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Monday News: Shey Stahl plagiarism scandal; Goodreads deletes reviews without notice; Amazon shares at an all time high; Cosplay copyright; and paid for reviews

Monday News: Shey Stahl plagiarism scandal; Goodreads deletes reviews without notice;...

I had put the news piece to bed when my inbox blew up with links to a Goodreads review of Shey Stahl’s For the Summer. In the DNF review (rated one star), the reader details eight instances of similarities including exact verbiage and scene blocking to a highly beloved Twilight fan fiction called Dusty written by Sarah and Mary Elizabeth.

She’s wearing a tight blue shirt and a black pencils skirt. Her high-heels tap on the wood as she descends down the steps. Her hair is an unnatural red color, but it’s seamlessly curled and styled. And when she smiles, I feel Mom almost cringe.

Alice’s mom looks nothing like my mom.

“You must be Renee,” the lady with the deep-red hair says, offering her hand.

Mom flattens her curly hair before shaking Mrs. Cullen’s hand. “Yes, and your name?” Mom asks kindly.

Dusty by YellowBella, Chapter 2: Dry and Dusty

She was wearing jean shorts and a red tank top. Her hair was that same rich color as Ivey’s, the color of the canyons with lighter highlights throughout.

“You must be Kathy,” the lady said, offering her hand.

“Yes, and your name?” Mom asked kindly.

Stahl, Shey (2013-09-20). For the Summer (Kindle Locations 684-686). . Kindle Edition.

Even the tagline on Stahl’s book contains lines from the blurb to Dusty. (Click to embiggen)

dustyAs for Stahl, she vehemently denies any plagiarism and her fans are out in full force. (The fan fiction authors have stated that they have been blocked by Stahl and that she has messaged them and claimed she never read their fiction and that her work is her own)  Fans of Stahl accused the Goodreads reader of trying to ruin Stahl’s career and have demanded “Legal Proof”.  On her facebook page, people are suggesting that the real way to handle this sort of thing is to take it to a court of law.

Evil Wylie from more instances. (Click to embiggen)

Stahl plagiarism


In this instance with Stahl maintaining her innocence, it is possible it won’t be taken down until legal action does occur.  For the fan fiction authors, given that their work is not registered with the US Copyright office, they’d only be entitled to whatever the text has earned so far.  If they had registered the copyright, they would be entitled to treble damages.

It’s probably time for Amazon to contract with TurnItIn and require all self pub manuscripts be run through a plagiarism checker.  As for Stahl, I don’t doubt the fan fiction group is combing through her every work now. I feel for her fans. I saw one blogger post a facebook update which pretty much indicated she was devastated.

One interesting thing I’ve heard is that some fan fiction authors have been pulling their fiction off for fear of being plagiarized but by doing that they are allowing the plagiarized version to be the only one available AND there is no date of publication thus allowing the plagiarizer to claim that theirs was the earlier work.

They acknowledge that the content that may be violative of their terms of service represented a tiny fraction of user interaction.”Every day we have more than 30,000 reviews written on Goodreads and, on average, only a handful are flagged as inappropriate.”

It seems that this company could have contacted the offending parties, warned them of the impending deletion and provided an opportunity to correct behavior. Further, Goodreads could provide an example of inappropriate behavior.

The wholesale deletion of content without notice is pretty disturbing. Further, there are legitimate reasons why readers would want to avoid certain authors. Some authors and agents, even, have attacked readers. Those are authors that I don’t want to expose my reviewers to.

Further, this is an inconsistently applied guideline. There are dozens (maybe hundreds) of positive reviews that aren’t about the book at all. For example, look at this.  There isn’t anything wrong with this comment but it’s really not about the book. It’s about Goodreads user behavior.  Rating books before release is super common and it’s done by people who give the pre release 5 stars and those that give 1 star. Only the 1 star ratings are subject to scrutiny here.

One solution that readers had proposed is private shelves. That made a lot of sense to me but apparently that was code Goodreads did not want to implement. The decision to make this more Author friendly is a business one but it seems like Goodreads could have balanced their approach far better.

This Sunday I’ll discuss the technical process of removing yourself from Goodreads and the alternatives there are that exist. Goodreads

Long time readers will recognize the name. We discovered the site last year and even enlisted an author to purchase a Fiverr review and report back on the experience. (Here’s the report).

