What it do Sistah Girls! Even though I hate to dwell on such heaviness post one of the greatest experiences of my literary lifetime (Behind The Pen 2023). There is no way I could let a situation as odious as this fly by unaddressed.
Thanks to acts of deception, greed, and straight-up disrespect, these literary streets have been abuzz with several occurrences of utter lunacy.
I’m talking about everything from astronomical promotional price lists to pandering gone wrong, and even folks weaponizing unclaimed Black cards!
While you can bet your favorite one-click buy that I have extensive thoughts on each of these situations, one of my practices for 2023 is choosing my battles.
Thus today your favorite Midwest Gypsy is suited and booted–No Limit Soldier style–to fight on the battlefield against plagiarism in the book community.
YOU KNOW THE ROUTINE
Take a moment to put the little readers to bed, pour yourself a shot…or four, and let’s talk about the poached elephant in the room.
According to our friends at Webster.com, plagiarizing by definition means “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: use (another’s production) without crediting the source.”
As far as this author/reader is concerned, plagiarism is a disastrous act that negatively impacts all parties involved. And will forever be rated NO-NO-NO!
Since the beginning of our educational careers, teachers have always warned us against using someone else’s work. Be it the last-minute copying of answers for the homework we forgot to do, or straight up having someone else write an essay on our behalf.
Whatever method of completing an assignment we chose, our teachers required that it be birthed from our individual time, our original ideas, and our authentic effort.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t that same perspective apply to the book community as well?
On this side of the HP laptop screen, I am screaming, “H*LL YES!” Yet, based on the shenanigans all over Blue Ivy’s internet as of late, there are apparently some sticky-fingered individuals who believe otherwise. LOOOL
With two opposing sides on this matter, it begs the question: How should the book community move when plagiarism is discovered and proven?
STARTING WITH THE AUDIENCE
To the readers, book content creators, book clubs, editors, and everyone else out there in the Black book community, I have one piece of advice should you come across a plagiarized book. Do like Too Short said and BLOW THE WHISTLE!
If you know, and can prove that a book you have read is plagiarized, here’s how you can do your part:
- Reach out to the original author and share with them what you’ve discovered. This will allow them to decide how they want the issue handled.
- Take down any review, content, etc. you’ve made promoting the plagiarized piece.
- Cease your support of the poaching author and instead offer support for the author who was plagiarized.
I know it’s tough to find out a piece/author you enjoy isn’t legit. There is no popularity pass for plagiarism. At least there should not be.
FOR THE AUTHORS
First things first, I think it is important for us as creatives to understand that a lot of great ideas have been inspired by something else before it. Even the vehicles we drive today are an innovation of that first circle from the Stone Age.
Inspiration, by definition, is “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” I offer this definition with the suggestion that there is nothing wrong with one author being inspired by another.
The offense comes into play when inspiration evolves into imitation (something produced as a copy: counterfeit). Which then can become outright plagiarism.
My fellow authors, it is with love and the Black mama stare-down that I say, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for ensuring that you do not cross the line from appreciation to plagiarism.
In 2023, where Google reigns supreme, we have every way to connect with each other via socials, and book content creators are giving thorough reviews and inspired visuals for their reads. There is no excuse for not knowing when you’re teetering the line.
Or when you’ve outright crossed it, hit publish, and are relishing in the accolades of someone else’s late-night tears, early-morning sprints, and nail-biting editor rewrites.
Authors, here’s how you can do your part:
- Empty your mental pockets before leaving the bookstore: That means checking yourself, sometimes mid-work in progress, to ensure that one dope scene you read from Author XYZ isn’t imitated in your work via subconscious admiration.
- Separate your reader from your author: If you are someone who reads between your works in progress, by all means, do so. However, you should never look at the characters you’re penning and see another author’s MMC or FMC. Again…check yourself.
- (I lovingly say) Be careful with the Trend Pen: Whether it be the latest writing topic, a new trope, pet names, kinks, etc., as artists we try to stay in the know of what’s popular in the book community. Again, that is perfectly fine. The goal, at least when I sit down to write, is to keep my pen true to me. And that should be your goal as well.
TIME’S UP! PENCILS DOWN
I want to encourage the book community to keep doing what you’re doing. When you peep fraudulence, don’t be afraid to speak up and call it out.
As for us authors, we have a responsibility to our audience and ourselves to work with creative integrity.
Back in school, the punishment for plagiarism was getting a zero, a call home, or being removed from the institution. In the professional world, the ante for retribution of one’s intellectual property is a lot higher.
Loss of all respect and credibility aside, you also risk the internet detectives finding out who you are behind the screen and waiting to cash you outside.
Matter of fact, just about the only thing you can gain from stealing someone’s work is a nice lawsuit with your name on it. And that’s word to Cardi B.
Alright Sistah Girls, I’ve shaken the table enough. Time for me to go back into my bubble to finish my own WIP. Until next time, remember: “One writes out of one thing only–one’s own experience.” -James Baldwin (May he rest in power🙏🏾).
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