There’s a hot topic circulating among my writing community at the moment and it is something that affects me in many ways. To start with I was brought up with strict ideas about right and wrong. I was taught that lying and stealing are unacceptable. Next, I love books. To me there is nothing like the smell of a new book in my hands or the excitement of working my way to the end of a story. Finally I am a writer. I make my living with words and ideas and creating worlds for others to visit or inhabit, as they so desire.
How do these things fit together? In a single word, plagiarism. A well known author with a reputation for Christian novels and clean romances, Rachel Anne Nunes, was recently contacted by a stranger and informed someone else had taken one of her books, added some racy scenes, and was getting ready to sell the book under the name Sam Taylor Mullens. While Rachel was trying to get to the bottom of the problem the plagiarist proceeded to attack her publicly online for protecting her work. She’s not the only author in this situation, Aubrey Rose was told by a fan that at least one of her books had been slightly revised and was being sold by someone using the name Clarissa Black within just a few weeks from Rachel Anne Nunes experience.
Taking someone else’s work this way is theft, plain and simple. It’s no different than robbing a bank or breaking into a home. To put this into perspective author Stephen King said that a first draft of a book should take three months. That’s not for the pretty, well worded final book, mind you. That’s for the scruffy mess that can make a writer wonder if they really should be a writer after all. Steven King is a prolific writer and works full time. I don’t know his work schedule but assuming he puts in a 40-hour workweek that would be 480 hours just for the first draft. If you work a $10 an hour job that would be the same as someone stealing at least $4,800 for every book stolen. Just for the work put into a first draft. That figure doesn’t include payment for months of revision hours, publication costs, and the advertising that authors have to do. Not quite falling into the petty theft department, is it?
The rise of independent publishing and the seeming anonymity of the Internet have made stealing someone else’s work seem simple and untraceable. Here’s the thing though. Both Rachel Anne Nunes and Aubrey Rose were contacted by strangers who notified them of the thefts. Plagiarism gets noticed. But it’s not an anonymous thing, even though the thief did not use her real name. Everything online leaves a trail. Every. Thing, Why else would the NSA be so prolific in gathering every online record they can get? Just because it takes a lawyer and a subpoena to access doesn’t mean the information isn’t there. It is.
Unfortunately, neither Rachel Ann Nunes or Aubrey Rose or any other plagiarized author can just call the police. Unlike other types of crimes this kind of theft has to be pursued in court by the victim. Plagiarists count on their victims not having the money to hire a lawyer. I know Rachel Ann Nunes is planning on taking this step, but it will take thousands of dollars just to retain a lawyer. I support her taking action. No one should have to sit by and have their hard work stolen. And by taking action she’s ultimately helping other authors protect their work. Authors tend to not be wealthy, however, so she needs some help. As I’m also a struggling writer I can’t do as much as I’d like, but if you are interested in chipping in even $5 or $10 toward Rachel’s legal fees, click on the link for her gofundme page.
If you know an author has been plagiarized, let the author know and report it to the bookseller immediately. Both thieves I’ve talked about have had the sale of stolen work blocked. If you know of other authors fundraising for legal fees, please help them out as well. The more people speak out against this kind of crime, the less often it will take place.