As someone who reads a lot and hopes to be a published writer someday, I have a lot of respect for anyone who can do it successfully. What I don’t respect is plagiarism. That’s not writing. That’s stealing.
Many people claim that it is the lazy way out, but I don’t think it is lazy at all. I think that it has to be hard as hell to plagiarize things. First, you have to have an idea of what you want your book to be about. Next, you have to find a book that you like and that is somewhat successful (but not too successful, since you don’t want to get caught). Last, you have to make some necessary changes to the story–character/town names, move some words around so it doesn’t sound too familiar, maybe even the gender of the characters. That’s exactly what Laura Harner did in at least two of her books. Harner, of course, screwed up the second step. She got caught–twice. Jenny Trout brought Harner’s deception to light earlier this week.
The first book that Harner is accused of plagiarizing is Becky McGraw’s My Kind of Trouble, a straight romance about a woman getting back together with her first love 10 years after leaving him behind. Not only did she take the book and call it her own, she also lifted the cover copy, which is nearly identical to the cover copy for the McGraw book.
The very next day, Trout posted about another book that Harner plagiarized: Riding Steele by Opal Carrew. This was also an M/F that Harner turned into an M/M called Deuce Coop (I wonder if he was a Little Deuce Coop). According to Jezebel, a total of 10 books have been pulled from Harner’s catalogue and are no longer being offered, causing many to wonder if they were all plagiarized too. One of the first things that Ms. Trout noticed is that Harner has allegedly written 15 books a year since 2010, which is more than a book a month. Unless, they’re all 50 pages or less, I find it hard to believe that anyone could legitimately write, edit, and revise that many books in that amount of time.
This all makes me wonder why. Why would someone want to plagiarize? I remember the first time I heard that term. It was in my junior year English class and one of the other girls submitted a paper without citing or even placing quotes around anything. My teacher at the time, Mr. Marcus, explained to her that what she did, knowingly or not, was plagiarism and could get her into a lot of trouble. Over the years, I’ve been exposed to the idea of plagiarism over and over again, especially when I was in college. One professor even spoke about having students plagiarize her notes on one of her tests. I don’t think I ever considered that it could be a real world problem until the whole Cassie-gate thing back in 2008. I was too young and not at all into reading when Janet Dailey plagiarized Nora Roberts and I even read one of her books before finding out about it. Maybe I just figured that it was too petty for adults to do it, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that adults can be just as petty as teenagers and college students. Hell, I had to stop my aunt from keying someone’s car because he took her parking space. Apparently, that was the Brooklyn thing to do.
People are hedonistic. We’re hardwired to do the thing that will bring us the most pleasure for the least amount of consequences. If we think the risk is less than the reward we’ll get if we do what we want, chances are we’re going to do it. That’s just human nature. I like to think that most of us would choose to do the right thing and usually we do. With plagiarism, there isn’t that much risk. There’s very little consequence involved, unless copywrite has been violated and even then noting much happens. Janet Dailey and Cassie Edwards still have books out there, so they’re both receiving royalties when they didn’t do the actual work. Personally, I think that plagiarism is worse than any other kind of theft. It is thought theft. A plagiarist is literally taking someone else’s thoughts, manipulating them, and calling them their own. That’s wrong, but right now there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.