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Wednesday News: Fraudster uses self publishing platform to sell plagiarised books;...


Amazon has taken down all the sale pages of one Mr. Wagner, but you have to wonder given the plagiarism of Tammara Webber, Jamie McGuire, Lorelei James, by individuals who are using the self publish system to grab a quick book, whether Amazon and others need to institute a system akin to TurnItin. Turn It In is an academic plagiarism software program that is used to compare texts with one another. Essentially it is designed to help professors catch cheating students. At one point Turn It In had said it was developing a commercial product (that was back in the days of the Cassie Edwards plagiarism scandal).

It seems like Amazon could easily implement something like this, tweaking the algorithms to catch multiple instances of word for word copying (kind of like how we compared Master of the Universe fan fiction to the published version of 50 Shades). It would be good for the customer to prevent these cases of fraud. Amazon enjoys using self publishing as a tool of disintermediation but if readers become wary of buying self published books for fear of buying a fake book, that could reduce Kindle Direct Publishing’s effectiveness as a tool. J.P. Barnaby’s Blog

This idea that girls always have to be sacrificing one for the other seems odd and self defeating (the NYT article was written by a woman). As Pardes notes, it is possible to get good grades, have some hookups, and have serious relationships while in college. And that you can’t just categorize girls as sluts or prudes.

Taylor cherry-picks examples of women who are either having no-strings-attached sex or saving themselves until marriage, which reinforces the idea that women are either “sluts” or “prudes,” Samanthas or Charlottes, either having one-night-stands or waiting for a ring by spring. What about everyone else in between? Can’t we sexually experiment and date in college—and end up married to a great person later on? Cosmopolitan

1) Rowling wanted anonymity. I believe this to be true due to the fact that several editors actually turned down this manuscript. Kate Mills at Orion Publishing tweeted that she and other colleagues had turned down this book when it was submitted. Val McDermid wrote a positive blurb for it, unaware that the author was Rowling. It appears that Rowling did, indeed, want to be judged solely on the merits of the book and not her literary superstardom.

2) Rowling or someone lied in the biography. This is obviously true. The biography is a complete fabrication but for the “Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym.” Does this matter? Yes and no. Yes, because she could have easily crafted a biography that was true yet unrevealing without claiming authenticity that she does not have. No, because it helped her none at all and the truth would have sold more copies than any fake biography ever would, in her circumstance.

3) The publisher was in on the secret. According to the Independent, David Shelley, publisher at Little, Brown, knew but no one else in the house did. Of course, we have to take their word on it unlike the corroborating statements of impartial individuals in point 1. What I do wonder about is whether The Cuckoo Calling was turned down by everyone and Rowling then went to Shelley, whose group published A Casual Vacancy, with her manuscript. It seems pretty coincidental that Little Brown ended up being the publisher, particularly after she was turned down by others.

4) The truth was leaked by the publisher. This is hard to say. The Sunday Times reports that someone created a Twitter account, tweeted to the Times  that Rowling was the author, and then shut down the account. Was that someone inside the publishing house? Probably. Was it due to the flagging sales? Maybe. When Rowling’s identity was revealed, whether it was now or two books from now, Galbraith would have been an instant sensation.

I’d submit the publisher would have sold even more books if Galbraith had two or three novels published because many who is scrambling to buy The Cuckoo Calling now would have likely bought the entire set.

5) The book was well reviewed. The book received a starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and the Library Journal. It had no one star reviews until it was revealed that Rowling was the author. In any event, its been interesting, no?

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. KT Grant
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 05:34:27

    I believe someone at the Little Brown leaked it. The reason is now the book is sold out and the publisher is printing 300k copies, up from the 1500 copies sold since April. Publishing is a business and the purpose to make money, so why wouldn’t they leak that Galbraith and Rowling are one in the same? Also, I don’ find it shocking that Rowling writing under a secret name hasn’t sold gangbusters or the book was rejected by editors. I assume a writer wants to sell on the merits of their work and not just based on their name. It happens regardless if the author is a mega best seller.

