I found this post via an email from a friend. Someone had taken Lorelei James’ ALL JACKED UP from the Rough Riders series and posted it up chapter by chapter on a website, claiming it was her own. The only thing changed was the hero and heroine’s names. Everything else was the same. After going through the comments, the efforts of people who supported Lorelei have had awesome results, but I can only imagine how terrible this ordeal has been (and maybe even will continue to be) for Lorelei. The thing is, this was not a self-published book. It was published with Samhain, and Samhain is a reputable publisher.
A month ago, I heard of a romance author (who I was not given to mention so I won’t) who had the same thing happen to her. Someone stole one of her books, changed the name of the hero and heroine, and put it up as if it was his/her own work. This author has a background with Harlequin, but it could have been one of her self-published titles. I don’t know the details, and I don’t know if it’s been resolved.
What Does This Mean?
What we’re dealing with is an ongoing problem. I don’t think this is something that’s going to go away. And people with small presses aren’t immune to it. That alarmed me since I’m used to being vulnerable as a self-published author. I thought people with small presses were protected from this kind of thing, but now I know this isn’t the case. It’s important we don’t think of each other in terms of how we publish. We should think of each other in terms of being writers.
While I don’t think we should all be panicking (because panicking tends to freeze us up so we can’t act), we should be conscious that this is a possibility. Half the battle is in the mind. If we know something is possible and can happen to us, then we’re better able to mentally prepare ourselves in the event that it does.
Here’s my advice:
Register our copyright.
It won’t prevent someone from plagiarizing our books, but it’ll be an awesome tool that a good copyright lawyer can use. It might not come to a lawyer or a lawsuit, but there’s no harm in having that piece of paper in your possession. $35 is all it is in the United States for electronic submission. That is doable. I don’t know what needs to be done in other countries. While you do legally own the copyright to your work, it’s a heck of a lot easier to get a copyright lawyer to back you up with the registration. (I learned that one firsthand back in 2011.)
Have google alerts.
Go to this site and set up what you need (book titles, your name, passages from your book, etc) and you’ll receive emails letting you know when that stuff comes up. This will help you keep abreast of what’s going on.
Form friendships with authors you can trust.
It’s important to have a close network of authors you can rely on for support, advice, and information. There is a better chance of being able to figure out the right way to proceed with anything if you have trusted people around you. While your spouse and other friends might sympathize with you, only other writers will understand how painful plagiarism is and look for ways to help you in case it happens to you. I tried to explain to my husband how I felt violated when my books were stolen but he didn’t get it like my writer friends did. There is a closeness writer share that is unique.
Be willing to get legal help if you need it.
Save aside some money now so if you need to pay a copyright lawyer, you can get one. Yeah, I know we’re not all rich. Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, writers aren’t sipping coffee in their cabins while write their stories in wonderful silence (the family magically leaves them alone LOL), the truth is we aren’t sitting around with bucket loads of money. I get it. I really do, but some things are worth saving for and your stories is one of them. There are only two things that will get my claws out in major fight mode: a threat to my children and a threat to my stories. Those are two things I’ll spend money on to keep them safe and well. A story isn’t “just a story”; it’s who we are.
Allow yourself the wide range of emotions you’ll experience if plagiarism ever happens to you.
It’s an incredibly painful experience. This is normal. A story is from our core being. When someone steals your work, they are hitting below the belt. It’s not just something you can get over. You’ll go through a lot of emotions, and it’s okay to go through them. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s no big deal or that you’re wrong for feeling the way you do. Also, be prepared for it to take time to get back to writing. I don’t imagine many authors can just jump right in and write their next book when something like this happens. Be good to yourself, allow for a lot of rest, and cut yourself some slack. Sometimes we are harder on ourselves than other people.
Anyone have any other suggestions on how to cope if your work is ever plagiarized or stolen?