If you've been anywhere on social media over the last week, you've come across the posts concerning the latest round of plagiarism. No one appears safe from it. Sandra Brown is among a group of authors one particular person has plagiarized. What possesses a person to copy another's work and pass it off as their own? Is it laziness? Greed? The fame?
I've thought about this for a long time now ever since an author I'd supported turned into one who had plagiarized a passage from another author on a vampire fan fiction site. It was only one passage, but the fans of the original author were able to find it easily. As someone who has never had to urge to write fan fiction, I wouldn't have known my friend had done this. Reading her work, you could see the heavy influences from True Blood, Vampire Diaries and Twilight--some of it was embarrassingly similar and more than coincidence but not outright plagiarism.
The end result for my friend is she pulled all of her work and left writing. She's left all social media and her blog is now private. Before all of that happened, she was confronted on all retailers. Comments and reviews of her books shamed her and those of us who had supported and helped to promote her releases. Some of the posts were vile, but others were spot on. Stealing another author's work is not only a crime, but the ultimate betrayal by a colleague. I felt bad for my friend, but even worse for the author who's work she copied and said was her own.
There is no way any of us can say we're not inspired by all the books and movies we've enjoyed. It's the reason fan fiction sites have become so popular. There writers can share their ideas of how they see their favorite characters in different situations in and outside the world of their favorite book, TV show or movie. E.L. James took her Twilight fan fiction and created the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Fans of her writing on the website followed her from there and the rest is history.
It's that fame that's fueled some to go from being inspired by another author to stealing their work. Lorelei James had to deal with a person who stole her work and posted it on a fan site as an original story. Entire chapters went up. This person denied the allegations even when presented with proof and the threat of lawsuits from Lorelei and her publisher.
Becky McGraw had to deal with another author who took her best selling MF romances and changed them to MM. Line by line comparisons showed the outright theft. The readers of MM romances who had supported the author who plagiarized felt betrayed and sick over the whole thing. Come to find out, Becky wasn't the only author the plagiarist had stolen from to create her prolific line of gay romances.
Why bring up all of this now? It's a warning to all authors to keep ever vigilant and not fall into the trap of copying another's work. Admiring their style and storytelling is one thing, blatant stealing it so you can get a piece of the best selling pie is against the law. Not only can you lose a huge portion if not all of the royalties you earned with the books, you will be blacklisted in the publishing community.
No agent or publisher will want to represent you or your work. No blogger will want to host you or your book. No one will review your work. Go ahead and self publish...the one who ripped off Becky McGraw and others did. Same goes for the one who stole from Sandra Brown.
It's not worth it.
Last week, another friend of mine was notified that someone in her author support groups had imitated her best selling Wanderlust series. Taglines that had been used for over a year for the series were now showing up in promotions for this "new" sweet romance. The cover and title to the "new" release was nothing like those of my friend's, but enough for others to think it was similar.
The blurb of the "new" story had a heroine from the same city escaping a heartbreaking trauma in her life to find love in an exotic locale. Reading the "new" book I had to laugh. My friend had no worries. While this copycat tried to incorporate the same feel, it's a poor imitation. Instead of creating a different story, the "author" attempted to cash in on my friend's success. While there isn't anything illegal in what this other person has done, her actions haven't gone unnoticed by the others in our same circles. At this point, she's created a target on her back and she's been labeled as untrustworthy.
It's not worth it, people.
Take the time to create your own world and characters. Sure be inspired by your favorite stories, but don't "borrow" another's tag lines in promotions in order to ride the coattails of their success. Take your characters into new territory and allow readers to enjoy the ride with you.
Until next time