Monday Musings: The Thieves Come Out A Night

plagiarism

Remember that song by Whodini called The Freaks Come Out At Night? Well, lately the book thieves have been coming out of the woodwork. Shit is real in these literary streets y’all. I have witnessed two blatant thefts of an author’s work and one, very strong, yet very false accusation of another. Calling a writer a thief or a plagiarist is a serious accusation, and if you can’t back it up, then you better keep ya damn mouth shut.

  • About two years ago there was a popular author on Amazon named “Nene King”, and I put her name in quotes because it was widely believed that this was not only a pen name, but not even a black woman. “Ms. King” wrote a book that not only had a near identical plot written by author Vera Roberts, but most of the passages were eerily identical. Only names of characters and locations were changed. When Ms. Roberts and her fans caught wind of this deception, they set.it.off. Negative reviews flooded the book listing detailing the plagiary, and “Ms. King” laughably attempted to defend herself by writing this diatribe about being a “strong, black, African-American woman (dead giveaway that she wasn’t black cause sistas don’t refer to themselves in that manner) who was married to a rich, successful white man and had no reason to steal anybody’s work blah, blah, blah. Chile bye. Amazon was flooded with complaints, and the book along with her entire portfolio, was eventually deleted.
  • Just in the last few weeks, author Tiana Laveen was the subject of accused plagiarism following the release of her double novel, The N Word and Word of Honor. Some ignorant readers honestly thought she was copying or modeling her books after Inger Iversen’s book Incarcerated which was published in 2014. Little did they know, The N Word was originally published in 2011 as a short story in her Cross Climax II Anthology. She simply expanded it to a full-length novel. Times two. Lesson here: Do ya research before you start hurling accusations.
  • There’s a new(ish) author on the scene named Soular who wrote exclusively on Literotica. She discovered (through author Kaia Bennett) that one of her works was literally jacked from Literotica, then essentially copied and pasted into a “new” body of work listed on Amazon under the name of Diana Hoffman. When I saw that name I was like O.M.G. I almost clicked that book because it sounded interesting! It was one of those “Oh, I’ll come back to it” deals…I wish I remembered it because it’s already been taken down by Amazon.

So, two things I’ve taken from these incidents: Do your research before labeling someone a plagiarist. And two, while concepts cannot be plagiarized, the way thoughts and ideas and concepts are put together on paper can be. Crazy…

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14 thoughts on “Monday Musings: The Thieves Come Out A Night

  1. This is me right now with you Patrice! ~> https://youtu.be/8R_Ts2K21S4

    GIRLLLLLLLL!

    The Tiana Laveen controversy made my blood boil. I mean BOIL! I read all three books in question but even before that, ALL ANYONE HAD TO DO WAS READ THE DISCLAIMER TIANA LISTED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK! Any logical thinking person who pulled up a sample on Amazon would see it. She explicitly states that the book is an extension of an original work from back in the day. For folks to jump on her reviews and accuse her of plagiarism is SO NOT COOL. Why do that when you have no irrefutable proof of such accusations? The battle in the comments section on her reviews on both Goodreads and Amazon takes away from her hard work. It’s ridiculous. The books that are written by people who drag black women through the mud are steadily one-clicked, but similar themes get backlash? If Inger doesn’t have an issue with Tiana’s book, why do other people?

    I don’t think many folks realize the romance genre is primarily based on recycled ideas, Hell; mostly ALL stories are based on an unoriginal idea. It’s up to the author to tell a story and make it their own. I think both Inger and Tiana did that with their books. Shameless plug, I enjoyed all the books in question. 😉

    LOL, just because…

    Incarcerated: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O0BV752
    The N Word: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B013NO4E9M/
    Word of Honor: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B013NNP20I/

    The divisiveness and backbiting has to stop. It only makes the IR genre look bad. We can do better than this people.

  2. You’re absolutely correct. Concepts can be reused, but execution has to be original. The Cinderella concept has been present since the dawn of time, but the details, the actual story has to be original.

    As an author, it’s very scary that your work can be blatantly stolen like this and that vendors don’t catch it before a book goes live. However, the real shocker is that people actually have the nerve to do something like this in the first place.

  3. Soular is lucky, because she’s not the only one that I’ve seen have their stuff ripped from Literotica or Valent Chamber.

    1. Yes, I’ve heard some real horror stories myself. It’s just a shame that you have to resort to stealing someone else’s work because you are too lazy or talentless to create your own.

      1. Anytime I see books from those “authors” I do my best to alert the true writer. About a month ago there was some article where a guy actually stole a story just to prove how easy it was to publish someone else’s story on Amazon. That guy was incredibly despicable, but it’s ridiculous how easy it is.

