Write your own words or don’t write at all!
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system for a few minutes, I want to talk about the latest plagiarism scandal that has rocked the book world and has reached all the way into the reviewers’ realm. They say truth is stranger than fiction. This one is a prime example of such a statement.
I’m honestly not sure I can retell the entire scenario and get it all straight. So I’ll hit the highlights. If I make a mistake, my apologies, and I’ll try to correct ASAP.
Author Rachel Ann Nunes wrote a religious romance novel titled A Bid for Love. Since then, she has published many other books. Recently, she was notified by someone that her book had been stolen and published under another author’s name. She looked into it and found that Author Sam Taylor Mullens had published a book titled The Auction Deal. In it was near verbatim scenes from her own book. A few minor things were changed such as age, hair color, etc, but the rest was the same. Oh, and there were added scenes that were explicit in nature.
Okay, with me so far? Religious romance novel copied and turned into an erotica religious romance novel. Now it gets stranger.
Ms. Nunes is not the first to have found her book copied. Ms. Mullens is not the first to have stolen other people’s works. So, the shocker isn’t there. The shocker is that an author has to find her work stolen and that the thief spins bizarre lies.
Okay, now back to the strange story.
Ms. Nunes contacts Ms. Mullens. The response was that a man several years earlier had given her and a writing group the manuscript and claimed he helped write it. He gave them permission to use it and died soon afterwards. Strange enough, right? We can poke holes in that story all day. Well…..
Then Ms. Nunes asked reviewers who had an ARC to send her a copy to review. Ms. Mullens cancelled the publication of the book and pulled it off the internet. She also requested that all reviewers with an ARC to delete it from their electronic devices. Many did not. They began to investigate further the strange actions of the author.
When approached by a reviewer, Ms. Mullens claimed that she was the niece of Ms. Nunes who had given her aunt the idea of the story in the first place. Ms. Nunes said the book was written when her oldest niece was nine years old. Can you find the problems there?
Oh, and Sam Taylor Mullens is not her real name as she is ashamed of writing erotica and wants to stay hidden. So, you stole someone else’s work to remain hidden?
Then reviewers and followers of Ms. Mullens began to attack Ms. Nunes saying she ought to be happy that someone improved on her work. Another threatened to tell a prominent book figure, who was the reviewer’s aunt, about Ms. Nunes bad behavior. Funny how that prominent figure never heard of the reviewer. What holes are you finding now?
Even stranger is that many of the people attacking Ms. Nunes have the same IP address as the fictional author. Ms. Mullens has been identified as an elementary school teacher. (I will notreveal her real name here.) She has used the names of her students as her aliases that attack Ms. Nunes. The quagmire gets deeper and deeper. Now Ms. Nunes is suing Ms. Mullens and trying to stop the woman from stealing other people’s work.
Since all this, Ms. Mullens’ website, Facebook page, etc, has either disappeared or have gone suddenly quiet. All of her books have been removed from Amazon. Are you thinking what I’m thinking on that one?
A few of the cronies who attacked Ms. Nunes and her supporters have also suddenly vanished or been disabled. What the heck is going on?
What Do We Talk About Now?
Now we could talk about a lot of things here like…
- Why does someone have to plagiarize their work?
- Did they really think they could get away with it?
- Was their other work that has been removed also stolen?
- Was Ms. Nunes right in how she handled it?
- Does Ms. Nunes have recourse?
- What does this do for all other indie authors?
- How does this affect sites such as Amazon?
Discussing these could take months of our time. Maybe we should dive into them all, but let’s step back. One should never steal another person’s work. That’s the heart of this whole issue. That being said, let’s not get too crazy and think every idea is banned from use.
I can read a book and get inspired for my own story. It is not plagiarism if I create my own unique plot, unique characters, and unique words. Yes, I might also have a love triangle in my book but if everything else is different that’s not plagiarism. Yes, I might have a character yell, “Watch out!” just like a character did in the other book, but if the scene and people are nothing alike, it is not plagiarism. After all, a large number of books use that phrase including ourselves in everyday life.
Plagiarism is direct theft of a work or idea. If I wrote a story that was about a human, a vampire, and a werewolf in a love triangle with other vampires after the human, no matter what I changed in it, I’m pretty close to plagiarism. Even if I didn’t use the original manuscript word for word, I’ve stolen an idea another author came up with. If nothing else, I could get tangled in a nasty and expense lawsuit.
But if I wrote a story about a human, a vampire, and a werewolf creating a team to defeat a band of evil vampires, humans, and werewolves with love maybe occurring, I’ve pretty much created my own unique story. I was just inspired by the other. All authors can say they have been inspired by other works. As long as they don’t copy it, they are not plagiarizing.
But when you copy word for word, there is no excuse for the actions. It is not semantics. Adding steamy scenes does not take away from the other scenes that are someone else’s hard labor. Neither does it excuse them when they change a few words here and there. How would you feel after you toiled for months or even years over something to have another claim they did it all? If you take the time to write those explicit scenes, why didn’t you create your own scenes in the rest of the book?
Lesson to Learn
So, lesson learned here? Write your own #$@#%^&&% story!
For Ms. Nunes, shake the dust off your shoes and move on writing more books. If nothing else, your tragedy has made others aware of the issue and will keep an eye open for it happening to others. My heart goes out to you and good luck with your lawsuit.
For the fiction Ms. Mullens, remain anonymous! Might be the only way to save your life and protect what little reputation you have.