Posted in ethics, For Writers, plagarism, Writing

Plagiarism vs. Romance

If you’re on Twitter, you may have noticed #CopyPasteCris trending and wondered (as I did) what the heck is going on. In a word, PLAGARISM. I’m livid as an author and as a reader, for reasons I’ll explain below.

First an overview (as I understand the issue). Best selling “author” Cristiane Serruya got busted for stitching together books that contained large swaths of words originally written by Courtney Milan, Tessa Dare, and Bella Andre, among others. It gets worse. She blamed the ghost-writer she found on fiverr for the “error.” Romance Writers of America and a slew of lawyers are on the case. You can go to twitter and read through the thread to see both how blatant the rip offs were and how fierce romance writers are.

Author me is pissed that this person made the best seller list by buying up other people’s words and then somehow further gaming the system to get on list. Someone who would misrepresent their work in such an egregious way would likely have no ethical problem paying a bot-farm or some such other nonsense to download enough books to get on a trending list and get enough attention that unwitting readers buy the book in good faith. Author me knows how hard it is to get a book noticed. I cracked the Amazon top 250 ebooks list once, in a bundle with six other books. Author me also knows how often I’m solicited with offers to “guarantee” me a “bestseller” for $XXX dollars. I don’t click. I have ethics. So do most working authors.

Author me is also irritated by voices in publishing shouting that you can’t make money unless you publish a book a month or better yet two. I can understand putting out 3 books in 3 months if it is a trilogy with a long lead time coming up to it, but very few authors (if any) can put out a quality, full length book in a month. Readers buy these books on the “can’t miss” pre-order sale, but I have to wonder how many sit unread on the e-reader or how many are abandoned due to quality issues.

As a reader, I’m angry about this plagiarism, too. I didn’t buy any of Cris Serruya’s books, but if I had, I’d demand my money back. I don’t typically return books because I appreciate the amount of work that went into a book, even if I don’t like it. Cris Serruya stole money from both readers and my fellow authors. I’m angry that someone got paid for a cut and paste job and that the “author” with her name on the cover didn’t care enough about “her work” to look at it, because it was all in the name of the increasingly meaningless “bestseller” tag.

If I spend my money on a book (which I often do), I want the money to go to the people who pulled it all together, the writer, the cover designer, the editor. I want a clean product, where the character names don’t change half way through and the story is coherent. As a reader, I’ve fallen for authors that start off with a strong series (I read a lot of cozy mysteries), and then they get another idea, and another idea, and soon they have three series each kicking out a book a month and there is no quality control and the writing differs so much from series to series that you have to assume they are ghost-written or maybe—in light of recent incidents—copy-pasted for speed. I have a growing list of authors I will not read because they have poisoned their brand in pursuit of speed and fame. As a reader, I’ve become jaded and less willing to take a chance on an unfamiliar author, especially one self-pubbed.

That last point hurts. If you want to know why I have not had a new release in the last two years it is because as a reader and a writer, I want to put out a quality product. I have completed manuscripts making the rounds with publishers and agents. I may self-publish the one that has had full manuscript interest from multiple parties but no room in anyone’s publishing calendar. But there’s one problem. I don’t earn enough from my books full of my blood and tears and ethics because plagiarized crap and unprofessional “writers” are stealing money from all of us.

Thanks for reading my rant. These words are free to read, unprofessionally edited, and from the same source as all my other words—my heart, my head, and my fingertips.

Posted in Books, Conference, For Writers, Guests, Talking with, Writing

Talking with Nancy Holland

Today I have my fellow Midwest Fiction Writer and contemporary romance author Nancy Holland on the blog. Rather than the usual questions, Nancy stopped by to share some of what she learned at the Romance Writers of America conference held earlier this month in beautiful San Diego. Take it away, Nancy

Three Things I Learned at RWA 2016

Thing One — Beverly Jenkins is the best!

I was able to go to two of the talks by romance legend Beverly Jenkins and both were amazing. She spoke at the Golden Network Retreat (GNR) on Wednesday about creating vibrant characters, and the first thing she said was that characters aren’t characters — they’re people. Light bulb! Then she went over a very helpful list of things that make your characters the people they are:  their inner and outer influences, their physical attributes, the things that symbolize their personalities (such as their homes or clothing), and their setting. She also had wise things to say about how plot is what lets your characters discover who they really are. Needless to say, she was also wildly inspiring in the bargain.

Beverly Jenkins also gave the keynote speech at the Thursday lunch, where she talked about the history of romance and specifically the role of African-American authors and stories in that history. Once again she was awesome and inspiring, especially for those of us who follow her on social media and know the challenges she’s faced lately. And the best part was everyone got a free book and cool Beverly Jenkins notepad!

Thing Two — Branding can be fun (no, really)

Damon Suede and Heidi Cullinan also spoke at the TGN Retreat (they did a workshop for the PAN retreat, but I had another obligation at that time). Damon and Heidi walked (well, more trotted) us through some fun exercises to help determine what our brand is and, amazingly, mine was pretty much what I already thought.  They also shared some great information about how to use your brand in promotions and marketing.  I strongly recommend checking out their website, http://www.your-A-game.com.

Courtney Milan and Alisha Rai did a workshop on how to identify the audience for your books, how to use that information in designing covers, etc., and how to connect with your audience on social media. The session was too short to cover everything they wanted to, but they gave a lot of helpful suggestions that dovetailed nicely with what Damon and Heidi had to say. Thanks to these workshops, I may just have this branding thing down. Sort of. Maybe.

Thing Three — Hanging out by the pool is totally part of the conference

Since the AC in the meeting rooms was set on “arctic,” I left one session early to sit out in the sun by the pool. On the way out the door I met an author with a charming British accent, and we fell to talking (as one does). She looked vaguely familiar, but it took a while before we exchanged names. Turns out she was Stella Cameron, one of my late mother’s favorite romantic suspense authors. We had a lovely chat about anything and everything (as one does), including her personalized recommendations of places to stay when my husband and I go to England next year.

The take-away? Always take time to make new friends at RWA — you might meet someone like Stella Cameron or, as two of my fellow Harper Impulse authors did, end up having lunch with the real-life Rita for whom the Rita Awards are named!

***

Found-OSBLola here, hopping in to add that Beverly Jenkins is amazing. She is a master of research and character and hope. Nancy learned some new promo tricks, but in her note above she was too humble to mention her latest book, Found: One Secret Baby which came out days before we left for the conference.

I make no guarantees regarding the cost and how long the discount will last, but I picked up my copy for the unbelievably low cost of $.49.

LA lawyer Rosalie Walker will do whatever it takes to protect her adopted son. She promised his mother before she died that she’d look after him and keep him safe from his paternal family. So when delectable Morgan Danby walks into her office in search of his nephew, she must keep the baby in her care a secret—even if one look from Morgan makes her want to share everything with him…

As a favour to his step-mother— the woman who actually raised him, unlike his real mother who abandoned him as a child—successful businessman, Morgan is searching for the son of his incarcerated step-brother. He can tell Rosalie is hiding something and the temptation to seduce her for her secret is strong, but will he be able to handle the consequences once all is revealed…?

Found: One Secret Baby is available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble