Here’s an interesting thing about the cutthroat world of self-publishing, esp. in nonfiction: You get a lot of books that are created by … well, fake people.
Back in 2017, when I was getting started as a self-publisher, I was feeling my way forward but loving the work. I published a little book about roses called Rose to the Occasion, which I loved writing. When I was city horticulturist for the St. Joseph Parks and Rec Department, I was in complete charge of a public rose garden with 300 roses that I picked out and took care of, pretty much on my own. Many of the roses were infected with rose rosette disease, which was a new disease for roses, so I had to quickly become an expert on the disease and the best ways to control it. I had other challenges, but I loved that rose garden. Anyway, I wrote the book and released it in January 2017.
Later on in the year, I picked up a lot of free gardening books off Amazon to see how other writer set up their front and back matter, in order to optimize this in my books.
The trouble began I was reading through one such book about roses. “Hey,” I said to myself, “these are the exact same roses that I talk about in my book, and they’re in the exact same order, too!” And these weren’t common roses — they were varieties like Carefree Beauty, Blanc Double de Coubert, that had grown well for me.
I kept reading … and holy crap. I could walk though this book, step by step, and point out what content they wrote directly from my content (and a couple of places where they got it wrong).
Somebody used my book to write theirs. I just felt this cold-water feeling go down my body when I realized that.
I was gobsmacked. I had to go out for a walk after realizing that. For just about the whole walk I was thinking, “That was mine! I did not work with roses in 95 degree heat with 95% relative humidity, sweating my water out as soon as I drank it, to have this happen to me! I didn’t get thorns in my hair and scratches all over my arms from all those dang roses, just to have some goofball sit in air-conditioned comfort and swipe 67% of my book!”
One of the people in the author’s group pointed out that “Nancy Ross’s” picture was actually a stock image that could be found on various photo sites. Crazier and crazier!
Wowsers! So apparently this is a thing where slap-happy internet marketers plagiarize content to “create” their own books. This is, unfortunately, pretty common among gardening books, though you’ll see a lot of this nonsense happening in any genre.
How does this work? Well, the internet marketer writes an outline (or, as in this case, they simply swipe the outline from another book), which they send to a ghostwriter overseas. They will type up a book super-cheap, using the info from that swiped book. Then the internet marketer packages the finished book, releasing it in ebook, paperback, and audiobook, and markets it hither and yon. Boom, they are a garden writer! It’s a hell of a gig.
One of the people in the author’s group said that these guys will post the book as free on the weekends, when there’s less staff, and then after a little time passes, they switch it to paid, in order to sneak the content past Amazon’s plagiarism filters.
Amazon is kind of hit-and-miss on plagiarized books. There have actually been cases when the plagiarist has accused the original author of stealing the book from them, and the original author has had to remove the content! Talk about cutthroat.
This didn’t happen to me — thank goodness. But I do have a billion computer files — a paper trail — that shows that I did create the book. So there is that.
While I was waiting for Amazon to take down the the plagiarized rose book, I discovered that this author had the plagiarized book in a thousand other locations — Kobo, B&N, Google Play, etc. Grr.
But THEN I found a name and a link in the back of one of these books. “Click here for books by Kathleen Hope.” Well! Who is she? So I looked her up on Amazon and “Kathleen Hope” had authored — or I should say “authored” — FIVE MILLION EROTICA NOVELS. There were bare muscley manly chests everywhere! Holy mackerel, what a business!
(Note: “Kathleen Hope” is still selling erotica left and right, guys, so somebody’s still making bank. That sucks.)
At any rate, after I told Amazon, they took down the rose book very quickly. “Nancy Ross” is still selling books, unfortunately, but this particular “person” seems to be delisted, so she won’t show up when you do a search for her. Amazon will do that to plagiarists, at least.
The rose book paperback that they plagiarized is still up on Amazon, though it’s out of stock. My review is still on it! I’ve included it here because I’m just a little bit proud of it.
I’m still selling more rose books than she is. I put that review on every copy of her rose book I could find, even the one on Bok that was all in Swedish or Danish. I figured I’d use her platform to advertise my book, why not.
Anyway, that is my cautionary tale. What a world!!
(Additional note: WordPress stuck this post automatically into the “Melinda has a gripe” category. Y’all are good.)
Oh, yes, buy my rose book. I’m really kind of proud of it, because I crammed all the helpful stuff I could into those pages. You can get it at any of these fine retailers.