  4. Soular is an amazing author and it sucks ass this happened to her. Crystal Hubbard and I experienced a similar controversy when our books Rock Star and Crush came out. Our books are, of course, about rock stars, but other than that there’s really no other similarity.

    I’ve been a romance author for more than ten years and I’ve seen some fuckery, but never have I seen it at this level. The crazy thing is, Amazon has the power to shut this down, but choose not to. And that’s what’s really unfortunate.

  5. Feel bad for her because how do you protect yourself as an author when someone just goes in on Amazon and accuse you of plagiarism.

    I wondered why there where deletes on Amazon regarding her reviewsreviews. I almost wish Amazon would say this has been investigated, case resolved original work or something cause now she just has that sitting on her reviews.

  6. Thanks for this post Patrice. I wanted to leave some tips and word to the wise so people might avoid buying the form of plagiarism Soular and I have dealt with, which is confirmed stolen, unedited work. Sorry for the wall of text in advance.

    Soular’s not new really, which is how this was spotted within a week of the stories being uploaded. She’s been writing since 2009 or 2008, a little after I started Sunday I think. Her stories, Seven Days, Damn Dress, and Gabriella are still up as free reads, which is why I suspected her work was stolen (that coupled with her absence and not announcing she was publishing. We’re friends so I knew that wasn’t the name she planned to publish under and that she was working on a new story to pub first). BUT still I wanted to be sure, so I waited to confirm it with her before I called foul. I think for me that’s the big takeaway. You can suspect, but follow that suspicion up with solid research and confirmation first.

    That said, there are signs that a book has been poached, a combination of factors that can lead one to the determination that they should wait to see if an author is legit before purchasing. I’m going to list them here in the hopes that your readers can maybe spread the word. Those things are:

    1. A proper copyright page, which includes things like the cover artist, formatter and year of publication. At a minimum it should have the author and the year on there. A thief doesn’t have time for that.

    2. It should look like it’s formatted. Some authors don’t know better, but if we don’t want to be mistaken for fake books we have to learn those things. So either we hire someone or learn to format ourselves. And that kind of book does not look like a copied and pasted word doc, which is what a lot of stolen books resemble. A book should have chapters at a minimum. You’re not going to find that on Literotica usually, because people upload chunks of the story as chapters individually (most are writing as they go and sharing) One review on Soular’s work noted that there were no dividers or chapter breaks for a 400 page book. That’s because each “chapter” or segment of the story was copied from Literotica and pasted into a doc. A person could do this with several popular stories on Lit (especially now that Kindle Unlimited is paying per page read rather than per download) and make money before someone realizes what happened.

    3. There should be a synopsis. An author knows what their story is about, and knows that the purpose of a synopsis is to entice. If you don’t see that, just some cryptic line or the start of chapter 1 without preamble, then that’s mostly likely because the person who uploaded it has NO IDEA what the book is about. Think about it, the look inside feature allows you to see a good portion of the book, starting with Chapter 1. So the synopsis should be the bait to actually look inside and check it out. But you have to put that information in when you publish, so thieves save time by snatching a piece of the book and shoving it in the synopsis slot.

    4. The cover art should match. This is trickier because mileage varies for cover art. Some of it looks crazy, I know, even for a good book. It’s expensive to get a good cover, or time consuming. But a woman with a bandanna on her face doesn’t suggest an Italian mafia-themed romantic suspense (Soular’s Seven Days). And a book called Damn Dress, an IR dramatic romance, likely wouldn’t have a white woman with jeans on the cover. Or in my case when my work was stolen, a white couple on the cover when it’s an IR story. *side eye*

    5. And finally if ALL of these things are COMBINED with an author who is not just scare but inactive on social media, it’s POSSIBLY theft. I am not saying it is, so don’t point at me like “Kaia said you’re fake cause you don’t have a Twitter account, DRAG HA”. No. Please, no. Some authors are private people, or hobbyists who aren’t ooking to connect with the readers because they published on a whim. Social media can be a pain and isn’t for everyone, lol. There are plenty of authors like that, and they might not use a photo or logo like those of us that want to build a brand long term. But in Soular’s case, she has active social media accounts that would have alerted people to when she’d published, and she would have wanted them to know. And most authors realize this is a marathon, not a sprint, and that in order to get the word out there about new works readers need a hub to get info from. An author who’s hitting #1 in several of their categories is likely not going to be completely inactive.

    I hope that helps. But that is all very specific to word for word, right on down to the exclamation point theft from a fee online site. That’s the only way people like this can get access to full length, popular works. And all of these tips need to be taken in complete context. Any one of them alone could just be the sign of a newbie. If you’re not sure, you should use these to choose to avoid the story until you are. But when it comes to intellectual property and ideas, that’s a slippery slope I wouldn’t walk down as a spectator. There’s a lot more to plagiarism then similar ideas and vibes.

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