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EPPIE Judges Know Good Writing When They Read It Just Not...

There was that story running around the interwebs a while back that some guy had mashed up a bunch of Jane Austen stories and submitted them to publishing houses and agents to see if Jane Austen could still get published today. The big story was that the publishing folks were rejecting it because Jane Austen is just not saleable in today’s market. (I’d give links but I’m on dialup and it is just too painful to do the internet crawl on dialup).

Other folks suggested that maybe these editors and agents were rejecting it because they recognized that it was plagiarism or, at least, too close to the original.

Perhaps that is what Dreamspinner Press should have done with Lucia Logan’s book, A Hidden Passion. Of course, not they nor did any of the Eppie judges notice that A Hidden Passion was so close in form and language to Jane Eyre. The post which reveals the startling similarities is at Speak Its Name and is dated September 25, 2007.

hiddenpassion.jpg

On October 5, 2007, Erastes published an email from Dreamspinner Press that the book had been withdrawn from the catalog with the author’s full support.

Despite this, the book showed up as one of the EPPIE finalists. Which goes to show that at least the ebook community can see the brilliance in the classics even if they don’t recognize that the ebook is not very original. Someone must have pointed them toward Erastes post and the finalist designation has been removed, but seriously, how does a book get withdrawn from the publishing catalog with the author’s full approval for possible plagiarism but not from EPPIE consideration? Just an oversight?

I’m guessing that since the author wrote in the foreward of the book that A Hidden Passion was an homage to Jane Eyre that the author didn’t have a very good understanding of what plagiarism was. I mean, that is the best interpretation that you can give it.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

30 Comments

  1. Ann Bruce
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 11:58:29

    Perhaps the EPPIE judges weren’t informed about the plagiarism in a timely fashion?

    the book had been withdrawn from the catalog with the author's full support

    This struck me as funny because do you really need the author’s agreement to pull a plagiarized work? And does her “full support” mean an admittance of guilt?

  2. Ann Bruce
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 12:04:48

    The editorial staff here felt we were unqualified to judge a title based on another work, so we had it reviewed by a copyright lawyer and a professor of literature, who both believed it was suitable for publication

    Okay, this part of the letter from the publisher to Erastes just made me have some serious doubts about the business practices of Dreamspinner Press. At first, I thought it was only the author who deserved to be tsked.

  3. Teddypig
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 12:55:31

    And it’s Jane Eyre FTW! Maybe the judges don’t read that much?

  4. Teddypig
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 13:03:43

    I think this whole thing can be summed up in a short passage from yet another finalist from this years EPPIE Awards…

    By the Saints, oh my, oh my, ohmymy

  5. Ciar Cullen
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 15:01:50

    Ah, yet another spot where a first time EPPIE finalist gets to feel warm and fuzzy. NOT. Teddypig, wherever I go, you’re there to take the wind out of my partly inflated sails. I honestly don’t understand why it’s a problem to feel good about a good review, which in essence an EPPIE final is.

    I am no longer an active member of the organization for a number of reasons, nor am I a member of RWA for some different reasons, but I would like to really understand your point of view. We all know these awards, like reviews, are just the reader(s) opinions. So what’s your beef? I’m curious. Would you trash a good review here, at DA, or at SBTBs for example or snark at the author for feeling good about that?

    This is an aside from the plagarism issue, which is most absurd on a number of fronts.

  6. Sheryl
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 19:31:15

    wow… just… wow.

    FWIW, authors have to submit their books for an EPPIE – the publisher does not have anything to do with the process; you send in a copy, pay the fee and you go into the judging pool. So obviously the author in this case submitted the book herself.

    the deadline for submitting a book for an EPPIE is October 1 of each year, so either she squeaked in under the line or had already submitted it in the few weeks prior to the deadline.

    either way, doesn’t look very good.

    IMO, of course.

  7. Teddypig
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 21:31:47

    I am sorry if I made you feel bad.

    But… I am not a clueless cheerleader. I speak my mind.

    I love eBooks and I love eBook authors and I actually have nothing at all personally against any ePublishers either and really I will fight for you as a writer to make every damn penny you deserve with everything I have.

    But… I will speak my mind and sometimes that is snarky and not always sensitive to everyone.

  8. Teddypig
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 22:01:31

    Listen I had nothing to do with the selection at all I just pointed out something anyone with access to Google and half a brain and reason to call themselves THE VOICE of Electronic Publishing could have found.

  9. Teddypig
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 22:02:43

    Seems to me that VOICE has been pretty silent this year.

  10. Alessia Brio
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 22:31:16

    Oh, that’s just lovely! Rather than snark on the author for this “homage,” let’s do pick on an all volunteer organization judging books submitted by their authors. *rolls eyes* Whatever.

  11. Teddypig
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 22:35:23

    It’s called plagiarism and it is stealing and the other thing is called failing to meet the needs of your membership.

  12. K. Z. Snow
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 01:35:33

    That “voice” just told me I was a finalist, which was music to my damned ears. The competition is mighty stiff this year.

