Plagiarism as a cottage industry …

I picked this one up from the Guardian:

Prolific romantic fiction writer exposed as a plagiarist.

The heist was simple: Laura Harner took the work of  Becky McGraw, a successful writher of heterosexual romantic fiction, and rehashed it (almost word for word!) as a piece of homosexual romance.

The scheme hinged on the Harner’s belief that people who read heterosexual fiction  don’t read homosexual romances. Well, she was wrong: they do – and that’s how she got caught.

Having being rumbled, Ms Harner had this to say:

In transforming two M/F romance stories into an M/M genre, it appears that I may have crossed the line and violated my own code of ethics

Really.

Apparently, Ms Harner has churned out seventy-five books in five years. That’s quite an output, so I’m sure a lot of romance writers are wondering exactly how long she has been violating her own code of ethics.

It’s a sad story – sad and inexcusable – but it did make me think:

Seventy-five books in five years. That’s fifteen books a year.

That’s a lot of books.

Why did she have to write (however she did it) so many? I think this the thing that concerns me  most about self-publishing. To sell in quantities you have to

  1. price your books very low
  2. market yourself like mad (and you’d have to do that even if you went with a traditional publisher)
  3. churn out novels at a hell of a pace

Ms Harner seems to have found herself a shortcut to number 3.  Now, I’m not saying that the industry is the reason for her violating her own code of ethics, but I do wonder if we are selling ourselves short by becoming ‘anything for a £1’ shops. I’ve heard many arguments (and they’re all valid) that this is simply the way of things: there are so many self-publishers out there that pricing yourself above 99c is just pricing yourself out of the market. That may be true, but if that’s the case then we should get used to industrial plagiarism  becoming something of a norm.

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