Wednesday, November 2, 2016

They stole my story!!!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

There you are. It’s a rainy evening and you’ve written over one thousand words in the current work-in-progress. You’re winding it down for the day. A little surfing at your favorite online bookseller is in order. You can download a new book and tottle off to bed to do a little reading.

Not so fast. There is YOUR cover on someone else’s book! 

Okay, okay. You know everyone and their sister is buying cover stock from a very limited available pool of quality stock. You just have to grin and bear it and remember you bought that cover stock because the guy is pretty sexy. 

So you scroll a few more pages and then it happens. Holy crap! SOMEONE STOLE YOUR TITLE!!!  

Well, it’s not exactly your title. Your title’s The Alpha’s Broken Finger and this - this - this THIEF used The Alpha’s Broken Toe. And you can't copyright titles and names. But dammit! That’s awfully close. And both stories are about how his mate, be that mate male or female, saves him.  

What the heck is going on?? Is this something serious or did we simply inspire another writer? Haven't we all gotten inspiration from someone else somewhere along the line? Who hasn't read a story and been blown away by a particular turn of a phrase and then had it creep into our usage? 

Plagiarism is a risk we all take when we publish a book. While I wrote the above tongue-in-cheek, the theft of intellectual property is no laughing matter. The honest among us have all seen covers and stories so similar to our own that the hair on our arms raises in alarm, disgust and anger. It’s not a good feeling. So what do we do about it?

The serious among us view our work as both creation and business. There are steps we can take if we’ve been pirated (DMCA letters) or suspect plagiarism (an attorney versed in the applicable laws).  One of the sad truths about this business is it’s stacked against the author. We do the work of creation and everyone makes a profit on our backs.

I could let the ugliness of theft stop me from writing, but I won’t. I could put my money into lawyer fees (and if seriously pissed off I will). I submit DMCA letters albeit in a lazy fashion. For better or for worse I’ve accepted the risk because I believe Karma exists.

If we accuse another writer of plagiarism and it turns out to be a weird coincidence, we’ve gained an enemy, one unlikely to ever forget. And do we want to apply the stigma of plagiarism to someone else who may have simply had a similar idea? How would we feel if we were unjustly accused of such a thing?

I know that sooner or later savvy readers will catch on and avoid suspect “authors.” The problem of deliberate, premeditated theft is so pervasive that even with a hundred thousand keyboards raised against it, it’s not going to go away. And that’s not right and that’s not fair.

The best thing I can do is put my energy into writing the next story and not dwell on the inequities of this business. I could allow it to discourage me, but I won’t. I do what I do for the honest readers and there are enough of them left to keep me going. And that will just have to be good enough until karma kicks butt.


(This is a modified version of a post that was written for another venue in 2015.)

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  1. Okay didn't see that coming! Great point to raise though for all writers. I can see this as another drawback of being Indy published (even if I am). The first thing I do once my work is finished, is get my copyright. It's the only thing I know that will put the date on when I published said work and the cost is minimum.

  2. Between pirates and plagiarizers - it's lucky if a reader finds our books and we get paid. Tweeted.
    Victoria Adams IWSG November

  3. I've been published since 2003. I've been with 10 different publishers. I can't find one true drawback to self-publishing. Yes, it's work. Yes, there's a learning curve, especially if one is determined to learn photoshop and make covers, but it's worth it.