    Maybe Rowling will try her hand at writing romance or a New Adult? ;)

  2. Rosario
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 05:39:21

    @KT Grant: As far as the publishers are concerned, the only reason not to leak would be any fear Rowling would get pissed off at them for doing it and publish any future books with someone else.

  3. Leah
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 06:47:53

    What would be really interesting now is to see Rowling self-publish under a pseudonym. She has the resources to do it fantastically well. And if she self-publishes, no one need know who she is.

  4. Chris
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 07:21:15

    Re: the plagiarist – m/m author Eden Winters was also affected, as she describes:

  5. mel burns
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 09:04:11

    @Leah: That is a very interesting point…..I wonder why she didn’t self publish?

  6. Shae Connor
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 09:09:19

    A correction: J.P. Barnaby is a woman. :)

  7. Sirius
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 10:17:40

    He also apparently published one of Fern Michaels’ books as his and somebody else famous.

  8. Lada
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 10:35:58

    By the time I started reading JD Robb, it was well established that Nora Roberts was the author behind the pseudonym. Does anyone remember how many books were published before she came out and how well they sold or didn’t? I curious if anyone remembers reading Robb before knowing it was Roberts.

    It is interesting that Rowling had difficulties getting what’s apparently a good book published without being upfront with her publisher. Kudos for her for trying, though.

  9. Jen
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 10:51:07

    Wait, Amazon DOESN’T check for plagiarism? I was going to say that doesn’t make any sense, but then I realized of course it makes sense because Amazon doesn’t care much about plagiarism if they can keep selling. I suppose they’ll care if enough authors make a stink, which I hope happens. A Turnitin type product would work remarkably well though I imagine it would catch boatloads of plagiarism! Plus there would be a need for a human to examine each case too, as those systems aren’t perfect. It wouldn’t catch plagiarism from the kind of materials still not digitized, but it might serve as a deterrent and make plagiarism tougher.

  10. jmc
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 11:05:09

    @Lada: I started the series before it was widely known that Robb was a pseudonym of Roberts. Without any back-up to support this, I would guess that the series sold alright before the big reveal — or at least enough to justify the publication of the first half dozen or so before it was known.

    I’d have to double check my early paperback editions, but I’m pretty sure there was no bio at all for Robb at the outset. I don’t think Roberts’ name (Roberts writing as JD Robb) was used on the covers until much later, along with author photo and bio, even though readers knew.

  11. Ros
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 11:34:15

    @mel burns: Because it’s a whole lot easier to have a publisher dealing with all the stuff of publishing that is not actually writing the book. I assume she doesn’t want the hassle.

  12. Kim
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 11:38:45

    I also read JD Robb before the big reveal. The marketing campaign stressed that JD Robb was a pseudonym for a successful author, so that’s actually one of the reasons I tried it. As far as I can remember, this series was successful right from the start.

  13. Melissa Blue
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 13:11:58

    It’s not surprising on any front that Rowling did what she did. Sounds like she’s doing her best to shed Harry Potter fame. And it’s a myth that a good book will always get published. Publishers are in the business of making money. If it looked like the book wouldn’t sell like gangbusters then they’d reject. Good is a small factor and a subjective one at that.

  14. Katie
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 16:24:31

    With regards to the JD Robb / Nora Roberts “reveal”…The first “in Death” was published in 1995, the 12th book (published 2001) was when they “officially reveled” that Roberts was the author. I didn’t start reading them until a couple of years ago, but I think that I remember reading somewhere that the reveal was made because after the 11th book the suspicion was widespread that it was Roberts.

  15. Christine R
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 17:06:06

    About the JD Robb books although she used JD Robb the intent was never to hide her identity but to let readers know that the books were a different genre. I worked at a Walden’s at the time and we all knew. I couldn’t find my copy of Naked in Death (its in a box under a pile of other boxes) but I have my original copy of the 2nd book-Glory in Death. Only JD Robb is on the cover and there is no author bio BUT Nora Robert is the copyright holder. So casual readers wouldn’t know but it wasn’t exactly a secret.

