debacle, so I ask you all to remember, not everyone in the business is like that.

Plagiarism is a very serious issue. Even when we were kids in school, teachers always warned us about the horror and dishonesty of plagiarizing. It’s hard to see it happen to authors, people who have spent their lives perfecting their craft and world.

You’re not just stealing someone’s words. You’re stealing their hours of long work, their many sleepless nights agonizing over their plot, the tears of anguish and laughter they shed, the countless days they crafted the book until it was ready to go to the publisher. And with a little action of copy and pasting, someone can just take all of that hard work away so they can make a quick buck.

The publishing industry is a competitive one. We shouldn’t have to worry about our work being stolen. All writers are just trying to find a way to survive and share their stories with the world, but the best way to do it is honestly. Stand by the authors and ghostwriters who create their own work, especially those who have had their literature stolen. And if you’re a writer, be an honest one and create your own stories.

Additional Sources: 

https://www.latimes.com/books/la-et-jc-cristiane-serruya-courtney-milan-plagiarism-20190219-story.html

https://bookriot.com/2019/02/19/round-up-of-copypastecris/

Why Did I Indie Publish?

Since self-publishing The Purple Door District, I’ve received a lot of questions about why I decided to go that route. Well, I want it to be clear that I actually hope to become a hybrid author. My goal is to self-publish some books and traditional publish others.  I want to experience both worlds and see which one works the best for me. For all I know, indie publishing will win out.

The first answer to this question is easy. The Purple Door District is a component of a larger series called Fates and Furies that I write with my co-author, AE Kellar. We decided early on that when we published the books, we wanted to go the indie path. We’d have more freedom that way and we could keep all the important elements in the book without the fear of having a publisher take them out. We wanted control of the cover and the publishing schedule. We both have tight schedules and sometimes we just can’t write together. We didn’t want the pressure of a publishing house coming down on us, insisting we had to have work done at a certain time when it just wasn’t feasible.

Now, that being said, we still want to put work out consistently, but indie publishing is more flexible and more forgiving when it comes to time frames. If we have to push publication dates back to make the book better and stronger, then so be it. So, The Purple Door District was guaranteed to be self-published.

But what about my other books like Dragon Steal or Traitors of the Crown? Why not self-publish those?

Well, again, I want the experience, and I feel like those books might do better with publishing houses that focus on the same type of topic.

Indie publishing is an adventure, to be blunt. You have control of everything. Writing. Editing. Choosing editors/proofreaders. Finding the cover. Marketing. Formatting. Publishing. Distribution. You wear all of the hats, and while that can be daunting, it can also be extremely enjoyable and rewarding. I went from having this book I was just posting on patreon with a rough cover to a published copy in my hand and in bookstores. I spent six months doing my marketing and printing campaign, and I honestly couldn’t be happier.

I was relieved that I could choose my own cover. Often in traditional publishing, you don’t get a say in it. In my case, I found an artist, and she and I worked together to perfect the cover. She willingly listened to my suggestions and adjusted the art so it turned into the lovely piece it is today. Likewise, I found artists who could make character images for me, and I was the only one who could say if it matched my vision. I had the final approval. You don’t always get that in the traditional world.

I also was able to choose my own editors and proofreaders. I went with people I trusted, who had worked with me either for a long time or had demonstrated a passion for the craft and my book. Our relationships became harmonious, and we were able to message each other without having to worry about a publisher watching over us.

Indie publishing is no longer as taboo as it used to be. Authors are spending money to acquire editing services, and more freelance editors are appearing everyday. One of the biggest things I love about indie publishing is working with the community. I’m not the only one benefiting from publishing the book. Editors, proofreaders, artists, PA specialists all have a hand in the book and receive payment for their work. I’m proud to have met so many incredibly talented people and it brings me great joy to promote them on my website.

Indie publishing is a lot of work and a ton of money (depending on how you want to do it). You can indie publish and not spend a dime except for purchasing books. Or, you can put more of your cash into it to create a bigger marketing strategy. Again, the choice is yours. You have control over your own process. And you don’t have to worry about a publishing company folding and dropping the series you’ve been working on (it’s happened before).

