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/

How to Tick Off an Entire Genre

I’m sure you all can guess where I’m going with this. Yes, I’m going to talk about #cockygate, the bane of the Romance world at the moment.

I’m sure you all can guess where I’m going with this. Yes, I’m going to talk about #cockygate, the bane of the Romance world at the moment. If you’re unfamiliar with what’s happening, here’s a brief summary. Romance writer, Faleena Hopkins, decided to trademark the word “cocky” to protect her brand. This has led to her sending out cease and desist letters to authors who use the word “Cocky” in the title of their books. You can imagine how many authors are being affected by this. She claims that it’s easy enough for these authors to just change their title. They can still keep their reviews and everything. She just wants to protect her brand. If you want more in depth information, check out the Guardian post here.

The main question people have about her action is, why? Why trademark a particular word? She says that 1. her readers are complaining that, since so many people use the word “Cocky” in their titles, they’ve been accidentally buying the wrong books. Apparently looking for the name of the author on the book isn’t enough. 2. She says people are stealing her ideas and book covers. She’s a business woman trying to make money and protect her brand.

Needless to say, there are a lot of problems with this. First of all, when you force authors to change the title of their books, it’s not just a simple task. Authors, especially indie authors, spend a lot of money on marketing. Bookmarks, sites, posts, posters, etc, all carry their title. Changing it on the book means changing it in all of those other locations. Reprinting costs a lot of money, not to mention it can confuse their current readers. Why suddenly change your title? It’s hurting authors financially, and honestly, it’s scaring those who may not have money to deal with the legal ramifications of using this newly trademarked word. She’s also attacking those who already published books with the word “Cocky” in it well before her paperwork was filed.

Second, she claims that she’s just trying to help people with her writing, and that the other authors are being ridiculous for attacking her (summarized from the youtube video, “Middle aged indie author has meltdown” which Hopkins forced to have taken down, ie “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Faleena Hopkins”). Honey…all writers work to help people in some way or other. Whether it’s to entertain them, distract them, or just make them feel good about themselves. She’s not the only one who writes to help people, and it’s very ignorant to think otherwise.

In this fast-paced world, we see so many examples of people stepping on the heads of others in order to rise above the crowd and make themselves known. As authors, we have a responsibility to support one another, to show compassion. The last thing you want to do is screw over another author, which is exactly what Hopkins is doing. By trademarking this word (and the font, although she wasn’t supposed to be able to trademark the font itself), she’s damaging many other authors. Amazon has gotten involved and started to remove titles as well because of her trademark, which only appeared on May 1st.

This of course has the Romance community in an uproar. The Romance Writers of America are working to right this wrong and protect Romance writers. What a way to damage your literary career.

Now, I’d like to note that she’s been receiving threats, as have her cover models, readers, and anyone associated with her. I don’t condone such threats, I want to make that perfectly clear. But, I don’t respect what she’s doing, and I feel for the authors who are struggling to keep their work up while she throws around her cease and desist letters.

What this comes down to is, when you’re working on publishing, try not to harm other authors in your quest to become famous. We’re all trying to make a living. We’re all trying to share our stories and touch our readers. I think the writing community is a very loving one, so long as you don’t go out of your way to destroy fellow authors. There are other ways that you can protect your brand. Trademark a series title rather than a single word, for example. That will still help you, but it won’t screw with so many other authors.

Endeavor to be kind, not a bully. And yes, I will call her a bully for attacking other authors and demanding they remove their titles. I truly hope that the RWA manages to correct this injustice.

To the authors who are struggling with this, know that I support you. Stay strong, and show off your books proudly. You deserve to be heard and seen.