  16. PD Singer
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 17:21:41

    This plagiarist posted one of Eden Winter’s novels, and for some reason, she is the only one whose book Amazon is not taking down speedily. Perhaps she isn’t as big a name as Fern Michaels, but doesn’t her request to honor her intellectual property count as well?

  17. Sarah Mayberry
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 17:31:58

    Re: self publishing plagiarism. Amazon does not forward any profits from self publishing until 60 days after the month they were earned in. So if you sell for all of March, for eg, you don’t get the $ until the beginning of June. Ish. So they have ample time to discover and delete these plagiarists before the book thieves earn a cent from their sneakery. No one is making a “quick” buck here, even if the actual work of stealing other people’s writing etc is only the work of a few minutes/hours.

  18. kiahzoe
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 17:46:22

    “By the time I started reading JD Robb, it was well established that Nora Roberts was the author behind the pseudonym. Does anyone remember how many books were published before she came out and how well they sold or didn’t? I curious if anyone remembers reading Robb before knowing it was Roberts.”

    Christine R is right that Roberts didn’t hide the dual identity when Naked in Death came out. It wasn’t announced broadly but I too worked in a bookstore and I remember very distinctly seeing the book announced in the catalog (Berkley I think) and noting that it was Nora Roberts writing under a pseudonym.

  19. Kim
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 19:24:41

    According to the J.D. Robb site, book nine (Loyalty in Death) was the first to hit the bestsellers list. It was the twelfth book (Betrayal in Death) that prompted the publisher to finally confirm Robb’s true identity. Here’s the link:

  20. Nadia Lee
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 21:09:35

    @Jen: Publishers don’t check for plagiarism either. But at least with Amazon, they don’t pay you anything until after 60 days, so many plagiarists won’t get a penny from their “work”.

  21. ShellBell
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 04:43:15

    I wonder how many authors there are with the name Michael J. Wagner? Possibly two. One is the so-called author of ‘Shane’ and there is also a Michael J. Wagner listed on Amazon who writes non-fiction books such as ‘Introductory Musical Acoustics’.

  22. Jane
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 07:02:50

    The problem with plagiarists is that Amazon doesn’t prevent plagiarists from getting the money according to my understanding. It is the responsibility of the injured party to pursue the royalties. Another author had commented on this in the past.

  23. Keishon
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 08:25:50


    I was handed Naked in Death by a bookseller who said it was Nora Roberts when it first came out. It wasn’t a secret. It just wasn’t advertised at the time.

    Back to the article, I think the motive for the pen name was for complete anonymity and she didn’t have it for long. I would have loved to have discovered this book on my own and then have the big reveal when the author was ready to do so and been pleasantly surprised. What a shame that it didn’t happen that way.

  24. Jody W.
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 11:42:32

    @Nadia Lee:

    If the plagiarist is caught soon enough, it’s true — they may not see any money. But Amazon will. I don’t believe AMZ automatically gives refunds once a book is found to be plagiarized, and it certainly doesn’t send the money from the purchased books to the copyright holder. Until Amazon gets its bachunkies sued (successfully) for not giving a crap whether a book is plagiarized, it’s not going to spend the time or money to prevent it. It’s all up to the copyright holder to police it, somehow, and take care of it and pursue any damages with the plagiarist him/herself, whom they may not even be able to track down.

    This is going to keep happening. And keep happening. And keep happening. Also, I am a pessimist :).

  25. Michelle
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 18:21:13

  26. Cate
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 18:28:53

    @KT Grant: No, it wasn’t the Publisher what done it guv – it was her solicitor !
    According to the Daily Mail, Chris Gossage (the solicitor) told a friend about JKR’s under the radar book & the pseudonym ( … boasting I presume ) and the woman then promptly tweeted the info ! So much for client confidentiality !!! – I really don’t think Mr Gossage will be working for Russells much longer.
    I must admit I feel a bit sorry for JK, in fairness, she’s done every thing she could to go down a new avenue, without the pressure of the Rowling name ….. and then some pillock – who’s paid enough to know better- goes and blows her cunning plan out of the water !

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