John Locke famously outed himself for paying for both reviews and for people to buy his work. The reason that this is a lucrative business move is because Amazon’s top 100 list is based on both the velocity and number of sales as well as reviews. The more reviews and purchases you get within a shorter amount of time, the more popular your book appears to Amazon. Once you are in the top 100, the visibility of those lists can take over and drive sales from there.

If a book is 99c, you can get a review from a “verified purchaser” for $5. One thousand of these would easily place a book within the top 50 of Amazon.

However, the person that bought the Fiverr reviewed reported back that the paid reviewer had reviewed a lot of other authors. The folks behind Zon Alert don’t differentiate between those who have bought 500 reviews and those who were simply reviewed by someone who writes reviews for money.  That’s irresponsible.

For instance, authors like Ilona Andrews (just hit #1 on the NYTimes list), RJ Palacio (who just won the Newbury), and Brandon Sanderson (was chosen to complete the Wheel of Time series) aren’t buying reviews. First, they don’t have to. Andrews has a huge fan base, Palacio’s book is recommended to every middle school and elementary school in the country, and Sanderson is hand picked to write the Wheel of Time series. Second, their books are priced too high to make it the purchase + review process lucrative.

The ZonAlert crew paint their accusations with a broad brush. Yes, I believe that some super successful self published authors followed the John Locke path and have paid for reviews and purchases for those reviews, particularly the 99c authors.  I’d challenge ZonAlert to post their proof. Emails, paypal accounts (with financial information redacted) and the like. Don’t just post something like this without the proof.

On that note, let’s watch this commercial sent to me by reader PatnDoc

The Plagiarizing of Tammara Webber’s Easy by @JordinBWilliams

The Plagiarizing of Tammara Webber’s Easy by @JordinBWilliams

Edit x2: The book has been removed from sale on Amazon and BN.  Good job for reporting this everyone!

I love Easy by Tammara Webber and so do hundreds of thousands of other readers. Unfortunately, one Jordan Williams recognized this and thought, hmmm, I’ll just incorporate whole swaths of text from Webber’s famous and much beloved book.  Worse, Jordan William’s book is selling like mad. It’s 58 in the US Kindle store, as of this writing.

Obviously, I’m not going to point fingers without real evidence so here are the screencaps.


And from Tammara Webber’s book Easy:

The hoodie joined the cap, and his t-shirt fell back into place. Picking up the sketchbook and pencil, he turned to me, and I noted that the ink on his forearms continued over his biceps and under the short sleeves of his shirt.

“Where do you want me?” More breathless than I’d intended, my question seemed a brazen proposition. Wow. Could I be any more obvious? Maybe I should just come out and ask him if he wanted to be my Kennedy-rebound, no strings attached.

My insides went liquid from his ghost of a smile—the one that was becoming more and more familiar. “On the bed?” he said, his voice gruff.

Oh, God. “Okay.” I moved to perch on the edge of the mattress as he swept the hoodie and the cap to the floor. My heart was pounding, waiting.

He peered at me, head angling to the side. “Um. You look really uneasy. We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

We don’t have to do what? I thought, wishing I could ask him if using me as a model was a pretense, and telling him that if so, it was a pretense he didn’t need to maintain. I looked him in the eye. “I want to.”

He stuck the pencil over his ear, looking unconvinced. “Mmm. What position would be the most comfortable for you?”

I couldn’t say aloud the answers that popped into my head at that question, but the flush that spread across my face like wildfire gave me away. He caught his lower lip in his teeth, and I was sure it was to contain a laugh. Most comfortable position? What about with my head stuck under a pillow?

He glanced around my room and went to sit on the floor, against the wall, facing the foot of my bed. Knees up, pad on his thighs, he was just as I imagined him in class the other day. Except he was in my room, not his own.

“Lie down on your stomach and rest your head on your arms, facing me.”

I did as he told me. “Like this?”

He nodded, eyeing me as if absorbing details or searching for flaws. Coming onto his knees, he moved close enough to fan his fingers through my hair and let it fall over my shoulder. “Perfect,” he murmured, scooting back to his position against the wall, a few feet away.

I stared at him as he sketched, his eyes moving back and forth from my face to the pad. At some point, his gaze began to move over the rest of me. As if his fingertips skimmed over my shoulders and down my back, my breath caught in my throat and I shut my eyes.

“Falling asleep?” His voice was soft. Near.

I opened my eyes to find him on his knees next to me, sitting back on his heels. My heart picked up the pace again at his nearness. “No.”

He’d left the pad and pencil on the floor behind him. “Are you… done?”