I’m not waiting for anyone to promote my materials or set up book signings for me. I do it all myself and go where I think I’ll have the most success. Walking this path has turned me into a stronger and more knowledgeable writer that I’m not sure I would have received from traditional publishing alone. Yes, in traditional publishing you still have to help market, but not to the same extent as indie.

I give a lot of credit to those who have self-published before me, and those who will after me. I feel like may of us have become a close-nit community because we all know the struggle of creating and promoting our books. The writing community is incredible, and no matter if you choose to self publish or traditional publish, I hope you’re proud to be part of the community.

2018 Wrap Up and 2019 Goals

I can’t believe that 2018 is finally over. It felt like the year that just would not die! I made resolutions last year, but most of them I don’t even  remember, except for wanting to start querying Dragon Steal, which I did manage to accomplish. For this post, I’d like to go over some of the awesome (and not-so-awesome) things that happened this year and cover my goals for 2019.

2018 in Review

  • Finished editing Dragon Steal and submitted it for publication.
    • I’ve received several rejection letters but recently got a full manuscript request. While the rejections have hurt, at least the book is out there!
  • I created my own website and started developing a branded persona on twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. I have over 1,000 followers both on twitter and on instagram.
    • Even better, I’ve met a ton of amazing authors and creators through these sites who I can’t wait to work with next year!
  • Wrote, edited, and published The Purple Door District.  I can’t believe I developed my own marketing and indiegogo campaigns, formatted the book, published it, and held a launch party all in the space of six months. The question is, can I do it for PDD2?
  • Had “Latte with a Shot of Poltergeist” and “Frozen Heart” published in anthologies.
  • Submitted more short stories and poetry than I ever have before. While I received a lot of rejections, I at least received a few publications.
  • Officially launched The Writers’ Rooms with my co-Director, Alexandra Penn. We also finished our Articles of Incorporation and got certified as a non-profit corporation.
  • Helped develop the concierge anthology through The Writers’ Rooms.
  • Returned to my college and taught a few classes about publishing and NaNoWriMo.
  • Wrote 50k words for The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.
  • Lost about 45 lbs through exercise and healthy eating.
  • Attended my first book signing event with other authors and signed up for even more in 2019.
  • Hosted giveaways for my book and swag that was developed by local creators.
  • Started my patreon account to help raise money for my writing career.
  • Received honorable mention in Writers of the Future.
  • Truly started my profession as an author.

It’s been a really big year for me writing wise. I still can’t believe that six months ago I decided to publish The Purple Door District. It seems like ages since I made that decision. I’ve managed to publish a few pieces of work this year, including on wattpad and patreon.

Next year, I hope to do even more, but also find a way to take care of myself at the same time.

2019 Goals

  • Focus on my mental health and take better care of myself mentally and physically.
  • Find an agent and publisher for Dragon Steal.
  • Finish writing and publish The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.
  • Work on Fates and Furies with my co-author, AE Kellar, and hopefully publish the first book, if not in 2019, then in early 2020.
  • Submit more short stories and poetry for publication.
  • Start working on The Purple Door District #3 and Dragon Steal #2
  • Return to working on Traitors of the Crown.
  • Lose more weight for health reasons and get healthier.
  • Attend multiple writing conventions to both sell my books and to meet other authors.
  • Start my path to becoming a full-time author.

These are pretty ambitious goals, but I think most of them are possible. I really do need to focus on my mental and physical health, though, because I managed to break myself a few times while working on PDD. If I can’t hold myself together, I won’t be able to accomplish any/all of this.

I’m really proud of what I did this year. It’s my biggest year as an author, and I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds. I’m also a little scared. What if next year doesn’t unfold as well? I guess that’s all part of growing up and making plans as a writer, though. Some years you’re going to make it big, and some years are going to be a lot slower. I hope 2019 is still a fantastic one.

What are your goals for 2019? Feel free to share them below! Also, let me know what topics you’d like me to cover this year!

Happy Writing!

Erin

Creating a Book Launch: Reflection

It’s been a week since I launched The Purple Door District. It’s hard to believe that it’s over already after so many months of work. I’ve had people ask what went well, what didn’t, what would I like to change, and so on and so forth. After some reflection, I thought I’d share a few tidbits for anyone else who’s preparing to launch their book. As I say in many of my posts, these are just ideas and not the true method. What works for me may not work for you, but it may give you a place to start.

