Plagiarism Happens

“Plagiarism is an academic crime.  It is punishable by academic death.” – Man of the House – Tommy Lee Jones

In school, we all know what happens if we get caught plagiarizing.  It truly is an academic crime, punishable by academic death.  Or it was when I went to school, I don’t know how it works these days… I’m guessing since they now have programs to check for plagiarism, it hasn’t gotten better and the penalties are still steep.

That’s all well and good, but what happens when an author plagiarizes another author?  We all sorta know about the Janet Dailey/Nora Roberts case.  Janet Dailey, a successful romance writer was sued by Roberts because she plagiarized several of Roberts’ novels and claimed them as her own.  Roberts won.  It was a huge scandal.  Eventually, Dailey was able to reclaim some of her reputation before she died.

For the vast majority of authors out there, self publishing/independent publishing has been a huge thing.  We are no longer bound into contracts we don’t like the terms of.  We can make as much money as a traditionally published author.  We are able to publish as fast as our brains and fingers will allow.  It’s been amazing.

However, there are always unscrupulous people out there.  These people are plagiarizers.  They steal our words and sell them as their own.  It happens to traditionals, it happens to indies.  They are simply trying to cash in on what they see as a get rich quick scheme.

The problem is, authors can’t read every book ever published in an attempt to check this stuff.  We have to rely on algorithms and readers to find it.  Once it’s found, we authors then have to appeal to the better nature of ebook retailers to get the offending book removed.  For the most part, retailers are willing to do it, but we have to prove the plagiarism to them.

And the bastards that did it?  They don’t care… Truth be told, they are screwing over the author and the reader.  The reader gets to pay for a book twice (that they’ve already read) and the author loses sales that should have gone to them.  That account gets banned and they just set up a new one with new information and start all over again.

As readers, we have to be aware of this problem.  We are the frontline of defense.  We are the ones who will say “Hey, wait a second, this book sounds awfully familiar to this other book.”  Then we will investigate and maybe tell the author, if the author is approachable or the retailer, whatever.  The trick to finding the real author, is the publication date.  You can’t plagiarize a book that hasn’t been published yet, unless you’re an editor or beta reader and that’s a whole new level of wrong…

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4 GB

I have a phobia of wind, so I’m still awake.  The technical name is ancraophobia, just in case you were wondering.

However, I discovered something astonishing tonight.  As my anxiety levels rose because of the freaking wind (which is currently gusty and making me anxious enough that I can’t sleep, even with my meds), I remembered I hadn’t backed up my stories folder in a while.

I discovered something terrifying… my entire life’s work, can be summed up in four gigs of data.

Most people can’t sum up their life’s work in 4 gigs of data.  There are too many pictures, too much work, too much life.  Part of me says that as a human being, my life’s work is not the sum of just my writing… I have pictures and memories and college course work that was kept in case I ever needed to refer to it and previous publications from places where I have worked and TV shows and movies and music that had to be saved… but all that is backed up on an external hard drive.  Last back up date: September 2013.  Nothing else has happened since that time, except my growing catalog of written words.

And that can be safely packed away on a cheap thumb drive with less than 5 gigs of space.  I don’t know why I find that depressing.  Word documents don’t take megabytes of data storage, even the longest novel I’ve ever written doesn’t require a megabyte of storage.  So, having 4 gigs should seem prolific and yet, it seems sad.

Ah well, it’s backed up and all is right with the world, except the damn wind…

Bizarre Reviews

Last night, I was poking around for a few new books to read (because my “to-be read list” isn’t nearly long enough) and noticed a pattern of weird and bizarre reviews.

I don’t know what to think of reviews that are way out there in left field.  For example, I was looking at crime thrillers and came upon this little gem:

“The book was good, but I had trouble believing the killer was using a vegetable peeler and that the killer was a woman.”

Um, I think you can kill someone with a vegetable peeler.  I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure it would work.  They have pointy ends and that is pretty much the basic requirement for anything that pierces flesh… although, blunt objects will do it if you have enough force behind it.  And frankly, I can think of a few situations in which a woman would use a vegetable peeler to kill people… I’m sure your average housewife has considered it at least once in her life.  And why can’t women be killers?  Oh and by the way, thanks for the spoilers!

Another review, different book, same genre:

“There was a lot of blood, fighting, and death.  There was a lot of sex.  I don’t like reading about sex or death, so I didn’t like this book.  I returned it because it was so bad.”

You bought a crime thriller where the description included the words “serial killer,” “violent,” and “love affair.”  Then you claim you didn’t like it?  … … … … … … … … … …

However, my personal favorite (about a murder mystery):

“I don’t know what this book is about.  I bought it a while ago and haven’t read it.  But it has a great cover.”

So, when Amazon sent you a reminder to review it, you remembered you had it, but hadn’t read it, then decided it was a good idea to review it anyway?  And you gave it 5-stars based on the cover?

