First, let me say there is no defense for plagiarism. It doesn’t just happen. You don’t accidentally take someone’s story and change the names and pronouns, switch a few sentences around, and then say, “Oops! Did I do that?” I’m pretty damn sure my laptop doesn’t have a F key for that.
No. All you can expect to hear are excuses, or what some might hope are reasons. When you say reasons, it makes it sound as if they are valid. Reasons are just excuses disguised in fake rational. There is only one basic reason to plagiarize someone’s work, and that’s to make money. And like so many bad things, money is usually the cause, or the reason. Lack of. Need for. I wish we all had great sales, then maybe such crimes wouldn’t exist. And in a tightening market, does it really surprise us that someone would do this?
What is the real answer? Why would someone do this? Why risk your good name, your reputation as a writer, the only thing we really have, to make some money? Hundreds? Thousands? Is any amount worth damaging your reputation? Destroying your career?
I can’t understand it. I couldn’t understand it, when in my corporate job, we were asked every year to sign a document saying we’d never taken bribes, or received gifts from companies, like Christmas hams or tickets to football games. Or failed to report them if we were offered them.
I thought, who would risk a steady job, good pay, and the respect of their co-workers for seats on the 50 yard line? I sure as hell wouldn’t. I figured it’d be my luck to get caught on the JumboTron, with that ham in my lap. I needed my salary, my health benefits, my friends’ respect. But someone must have, since there is this document. Someone, somewhere, broke the rules, and now we all had to stand up and say, “Not me.”
And fuck, it’s this. This is why it hurts other authors. Why it taints all of us, even if you didn’t co-write a book with her or even know her. Because on Facebook, I’ve witnessed a rash of authors stating, “Not me.” Of writers “signing” the document. It’s the horrible need that those of us who didn’t take the easy way out, who struggle every day to create characters and stories, must now assure everyone we know that we didn’t cheat.
Of distancing ourselves, and our reputations, from the offender. Of taking that big step back and leaving that person standing alone, like the old comedy routine of the reluctant volunteer.
Only no one stepped back. This person stepped forward, out of the line. Intentionally. Made a choice as she sat in front of her computer to step over the line, no matter what her “reasons”.
Now, I see posts about readers who have doubts about all of this person’s books. Of returning them. Asking for their money back. Of deleting them.
And I wonder if my readers are doubting me. Doubting others. Doubting all of us authors. And that hurts me. It hurts all of us.
It sucks the big one.
But as much as I hate this, I understand how they feel, because they’ve been betrayed. Cheated. Insulted.
I have a copy of the Deuce book. It’s the only book by her I own. I think it cost me a few bucks. Do I want my money back? No. Not worth the email, for me.
I think, instead, I’ll keep it, right there on my Kindle. To remind me, every time I scroll past it, that there are some things more precious to me than a few bucks.
Like my reputation.