He shook his head slightly. “No. I’d like to do another, if you don’t mind.” At my nod, he said, “Turn onto your back.”

I rolled over slowly, afraid he’d be able to see my heart hammering through my thin sweater. He grabbed the pad and pencil from the floor and stood. Staring down, he let his eyes roam over me, and I felt vulnerable, but not in danger. I knew so little about him, but there was one thing I felt unequivocally: safe.

“I’m going to arrange you, if that’s okay?”

I swallowed. “Uh… sure.” My hands were clutched to my ribcage, my shoulders hunched almost to my ears. What, this isn’t how you want me positioned? I barely contained the nervous twitter that bubbled up at the thought.

His fingers encircled the wrist nearest him, and he brought my arm over my head, bent it as though it had been thrown back. Taking the opposite hand, he splayed my fingers over my abdomen, sat back, stared at me a moment, and then moved it, too, over my head, crossing my wrists, as though I was bound. I struggled to breathe normally. Impossible. “I’m going to move your leg,” he said, his eyes on mine, waiting for my nod. His hands on my knee, he angled it out, leaving it flush against the mattress.

He picked up the pad and turned the page. “Now tilt your face toward me a bit—chin down—that’s good. And shut your eyes.” I fought to remain relaxed, knowing that as long as I heard the scratch of his pencil across the page, he wasn’t going to touch me. I lay unmoving, eyes closed, listening to the rasp of lead on paper, broken by the soft brush of his finger, smearing a line or a shadow.

From the laptop on my desk, my inbox dinged, and my eyes flashed open. Without thinking, I rose to my elbows. Landon? But there was no way I could check.

Lucas was watching me closely. “Do you need to check that?”

Landon had ignored my email all afternoon, when in the past he’d answered so promptly that I was probably spoiled. But Lucas was sitting in my room. On my bed. I lay back, returned my arms to their prior position, and I shook my head. I didn’t close my eyes this time, and he didn’t ask me to.

He returned to sketching, concentrating on my hands a long while, and then my face. He stared into my eyes, back and forth between that intense examination and his drawing. When he stared at my mouth for long moments—drawing, staring, drawing, staring—I wanted to reach up, grab his t-shirt, and pull him down to me. My hands clenched involuntarily and his gaze flicked there and back.

Eyes blazing, he looked down at me. “Jacqueline?”

I blinked. “Yes?”

“The night we met—I’m not like that guy.” His jaw was rigid.

Edited to add. Yup, more plagiarism. This time from Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 12.05.33 PM

From Beautiful Disaster:

The weight of the grief we both felt was crushing, and an irrepressible need came over me to save us both. I lifted my chin, but hesitated; what I was about to do would change everything. I reasoned that Travis didn’t see intimacy as anything but a way to pass the time, and I shut my eyes again and swallowed back my fears. I had to do something, knowing we would both lay awake, dreading every passing minute until morning.

My heart pounded as I touched his neck with my lips, and then tasted his flesh in a slow, tender kiss. He looked down with surprise, and then his eyes softened with the realization of what I wanted.

He leaned down, pressing his lips against mine with a delicate sweetness. The warmth from his lips traveled all the way to my toes, and I pulled him closer to me. Now that we had taken the first step, I had no intention of stopping there.

I parted my lips, letting Travis’ tongue find its way to mine. “I want you,” I said.

Suddenly, the kiss slowed, and he tried to pull away. Determined to finish what I had started, my mouth worked against his more anxiously. In reaction, Travis backed away until he was on his knees. I rose with him, keeping our mouths melded together.

He gripped each of my shoulders to hold me at bay. “Wait a sec,” he whispered with an amused smile, breathing hard. “You don’t have to do this, Pidge. This isn’t what tonight is about.”

He was holding back, but I could see it in his eyes that his self-control wouldn’t last long.

I leaned in again, and this time his arms gave way just enough for me to brush my lips against his. “Don’t make me beg,” I whispered against his mouth.

With those four words, his reservations vanished. He kissed me, hard and eager. My fingers ran down the length of his back and settled on the elastic of his boxers, nervously running along the gather of the fabric. His lips grew impatient, then, and I fell against the mattress when he crashed into me. His tongue found its way to mine once again, and when I gained the courage to slide my hand between his skin and the boxers, he groaned.


We are going to do a compare and contrast for the rest of the book but many plagiarists include multiple sources.  This book needs to be taken down. Here’s the Goodreads link | Amazon Link | Author’s contact page 

I did email the person who put the book up for publication but have not yet received a response.