As an author, I beg, cajole, plead, and throw myself at the feet of others in order to get reviews.  And I admit, that sometimes the reviews are a little different.  But I have never had anyone say they didn’t read it, but liked the cover.  I did have someone say they didn’t enjoy all the sex in my one of my books, which made me scratch my head a little bit (primarily, what book did they read? Because I don’t remember writing anything erotic, steamy or even lewdly suggestive… heck, I’m not sure I’ve written anything even mildly suggestive).

Uncertainty & Contradictions

I have a friend that is a complete contradiction of himself.  He’s a writer, not small time or indie like me, but a “best selling” author of many books.  

Recently, I was speaking with him about my audiobook.  His advice, do royalty share… If it flops, you lose nothing, if you become an international bestseller you’ve helped a voice-over actor(ess) achieve their dreams (and quit their day job) and it’s good to help others.  So, I agreed.  Then he came at me again.  I should be doing all my previous novels in audiobooks… now, not later.  I can wait on Elysium Dreams, but I should get Dark Cotillion and The Dysfunctional Affair in the works.  Audio is huge and again, royalty share. 

In the next breath, he was brow beating me because I didn’t do KDP Select for 2 years and build my name.  He and I went over the numbers of Nook and Smashwords.  He was very unhappy about them and kept repeating, you could do better in KDP Select.

Ok, so you want me to expand into audio, but not expand into other ebook markets, yet?  I’m confused.  

Anyway, the back and forth continued for a while.  My argument, royalty share was just giving away money.  His argument, I’m giving away half my money, not all of it and if I have bad sales, it wouldn’t matter.  If I have good sales, it still won’t matter because the producer and I will both be making money.  Then he explained it this way:  What is the difference between being a struggling Indie writer and being a struggling Indie producer?

As he pointed out, writers have been offering me advice & hand-holding & marketing tips… They’ve been helping me along with my struggles to publish and make a name for myself.  Why am I not helping others?

It was my turn again, I do help others.  I make donations to publishing projects on Kickstarter.  I give aspiring authors advice.  And that’s where it ends.  

Realizing he had me beat there, I admitted that I could be doing more.  But is helping Indie Producers the way to help more?  And should I be tearing my books off the other sites and using KDP Select for his 2 year time period?  His answer was a definitive yes.  I’m still hemming and hawing over it.  I understand what he’s saying and I agree with it.  Putting it into action on my own stuff is, well, scary.  

Lack of Support?

For the purpose of this post, I am going to use the terms Aunt 1 and Aunt 2. The reason will become apparent later.

I published my first novel in September 2012. I did not expect miracles or instant best sellers. I expected a long arduous task of building a fan base, crash courses in marketing my work and successes coupled with failures.

Last night I got news that seemed to emphasis my failure. Aunt 1 published her first novel in January and has published two since that time. She writes western Christian romances. I was informed that she has sold over 700 copies of one novel in March. I haven’t managed to give away 700 copies of one novel in a single month. And it was done with no advertising, no social media, nada. Her biggest selling novel is averaging a rating of 3.5 stars.

So I started thinking what she was doing so much differently than me… the answer hit me as I lay in bed in the dead of night. She has the support of the entire family. Aunt 2 even purchased copies of Aunt 1’s first novel to mail to everyone in the family. My other aunts and cousins post her releases on their facebook and twitter pages.

None of them have bothered to share my books on their facebook or twitter pages. None have even bothered to like my facebook page or follow me on twitter. My familial support comes from my mother, my mother-in-law, and my nephews. Of those, only my mother ever shares my posts about book releases.

Obviously, I see where I stand with my own flesh and blood. And it is an eye-opening place to be standing. From this place, I can see that I do not rank very highly in their collective. For whatever reason, my own kin have passed me by, ensuring that I understand my place to be not with them, but standing outside looking in.

Considering I like my family and thought they liked me, I find their lack of interest and support to be crushing.  It also proves how far a little support actually goes…

Supporting My Fellow Writers & Critique Groups

During the month of December, I decided it was time to start supporting other indy writers.  So I spent some time and some money finding authors with few or no reviews and either gifted their books to people I thought would read them or bought them for myself (I will admit to grabbing several free books as well).

When gifting them, I made sure to tell the person I had sent it to, that when they were finished they should write a review… Help an author out.

I don’t know how they did.  I do know how I did.  I read 4 books and 2 novellas.  I wrote reviews for all of them this morning.  Some were good.  Some were ok.  One I hated, but not because it was poorly written but because the description was inaccurate (I don’t enjoy romances much, I would have gifted it if I had realized that’s what it was).

I won’t tell exactly what my reviews were.  I will tell you that they were mostly positive, deciding not to dwell on the problem areas that weren’t serious problem areas.

Now, I have to do the same thing for my writer’s group.  The difference is, I have to do them in person.  I think that changes the way we look at a piece of work.  We know the author, personally, so we tend not to dwell on the problem areas or gloss over things we would address in a anonymous review.

C Patt

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