    Let’s face it, there generally isn’t a rat’s ass worth of industry recognition for e-pubbed authors, many of whose work far outstrips in quality the stuff being put into print. I’m just glad somebody’s out there trying to change that. They might fumble a bit now and then, but at least they’re trying.

  13. Teddypig
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 02:49:38

    Based on this last year and involvement and information if I had a choice between paying yearly dues to EPIC or Dear Author.

    I’d be paying Dear Author.

  14. Emma Petersen
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 03:26:21

    I just don’t understand what would motivate someone to use someone’s works as their own. It just doesnt make any sense.

    Even if they get away with it, where’s the satisfaction in knowing that it’s not truly yours?

  15. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 09:26:39

    I was a finalist in the eppies the year I entered, and yes, I was pleased. It’s always nice to get recognition.

    I’m not overly convinced most contest judges, coordinators, etc, are going to google contest entries to make sure they are legit and aren’t plagiarizing somebody. It’s a nice thought, but in reality…do they have the time? Judges, coordinators, they are all volunteers and they have lives of their own outside whatever contest.

    But… that said, I can understand why Teddy isn’t all that impressed with a contest that made a plagiarized work a finalist. Is it EPIC’s fault that the author plagiarized? Of course not. But does it reflect well on EPIC, on the Eppies… on anybody?

    No. It doesn’t.

  16. Jane
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 10:27:10

    I would have written the same exact thing if it was the RITAS involved instead of the EPPIES.

  17. Imogen Howson
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 11:36:59

    Ciar, as another first-time EPPIE finalist, I think you should still feel warm and fuzzy! Not only did we final in the EPPIES, we did it with books we wrote ourselves. ;-)

    To be fair to the EPPIE judges, not everyone has read Jane Eyre. I know, I know, it’s a classic etc etc. But so is War and Peace, and I truly couldn’t get through that, or remember the bits I had read. So if someone recast that with genderswitched and gay characters, I wouldn’t know.

  18. Jackie L.
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 11:38:18

    I used to peer review articles for an on-line medicine site a gazillion years ago. I had to research every assertion made by the author. Took me forever. I got 2 hours of CME credit for it and probably spent 40 hrs an article. So I gave it up for Lent.

    I’m thinking, volunteer or not, if you sign up to review books for a competition, a little Googling might be in order. When I was doing my thing, it was truck over to the library and lift huge books off of the shelf.

    The RITAs(TM), the EPPIES(TM) don’t get no respect. But can you see a plagiarist finaling for the Mann-Booker? Just sayin’.

  19. Robin
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 12:32:01

    I'm not overly convinced most contest judges, coordinators, etc, are going to google contest entries to make sure they are legit and aren't plagiarizing somebody. It's a nice thought, but in reality…do they have the time? Judges, coordinators, they are all volunteers and they have lives of their own outside whatever contest.

    Here’s my question, though. Bronte had a very distinct style, one, IMO, difficult to reproduce. Since the copied text seems to be intermingled in the EPPIE-submitted book, would there be stylistic changes in the text that a judge might note? I wouldn’t have expected all the judges to have read JE, but I wonder how the submitted MS read to the judges — did it read like a mixture of styles, especially given the particular voice of JE?

  20. Ciar Cullen
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 14:12:44

    Thanks Immi, and thanks TeddyPig for responding. I was just kinda yanking the his chain. If TeddyPig wants to point out his opinion of books chosen for awards, good reviews, etc., I defend his right to do it. But I was curious for his answer. Some criticisms of EPIC are rather veiled, and some are not. Sometimes it’s hard to decipher what someone’s legitimate complaint is–hard to separate the serious issue center from the witty chocolate covering.

  21. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 14:59:21

    Here's my question, though. Bronte had a very distinct style, one, IMO, difficult to reproduce. Since the copied text seems to be intermingled in the EPPIE-submitted book, would there be stylistic changes in the text that a judge might note?

    Well, that’s a good question. I honestly don’t know. I read JE years ago, and although I loved the story, I don’t know that I’d recognize particular passages now.

    I’d think a judge would notice two different styles within a MS, a chapter, a scene, but that’s just me.

  22. Robin Bayne
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 15:26:28

    I was an Eppie judge and although feel qualified to judge the category I did, I can also say I would not have recognized many of the classics had someone submitted them. I read and judge the books as I am given them, and though I would hope to recognize plaigirism there’s no guarantee.

  23. Erastes
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 15:56:58

    Robin, even if you haven’t read Jane Eyre, the first line is famous, “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day” which was also the first line in Logan’s book – that’s what set the alarm bells ringing, and I only had to then check both books to see that large chunks of text were copied. Granted that – yes, I’ll admit that not everyone has read the book – but I’ve run story competitions before and I would at the very least have Googled the prospective finalists before I announced them.

    It’s a shame because in the original passages (which were really only the sex scenes for obvious reasons) the writing was very good.

    I can’t agree with the comment about “they might have time” either, and I’ll probably post a blog post on this as it’s something I’ve been mulling over for long while now. Either you make time to do things professionally, or you don’t start something, that’s my take on it all, volunteers or not.

