You may have seen this photo of me on Facebook this week with the banner across the bottom that states what ought to be obvious. If you’ve been paying attention to the firestorm that has roiled the romance novel industry the past week or more, you probably understand what it means and can skip to the bottom. It occurs to me, however, that many readers may be wondering what on earth has gone on. Here’s a brief overview with links if you’re interested in more.
In brief, a writer named Christine Serruya was alleged to have plagiarized—heavily plagiarized—the work of several well known authors including Courtney Milan, and Tessa Dare.
Now, the ignorant response to that was, ‘You can’t steal plot ideas in romance because it is formulaic.” First of all I totally reject the idea that a happy ending equates to a formula. Every couple’s story is unique. Secondly, this woman want FAR beyond that, lifting entire passages from other authors, an easily provable offense. Apparently there have been earlier scandals I didn’t know about. Would it shock you to know that best-selling author Janet Daily lifted passages from Nora Roberts in the 90s? Nora has written passionately about that and about the current scandal. Why are Janet Daily books still on anyone’s shelves, even library shelves?
When confronted, Serruya’s defense was she merely sent material to ghost writers. She blamed them. Say what? Ghost writers? It is, she claims a common practice.That was news to me. This article, which horrified me, spells out that aspect of the scandal.
She isn’t just a thief, she’s a cheat. She put her name on books she did not write. That practice may make sense when a celebrity wants to put out a memoir or a how-to book. One of my cousins ghost wrote medical books for doctors, including Patch Adams. But fiction? Stories from the heart? I don’t think so. There is something fundamentally dishonest about that. My good friend Jude Knight did a better job than I can of explaining why.
Why would this woman do this? The underlying reasons are even more distressing to me than the stealing and cheating. Amazon dominates electronic publishing. They allow any of us to offer our books for sale BUT they are the gatekeepers to who sees them. They manage their processes with formulas, and those formulas favor frequent releases and steady sales. Authors who churn out frequent shorter books do better than authors that don’t. By hiring ghost writers Serruya churned out books in rapid succession. You can see what that horrifies me in particular. Mass produced ghost written books cheapen the industry. My books are complex and dense and I struggle to manage more than one a year. There is an excellent article on the Amazon culpability in all this here. It was completely demoralizing. I thought sites and individual that pirate my books and violate copyright were the only problems I faced.
Want to know more? Search on “Christine Serruya” and be prepared for more information than you could want. For now, please trust that I WRITE MY OWN BOOKS. Slowly, carefully, and with as much quality a I can pour into them. I have more in process now. I best get to it. But first? Coffee.