What I learned about contracts, plagiarism, and gaming the system this week

Every once in a while, I look back and realize how far authors have come in relation to sharing our works with the world. Not just progress, but meaningful changes in the publishing industry. That’s the moment I am having this morning as I sip coffee – my second cup at 10 am.

If you’ve been reading my post, you might have noticed my focus on goals and developing a business plan that is sustainable and measurable. That’s no coincidence since I’ve made writing full time a goal for 2020.

Despite positive changes like indie publishing, control over price, whether to ditch the agent, or flexibility when negotiating contracts etc. that make reaching readers easier, I find myself bitching about obstacles writers continue to face.

Then there are intentional pits that set hard working authors back – rights grab from publishers – Publishing contract red flag: when a publisher claims copyright on edits, posted by Victoria Strauss on Writers Beware and the latest scandal of plagiarism- Cristiane Serruya is a copyright infringer, a plagiarist, and an idiot by Courtney Milan.

So, as I start my day, I thanked the stars for authors like Kristine Kathryn Ruschwho continually shines a spotlights on the industry and keep authors in the know. Organisations like RWA lets romance writers’ network and share information. I’m grateful to readers for appreciating what we do and reading what we dish out.

The hard work and struggles of authors are nothing new. Different time, different struggle, that’s all.

This last week’s scandal re-enforced the need to be vigilant and the importance of keeping the business of writing top of mind.

Some take-aways from this week:

  1. If you must outsource your fiction, know what’s in the novel before putting your name on the darn thing. Ultimately, it is your responsibility as the author.


  1. Build and awesome network with readers and other writers – we are each other’s eyes and ears to breaches and changes.

antique blank book, camera and glasses

  1. Put it in writing. When in doubt, be your own advocate, put it in the contract (all exerts or material provided to freelancer are the author’s own and vice versa). Cristiane Serruya’s first act was to blame the ghost writer/s she hired.


  1. Use common sense. This is especially uncommon when working with friends and family. I think a great deal of reluctance to have a formal agreement/contract stems from fear. Fear that the “favour” will be retracted. Fear that it will look as though you don’t trust that person. But what if you’ve published that children’s book, it was an amazing collaboration, everyone is happy. One year later, that awesome cousin/bestie is mad at you and says no permission was given to publish their art. How do you prove you had permission? That rights were given to publish?


  1. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Some readers prefer books to be written by the author, some don’t, so if that author is publishing 2 full length novels or more a month, consider they might either be collaborating or hired a ghost writer.


  1. Sell on multiple outlets. These people are perfect examples of those who capitalize on someone else’s hard work. They don’t care about the craft or the reader. They manipulate Amazon’s algorithms, making it harder for most authors to make a living or get exposure. As I write this post, Amazon loves new books, and high sales. The more you churn out, the more books you are likely to sell, keeping you at the top of Amazon’s list. If you’re high enough, Amazon notices and helps you sell books. (advertising on key pages and high traffic pages etc.)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind learning how to and making money from Amazon, my problem is in plagiarizing someone else’s hard work to do so.

As authors, we want a career that lasts and I believe that is built on trust between author and reader.

2 thoughts on “What I learned about contracts, plagiarism, and gaming the system this week

  1. Excellent post.

    We live in a great time. There are so many ways to network and gather information. But sometimes it’s to much. That’s where people like Kristine Kathryn come in handy.

    It’s an interesting path we have chosen. It’s exciting and at times a little dangerous. We need to keep our head up and our eyes focus.

    Thank you for this. It’s a perfect reminder.


    1. I agree! Information overload is real especially in publishing where there’s constant change. Networking definitely gives us the ability to pass info along. Thanks Bryan


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