  24. Teddypig
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 17:47:57

    Either you make time to do things professionally, or you don't start something, that's my take on it all, volunteers or not.

    Especially Erastes when you did all that work, in a well documented review I might add, in September and even the publisher responded in a timely manner. Now, I am not really getting on the judges in particular but EPIC who runs the contest and whom is ultimately responsible and who would have found this out easily if they had asked the publisher.

    How much time does EPIC need to get their act together?

    Whiskey Creek Press has how many entries in the finals this year?
    Oh mymymy

  25. Robin
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 02:11:16

    Robin, even if you haven't read Jane Eyre, the first line is famous, “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day” which was also the first line in Logan's book – that's what set the alarm bells ringing, and I only had to then check both books to see that large chunks of text were copied. Granted that – yes, I'll admit that not everyone has read the book – but I've run story competitions before and I would at the very least have Googled the prospective finalists before I announced them.

    Having dealt numerous times with student plagiarism, I would, too. Especially because, as you say, the first line is so well-known. But I wonder if contest judges get the same sixth sense for plagiarized prose that teachers do — that sense that something isn’t quite right, which is sometimes the only thing you have to guide you when reading a paper that just strikes you funny. I’ve caught some really obscure plagiarizing that way, and I wonder if it’s shared by those who read fiction manuscripts in any volume.

    It's a shame because in the original passages (which were really only the sex scenes for obvious reasons) the writing was very good.

    Which, for me, begs the question ‘why’? If you can write original prose well, why not do it? Why take the risk — unless you don’t view it as a risk, which is kind of scary. Is it not a risk because you think no one will catch you, or because you have so little respect for the original, for what you’re doing or for the publisher or the genre or the contest or EPIC or the industry in general? And if you don’t know what plagiarism is, well, is it reasonable to expect that supposedly professionally published authors DO know (is it enough to say you’re writing a “homage,” even after your publisher pulls the book)? Unfortunately, I do think this is a black mark on the contest and to some degree on EPIC, although not against the other authors.

  26. Erastes
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 06:46:53

    Teddypig, I have to say that I can’t take the credit for that review as it was researched meticulously and written by Gehayi, not me; we spotted the similarities from the excerpt, but the hard work was done by her. The decision was to post it in the Blog’s name rather than with a byline at the time, because we were a new blog and we thought that it would be better coming from the blogs pov than any personal viewpoint.

    Robin, I don’t know why she did it. The only thing that I can think of is that she truly didn’t know the difference between an homage and plagiarism. I don’t think she meant “to get away with it” because the text was so well known AND she deliberately gave mention of the book she was sourcing in her introduction. However unbelievable that seems, I truly don’t think that at the time, she thought she was doing anything wrong. I hope she can put this behind her, write something else with a nice new name and move on.

  27. Robin
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 11:29:51

    However unbelievable that seems, I truly don't think that at the time, she thought she was doing anything wrong.

    I hope this is true, but why would she submit it to the EPPIES after having it pulled by the publisher (supposedly with her support)?

    If there really is a substantial level of ignorance about plagiarism and copyright infringement, etc. is there no organizational support or intervention for authors to apprise them of these issues? And why didn’t the publisher notice what they had or even check it? I always wonder this, especially in cases where the original source is well-known. I didn’t understand it with the Viswanathan book, either, but in this case it’s even more obvious, so . . . well, I don’t know. Perhaps there are no satisfying answers in cases like this.

  28. Kalen Hughes
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 11:30:36

    With all the Austen “homages” on the market (some of which even use the exact dialogue from the book, only recast in POV) it’s not hard to understand why someone might not understand the bright line between an homage or a revisioning and plagiarism. I'm not making excuses, I'm just saying . . .

  29. Robin
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 22:49:32

    With all the Austen “homages” on the market (some of which even use the exact dialogue from the book, only recast in POV) it's not hard to understand why someone might not understand the bright line between an homage or a revisioning and plagiarism. I'm not making excuses, I'm just saying . . .

    This is, of course, where copyright infringement and plagiarism split off. I think where the ethical questions come in is under those circumstances where an author is trying to claim that a work is wholly original when, in fact, it contains substantial language from another text, whether or not that other work is in the public domain.

    I can imagine a number of circumstances where a work is indeed transformative that makes use of parts of a famous literary work. But in those cases I think the author needs to be very clear that he/she is copying from another source and that the work is not *wholly* original, even if it ultimately becomes an original *interpretation* or even parody.

    Some language, of course, has become so much a part of the public realm that we don’t blink when it’s replicated, but transcribing numerous, substantial sections of text from another literary work is, I think, another matter, even if the author intended no harm or did not know what he/she did might be perceived as less than honest or acceptable.

  30. It’s not just what we say, but also what we mean
    Sep 24, 2013 @ 12:02:18

    […] a la Signet and Cassie Edwards, wherein Signet gave Edwards back her rights). Or remember when a book that “borrowed” substantially from Jane Eyre was eventually pulled by Dreamspinner Press when the texts were placed side by […]

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