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Plagiarism, Writing Scandals are Everywhere

Lonely Planet travel guide author Thomas Kohnstamm admits to plagiarizing parts of travel guides for   Lonely Planet, not actually going to the places reported in his books, and by taking money and perks from the travel industry.

Kohnstamm never even went to Colombia instead, “I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating  – an intern in the Colombian Consulate.” It doesn’t surprise me much that a guy who is lying to thousands of people by faking his travel guides would also use some “chick” to flesh out details of his work.

The best part?   Kohnstamm has written a book about his deceit so he gets to win twice.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Jackie L.
    Apr 13, 2008 @ 15:31:31

    Two bangs for the buck, repeatedly.

  2. Ann Bruce
    Apr 13, 2008 @ 15:34:55

    *sigh* Some days I don’t want to turn on my computer.

  3. Robin
    Apr 13, 2008 @ 15:43:41

    Isn’t it strange how these books on ‘how I deceived blah blah blah’ have become so popular. I wonder if the draw is partly a vicarious sense of forgiveness and redemption, wherein the author’s confession substitutes for the reader’s (to whatever the reader may feel guilty about). Perhaps Dostoevsky was right about confession having so much social value. If it only didn’t have so much monetary value, though. I get the sense from Kohnstamm’s comments that he had about as much respect for the “chick” as he did for his travel guide readers (not to mention the editor and publisher).

  4. Cathy in AK
    Apr 13, 2008 @ 16:40:10

    I’m busting my hump to put out the most original stories I can think up, working on my craft, revising my brains out, and getting more “no thanks” than a poxed whore while all I had to do was copy/steal/lie then say I did so? Man, they never tell you THAT in all those writer’s workshops.

    Also, “chick”? What a schmuck.

  5. Anne Douglas
    Apr 13, 2008 @ 18:40:15

    Ahhh, but you left out the best bit about how plagiarism doesn’t pay so he started dealing drugs…

  6. Jana Oliver
    Apr 13, 2008 @ 19:29:23

    Cathy – Love the “poxed whore” comment. I swear, there are days I can so relate.

    Okay, so the lesson here is to jump directly to dealing drugs, passing by writing entirely. Got it. Who says I’m slow on the uptake?

  7. Shiloh Walker
    Apr 14, 2008 @ 06:45:08

    Oh, what a piece of work.

  8. Kerry
    Apr 15, 2008 @ 04:07:58

    Where’s the condemnation of the editor and publisher for not verifying every word the fraud wrote? I realize they’re “only” travel guides, but let’s be consistent.

  9. Being an Asshole, Liar Does Pay; at Least at Lonely Planet. | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Apr 15, 2008 @ 09:10:59

    […] evident every day. Last week, it was discovered that Lonely Planet, a travel guide publisher, was putting out books by an author who a) plagiarized and b) didn’t even travel to the places he wrote about and c) took money […]

  10. Peter N-H
    Apr 16, 2008 @ 14:26:07

    That there’s plagiarism and hearsay in Lonely Planet titles is hardly news. The accusation has been made on more occasions than can be counted, and the only novelty here is the writer outing himself (although in later interviews he’s back-pedalling). It’s commonplace for editors to discover material in submissions that has simply been pasted in from elsewhere. Many LP titles contain little notes of thank you to Jack or Jill for information on places the author hasn’t reached, and biographies that indicate the author has no relevant qualifications or experience of the destination in question.

    For no fact-checking to be done is almost standard procedure. I’ll make an honourable exception for Dorling Kindersley, which pays money for every single phone number to be called during the editing stage, and as many facts checked over the phone as possible. I know of one other publisher who makes a few sample calls, but in the case of China, for instance, it’s rare for the editor even to have been to the destination let alone have enough of the language to make any calls.

    Kerry’s question, above, is the one more people should be asking. LP is only fact-checking Kohnstamm’s work now when it’s already in print? This, plus random recruitment policies revealed by other writers and by the biogs in the books, tell you everything you need to know about quality control?

    Loss of reputation? What reputation? And the same question can be asked of many other series.

    Peter N-H

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