To make this a little easier, I’m going to divide this into three sections: what I did, what worked and didn’t work, and what I’d do next time.

Warning: This is going to be a long one!

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What I did: 

  • Indie Publishing: I gave myself 6 months to launch my book so I could build up an audience and get my social media platforms off the ground. Keep in mind, I was mostly starting from scratch. I had Facebook and Wattpad, and I had just started on patreon, but that was about it. I decided to go the indie publishing route, which meant I had to do all my marketing by myself, hence the six months of preparation.
  • Cover reveal: I revealed the cover of the book about a month in so that it, and the title, could get out and attract attention.
  • Social Media: I started building up my social media. Twitter and Facebook brought the most people to my website (according to the analytics). I also created an Instagram account. I bounced back and forth between these three, and featured special topics on Instagram like my Book Love Tour, author interviews, and blog entries. I created a schedule for myself to write a blog post every week, which I’ve managed for a few months now. When I got closer to the book release, I created a Goodreads and Bookbub account, per the suggestions of other authors. Through all the social media sites, I worked to build my audience and find fellow writers who might be interested in the book, and who I could help.
  • Website: I developed my own author website to host information about my books, author interviews, my literary projects, details about the community, my volunteer work, etc. Basically my website is a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to know about me and my work. You can find all my social media through it.
  • Patreon: In December 2017, before I even decided to publish PDD, I started posting a chapter or two every month. This meant I had early readers and got a few people interested in the book. I intend to do the same thing with PDD 2.
  • Interviews: Through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, I found people willing to do interviews with me to help promote my book. I worked to space them out over the months so there was always something fresh for people to read. In the same vein, I interviewed other authors to show them support. It’s been a lot of fun getting to meet so many different people.
  • Libraries/bookstores: I started contacting libraries and bookstores who might be interested in carrying my book. In the end, I had three bookstores in the local area who wanted them, and another in the works. Libraries are a little more reluctant to take in indie-published books, but I did manage to get a couple to agree to carry the novel.
  • Press: I wrote press releases for my book launch in hopes that it would help bring more people to the event and also share the news about the novel to more people.
  • Swag: I developed some of my own swag and also brought on people to create art, necklaces, and sand bottles for my book. My intent was to give them support while also helping to promote PDD. It was a lot of money, but the results spoke volumes.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: Indie publishing is not easy, as many of you probably already know. I started up an Indiegogo Campaign to try to offset some of the costs. I spread it out over a month, aiming to gain $4,000.
  • Book Launch Location: I picked a special location for my book launch. The Makers’ Loft seemed like a fitting place because it is all about representing indie artists. It has a great space, and it is still new and starting out, so I wanted to bring publicity there as well. Plus, their marketing team is really good. I’m really glad I chose it.
  • Giveaways:  I did several giveaways over the course of the 6 months. In the beginning, I was just offering swag as gifts (necklaces, posters, etc) because the book wasn’t done. Then I started giving away the e-book, and finally I offered up the published book in bigger contests that ended up helping me build my newsletter.
  • Newsletter: I developed a newsletter to keep people updated on what I’m working on. It helped me keep people interested and connected me with my readers more.
  • ARC: I gave out advanced reader copies to people I knew would finish the book and provide reviews on Goodreads, and later Amazon. I hoped that the numbers would get me closer to the 50 count which triggers Amazon to start promoting your book.
  • Paid Ads: I spent a little money on ads for the newspaper, Facebook, Bookbub, and I think a couple of other places to garner attention.
  • Connections: I worked with my author connections to gain more information about how to launch my book. I also got PDD out word-of-mouth and developed a street team to help me share information about the book around social media platforms.
  • Signings: I set up two signings on the day of the book launch, as well as several others in the future so people would know right away where to find me if they couldn’t make it to the actual launch.

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What Worked/ What Didn’t 

  • Indie Publishing: I’m actually really glad I went this route. I’ve learned a lot about indie publishing over the past six months, and I now have a better idea of what I’d do in the future. It costs a lot, I’m not going to lie, but you have a lot of freedom that you may not have with publishers.
  • Cover reveal: This was a great way to gain attention. I found an amazing artist who really hit the nail on the head. People loved the cover, and that kept bringing an audience back to me. Or at least made people pause when they scrolled through it. Cover reveals are great media pieces, especially if you have an incredible artist. Start it early, and get your name out there.
  • Social Media: I probably made my social media life a lot harder than it needed to be. Facebook and Twitter both brought people over to my website. Whether that will lead to sales remains to be seen at this point. It’s something you definitely need to do to keep up your audience, but the amount of social media presence is really up to you. I think Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram get me my best audience. Wattpad and patreon fall a bit more to the wayside. At the very least, this is a great way to gain connections and find out about other signings, and bond with writers and readers. Recently, my blog posts have started to gain more attention.
  • Website: A must have. I spent more on this than I had anticipated, but it’s worth the cost. I have a store where I can sell my books. And it’s a one-stop-shop for everyone. If I only have one piece of social media to offer up, this is definitely the one I give. I update it every week, too, and that seems to keep the numbers up.
  • Patreon: To be honest, Patreon is not one of my successes. It’s gone well for other writers, but I’ve really struggled with gaining an audience. I’m hoping that now PDD 1 is out, that’ll bring more people in for PDD 2. Part of me wants to give it up completely, but I still think there’s worth in it. If anything, it keeps me on task because I have to post something every 15th of the month.
  • Interviews: This was a big help. Interviews introduced me to new readers and audiences. They made people see that I’m very much a human, and they got to know me and my view of working as a community. I would say get as many interviews as possible, and research if there’s a good response turn out for that interviewer’s blog.
  • Libraries/bookstores: I didn’t have as much success as I would have liked, but I don’t think I tried as hard as I could have. I’m still reaching out to bookstores and libraries, but I’m finding that they prefer to agree to carry your book once it’s printed. That being said, I did just receive my first paycheck from one of the bookstores!
  • Press: This was a dud, but that was my fault. I did reach out to newspapers, but I neglected to reach out to tv and radio stations. I think I just ran out of time, which was an issue. I sent press releases to four local papers and only had one respond.
  • Swag: While this turned out to be a lot of money, the swag really caught people’s attention. When I couldn’t give out the book because it was still in progress, I could at least offer bookmarks, jewelry, and other items. They were all very eye catching, and they’ve served to help bolster the world of PDD alongside the book.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: The campaign enabled me to pay for my first shipment of books, but it definitely didn’t land where I expected. There are a lot of ways in which I would improve on it (more below).
  • Book Launch Location: The location was really great. The only downside is the website has slightly confusing directions, so some people got lost, but they still managed to show up. I had at least 30 people stop by in a 2-hour time frame.
  • Giveaways:  On one hand, not many people participated in the giveaways. It almost felt like, what was the point? On the other hand, the people who won were ecstatic and let me know about it, and that felt wonderful.
  • Newsletter: I suck at newsletters, hah! This is still a work in progress! Now that I have about 250 people, I’m hoping that will lead to some sales.
  • ARC: Definitely glad I did this. My ARC folks came through for me and helped me get several reviews both on amazon and goodreads. I’m talking with even more people about doing reviews, so I hope my #questto50 makes it on amazon.
  • Paid Ads: Honestly, I don’t think these were worth the money. Unless you’re willing to spend $100s of dollars, I don’t think they give you much turn out.
  • Connections/Signings: Personal connections with people and in-person signings definitely were great successes. I’ve met so many incredible people over the last six months, and many also ended up buying my book to show their support. I did the same for their books as well. The biggest success came from working with the community. They always say you should build an audience, but I’d much rather build up true connections with people and have us help each other. Rising Tide, as Brian K Morris says.

