Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"Oh, my God, they stole my story!" (IWSG)

October 7, 2015

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

There you are. It’s a rainy evening. You’ve written over one thousand words in the current work-in-progress and 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 rather limited pool. 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 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? 

I even had a fellow writer comment on this blog about the fact we both use the word "KEY" in our blog titles as though I stole the word directly from her mind. 

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?

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?

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.

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.

KC Kendricks


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wouldn't want to gain an enemy if I was wrong.
So far, there have been similar elements in other books, but not stories. And my covers are the property of my publisher. They'd go after anyone who stole them.
Now pirated eBooks is another matter. Not much any of us can do about that.

KC Kendricks said...

Piracy is a whole 'nuther issue. When it comes to general plots, I just think some folks need to relax. Even within our own works we have stories we could take in different directions. Thanks for stopping by Between the Keys.

Stephanie Faris said...

I never thought about finding your cover on someone else's books. Yikes! But what you mentioned is exactly why many published authors won't read other author's books. It just puts them at risk of being accused of theft. It's a shame, but many successful authors I've met have that policy.

Stephanie Faris
IWSG Co-Host

Murees Dupé said...

Oh no! Sorry. I admire your attitude. I would probably have been crying and then hope voodoo really works:) But Karma is definitely another good option.

KC Kendricks said...

Until I was looking for a cover for Hey, Joe, I didn't realize just how small the pool is of really suitable, affordable cover stock. The other side of that coin - I now know how cheap some of the cover stock used by publishers really is.

It is really easy for a phrase you read somewhere to creep into your own work, especially if it's a really good one. And it's not that you intentionally ripped-off the phrase, it just sticks in your brain and pops out when needed.

Thanks for stopping by Between the Keys!

KC Kendricks said...

Hi, Murees! I've been around awhile and with so many people writing these days, it's hard not to find some strange overlaps.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Anonymous said...

I remember once seeing a re-issued book by a big name author whose new cover used an identical stock image to another book I'd read earlier that year, just filtered with a different colour. If the big publishers are at it, then the indie authors using a small pool of stock images are going to have the same issues.

And don't get me started on how many books are published with 'fans of LATEST POPULAR TITLE will love this' are practically plagiarised versions of said book. I lost count of the number of Twilight-alikes I read... I guess there's some weight to the argument that there are only so many different plots.

KC Kendricks said...

I've seen that "fans of" a lot, too. Readers are smarter than ever these days. You can't fool many of them with a line of crap and it's not in the author's best interest to try it.