Friday News: Two plagiarism cases, Apple appeals to SCOTUS, and Beverly Jenkins’s “writing vitamins”
Don’t Do This Ever (an advice column for writers): Plagiarism Warning edition – Laura Harner has apparently “written” 75 books in the past five years. I quoted “written” because some of them, at least, appear to be versions of m/f books by Becky McGraw and Opal Carew (and perhaps others?) that change the protagonists’ genders to m/m. Jenny Trout has been covering this situation, and she’s got some textual comparisons posted to demonstrate the similarities. Apparently a reader spotted the similarities and wrote McGraw to ask her if she was writing m/m under a pseudonym. Harner has apparently apologized (sort of) in an interview with The Guardian, which you can read some of in this Washington Post article (I am using ‘do not link’ here because the article is incredibly condescending and dismissive of Romance). As Trout writes, it took a while to suss out the similarities between Harner’s books and the m/f Romances, because there is not automatic overlap between the readerships:
Because Harner writes M/M, and McGraw’s book is a straight pairing. Harner’s clever trick here was to pick a book that was not M/M, but M/F contemporary romance. As far as readers go, there isn’t a lot of overlap between the two genres; M/M readers will in general read M/M voraciously, while M/F readers won’t stray to M/M often, either. What were the chances of a reader from both genres just happening upon both the plagiarized book and the book it was plagiarized from? With seventy-five books to her credit, she’s certainly skated by for a while without getting caught. – Trout Nation
Help Us Win Against Plagiarism – Speaking of plagiarism, you may remember Rachel Nunes, who is currently in litigation over her book A Bid For Love. You can read about her situation here. Although the book had been traditionally published, the rights had reverted to Nunes by the time this situation occurred, so Nunes was on her own. Unlike many authors who believe that their work has been plagiarized, Nunes took the difficult and expensive step of suing the alleged plagiarist, and the case is not set to go to trial until August 2016, although she recently announced that the case is moving forward and is currently in discovery. Plagiarism is definitely a community issue, and an ethical issue that often overlaps with a legal issue (copyright infringement). Nunes has also established a gofundme page for her legal fund, which is where she is providing updates on her case:
Just wanted to let you know the case is going forward. My attorney has received much of the information he requested in subpoenas and we’ve arranged expert witnesses. I never dreamed there was so much involved, and I’m very grateful for all Shawn Bailey’s hard work (and his team). Depositions will be taking place soon, and our court date is in August 2016—two years after the copyright infringement came to light. – gofundme
Apple asks U.S. Supreme Court to toss e-books antitrust decision – What’s that adage about pride going before the fall? Anyway, Apple has decided to petition the US Supreme Court to overturn the appellate holding that they conspired with publishers to fix ebook prices. That’s right – while the other five publishers who settled with the Justice Department are already past the two-year prohibition on agency pricing, Apple is trying to void two court rulings and avoid paying out hundreds of millions of dollars to consumers. And try to read with a straight face Apple’s insistence that the appellate court’s holding “will harm competition.”
If upheld, the decision would also force Apple to pay consumers $450 million under a 2014 settlement with 33 state attorneys general and consumers that was contingent on the company’s civil liability being upheld.
Apple in its petition said the June decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York contradicted Supreme Court precedent and would “chill innovation and risk taking.” – Reuters
Beverly Jenkins Keynote at Surrey International Writers’ Conference 2015 – I have been searching for a good, comprehensive summary of this year’s Surrey International Writers’ Conference, but haven’t had much luck. Sarah Wendell did Storify Beverly Jenkins’s keynote address, however, and it contains some great advice, which Jenkins refers to as “writing vitamins.” Among other things, Jenkins emphasizes the importance of imagination and hard work, of self-belief tempered by realistic goals. I particularly appreciate this comment:
“We are all using same 26 letters. what you’re writing is no more important or valuable than the person next to you.” – Storify
75 books in 5 years? That should have been a huge red flag. Keeping up that pace, for that long, seems unlikely.
Wait, why would McGraw apologize when it was Harner who plagiarized?
That Apple statement is beyond ridiculous.
Thanks for reminding me about Rachel Nunes again. I need to remember to donate again to her fund.
The WP was super condescending. I can’t believe no one thought to rewrite that article. And I hope McGraw and others are made whole.
Yeah that’s a typo. Hope it gets fixed.
@Obsidian Blue and @Jayne: Fixed, and thank you for catching that! Just a stupid error.
Have to love this quote from Harner: “I will also add there are some personal and professional issues I’ve had to deal with in the last year that have stretched me in ways that haven’t always been good for me.”
Uh, yeah. When I was part of a group who were dealing with plagiarism in fan fiction, you wouldn’t believe how many times we heard an excuse like that. (The other top excuse was “My roommate/sister/ex used my computer to post this! It wasn’t me!”) And going from m/f to m/m isn’t new; folks would do that all the time — lift someone else’s story that was m/f from another fandom and change the genders. They didn’t always change all the pronouns or missed changing a name or something very specific to the original fandom, and that’s when folks would notice something was wrong.
And that WP story is definitely clickbait.
No problem. I do that sometimes when typing about two different characters in reviews :-)
Has it been said when Harner is going to release an actual statement? I feel like at this point she’s hoping this blows over and everyone forgets about it.
Same thing happens in IR romance. A plagiarist takes a book that had white leads and changes the female to black, but gets sloppy with the copy and paste. Later on in the book the black character somehow has blonde hair and blue eyes. Sharp eyed readers have spotted this kind of thing and publicly blasted the plagiarist.
There are vice versa examples out there also, so readers are crucial in spotting this stuff. One thing that seems to be a common slip up is the number of books released in such a short time. Books take time. Plot points, character growth, getting rid of typos and sentence structure aren’t something that can be done like an assembly line.
But getting caught may not stop the person, as I’ve found out the hard way. Now I’m leery about putting up free reads and entering contests even though I always get a copyright.
I’ve written over 92 stories in six years. That’s because I write mostly novellas and short stories. I can assure you that all of these stories are original.
With the popularity of shorter works (a seminar I recently attended said 27,000 words or roughly 108 pages was the best selling length on Amazon for eBook) , please don’t look at the number of works as an indication of whether or not a writer is legit.
I’m surprised there’s so little overlap in readership between m/m and m/f. I go back and forth between the two. A good love story is a good love story, regardless of the pairing.
@wikkidsexycool: And praise be for readers who stand up and say, “Uh, I think there’s a problem.” In fandom, for a long time, plagiarism was something dealt with in whisper and the perpetrator allowed to slink away (and often do it again in another group). If you said something, you were often the one attacked because there was always folks who felt there was a reason the plagiarist should be excused.
I’ve been plagiarized and I’ve had close friends who’ve been plagarized (most notably in the Harry Potter fandom) — and always the question is, “Why would someone do that and then act surprised when they got caught?”
@Cynthia Sax: It’s not just the number, it’s the type. It seems more realistic for someone to produce a large number of polished short works in far less time than someone could write and edit a novel.
This whole thing reminds me of the story Siren case that happened a while back .
I hate it when plagiarists Give insincere apologies or try to make excuses for their actions , and of course , there are always legions of dedicated fans To accuse and insult anyone for daring to claim that their favourite author can do no wrong .