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What I’d Do Differently

  • Press: I would reach out to more press outlets about my book. One suggestion an author made to me was to send formal invitations to newspapers, tv, and radio stations. If you can get a big star to come, that’s something you can talk about and attract more people. I’d also write more press releases to introduce my book.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: If I did this again, I’d give myself two months instead of one to raise the money. One month wasn’t enough. I would also promote it more, and likely do that through press news. My tiers would be more reasonable as well. I wish I could have given out more stuff to people, but I was still in the early stages.
  • Relevant Signings: I’m working on this now, but I would have set up a signing in Chicago right off the bat. The book is set in Chicago, after all. I should have reached out to Chicago bookstores and media as well.
  • ARC: I would find more ARC readers for the book. I’ve received many incredible reviews (thank you, everyone!) But getting more reviews right away would be helpful.
  • Time/Self-Care: Give myself more time to breathe. During the six months, I thought I was going to lose my mind. There were plenty of tears and nights where I felt like I couldn’t do this, and that I’d turn into a failure. It was because I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating well. There were other factors that made self-care difficult, but the book launch was one of those major stresses in my life that I’m both happy and sad is over. I’d definitely give myself a day (at least) every week where I didn’t work on anything.

I told you, this was going to be a long one. Overall, I think the book launch was a big success. In 7 days, I sold about 70 books, and I have interviews and signings coming up over the next few months. I’m working to attend bigger conventions that might bring more attention to my book, and to me as an author. Maybe I’ll even find an agent to represent me for the other stacks of books I have waiting in the wings.

As a final note, I want to again thank everyone who has supported me through this journey. You all are incredible and I can’t thank you enough.

As always, if you have a topic you’d like me to discuss, post it below!

Happy writing!

Launch Week and What Comes Next

I can’t believe it’s finally here. After six months of planning, plotting, and procrastinating (we all do it), The Purple Door District is finally going to see the light of day. I’ve already sent a few copies out to ARC readers and to my indiegogo supporters, and the reviews thus far have been great. My favorite has to be:

“Casey caught me hook, line, and sinker and I’m already impatient for the sequel!” -Rebecca Daniels.

At this moment I’m putting the final pieces of the launch together. I dropped books off at Prairie Lights and M and M Bookstore. It’s surreal to be handing them a paper copy of my book. My bookmarks at Haunted Bookshop are gone already, and a couple press releases should be appearing in the paper any day now. Everything is headed in the right direction.

On Saturday, December 15th, the book will launch both on amazon and in stores. My first signing is at the North Liberty Community Library where there will be free cookies and pictures with Santa for the kids while parents do last-minute shopping. It’s my first chance to sell my books beside other authors, and I can’t wait. I’ve met so many incredible people over this past year, and it’ll be such an honor to actually sell my book beside them. If you’re in the North Liberty area, stop on by from 10am-1pm. You can find more information here.

Saturday night will be the big event. From 6:30-8:30 pm, I’m holding a signing and reading event at The Makers’ Loft in Iowa City. This is a fantastic new business that helps support local indie creators. They’ve agreed to sell my books there as well because they want to start a book section. People can come get their books, celebrate with dessert, and then listen to a reading at 8 pm. I’m also holding a raffle. Authors Shakyra Dunn, R.C. Davis, Alexandra Penn, Eliza David, and more, will donate their books to the prize pool. You might walk away with more than a couple of gifts!

And speaking of gifts, Marion Mavis, author of The Supremacy Witch, and I are doing a giveaway on Instagram! Go check out our guidelines on how to win signed copies of both of our books!

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I really hope to have a great turn out to blog about. You can be sure I’ll take pictures, and I’m planning to do a brief live recording as well.

Then, on Sunday, I’ll finally face plant my bed and get some rest.

This whole experience has been incredible, but it’s also been draining. There have been more than a few times that I’ve wanted to throw up my hands and toss in the towel. Publishing a book is practically a second job. When I’m not doing my daily work and volunteer positions, I’m usually busy with writing, editing, or marketing. I’ll admit I haven’t taken quite enough time for myself since the whole process started, but I’m hoping to get some breathing room now that the book is going to be published.

What then, do you ask? What’s the future of The Purple Door District?

The answer is twofold. This will not be the only book. I started working on book 2, tentatively named Wolf Pit, and I’m already 50,000 words into it. My hope is that I can publish it in 2019. At the same time, my co-creator and I, AE Kellar, plan to work on our main series to get that ready for publication. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but with The Purple Door District finally taking flight, we think we’re ready to crank the work out.

The story doesn’t end here, my friends.

The journey is just beginning.