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So, We’ve GOTTA Talk About This Plagiarism Thing

Don’t know about you, but I’m still having trouble picking my jaw up off the floor.

Nothing could be weirder than #CockyGate, but #CopyPasteCris is a close second for the sheer bonkers chutzpah that seems to be involved.

In case you spent the last few days under a rock, here’s the deal:

On Monday, Courtney Milan, tipped off by a loyal reader who recognized passages stolen from Milan, published a stunning blog post showing a long series of nearly identical side-by-side text from Milan’s (awesome, fabulous, beautiful, and MUCH-BELOVEDTHE DUCHESS WAR and ROYAL LOVE, published by a Brazilian USA Today best-seller named Cristiane Serruya.

This screenshot shows just one sample of the verbatim borrowing:

Before long, Tessa Dare and others went into detective mode, uncovering a crazy quilt of passages in multiple books by Serruya, drawn from a host of bestselling authors ranging from Loretta Chase to Bella Andre to Nora Roberts. At last count (updated Feb 25), passages from at least 34 different authors have been identified, plus passages ripped off from three online articles, a Wattpad story, TWO RECIPES (seriously…recipes), and three websites, including a Wikipedia article on landscaping design (thanks to @CaffeinatedFae for keeping track, and for providing purchase links for the writers who were victimized, so we can all go support them by buying their books!!). 

Serruya quickly caught wind of the Twitter storm—“I just wake up to this”!—and tried to blame the whole thing on “a ghostwriter on Fiverr.” She tweeted, “I would have never, ever, done this. I am in this writing for a few years now and I am also a lawyer.”

She promised, “I am taking down all the work I did with a ghostwriter”–and proceeded to delete the digital versions of all but one of her romances, plus her Twitter account, her website, her Instagram, her BookBub account, and her Facebook page.

As of today, you can still buy one NOOK Book format erotic romance in both Italian and Serruya’s native language of Portuguese, plus, oddly enough, a philosophy book she claims to have written at age 18, which was Awarded with Honors by the Law School, PUC RJ.”  (Uh…Law School faculty, you might want to go over that little piece of writing one more time).

Holy crap, folks. 

The story even made the L.A. Times  and The Guardian.

Since the story first broke, the plot has, of course, thickened, and none of it looks good for Serruya.

Apparently, three ghostwriters so far have reached out to Courtney Milan, all reporting that Serruya sent them a hodgepodge of fragmented scenes to shape into a complete book. One who identified herself as Bee commented on Milan’s blog that Serruya contacted her directly, not via Fiverr, then sent her “a number of mishmashed scenes that needed ‘expanding’, as she said.”

This was the case for two novels, and the weird patchwork nature of the so-called ‘manuscript’ makes Bee now think “it’s very possible those were plagiarized scenes that she was hoping a ghostwriter would change enough to make unrecognizable.” Come payment time, Serruya stiffed her, citing “a sob story about her daughter being sick.”

[UPDATE on Feb 23: Lucas Mota, a Brazilian author who’s been digging into the case, just posted an article in which says he received a message via Facebook from a unnamed ghostwriter whose situation sounds like Bee’s–i.e., worked with Serruya on two books, and was ultimately not paid. This ghostwriter reportedly told Mota, “I had no idea that these scenes were plagiarized at the time, but now that I look at my files I see that they were.” More from the Lucas Mota article below…]

ROYAL LOVE’s editor also made a statement on Milan’s blog that the manuscript she received was “a mess. I was told that it needed a fast turn-around because the last editor had messed it up. It was one of my first paid editing gigs. I was excited. I edited 120,000 words in a twenty-hour period,” which obviously left her little time to question why the text was so disjointed. (She later looked at the sample pages for the published book, and discovered Serruya had rejected most of her edits.)

Further detective work even found that Serruya REPEATED FULL SENTENCES in more than one of her OWN books (does that count as plagiarizing herself? Probably not…the original is from Kresley Cole’s IF YOU DESIRE):

Others pointed out the irony of Serruya being identified on Goodreads as “Author of Trust” (the title of a trilogy she published) and that her readers’ group were “The TRUSTers” (one of whom, apparently, was an uncredited and no doubt unwitting Joe Manganiello): 

And then there was the jaw-dropping self-dedication to her book PERILOUS LOVE (stay for the comment by @Elia Winters):

 

When some on Twitter started to wonder if Cristiane Serruya might be a manufactured front for a scam farm, eagle-eyed Delaney Williams (@AuthorDelaneyW on Twitter) tracked down an August 2018 NYT interview which includes a photo of Serruya at her writing desk–she does appear to be an actual human, at least, though I’m still waiting to hear from someone who’s met her in person–and pointed out what look to be copies of several of the plagiarized books on a shelf RIGHT ABOVE SERRUYA’S COMPUTER, tucked in with her craft books.

Meanwhile, RWA has pulled Serruya’s book from RITA contention, and re-assigned any RITA entries she’d been given to judge. 

And Nora Roberts herself has made a pledge on Courtney Milan’s blog: “Apparently, at least two of my books were plagiarized by this person. Having dealt with this before, I won’t play nice. First, I’ll speak to my agent this morning and engage a lawyer. I strongly recommend you, Courtney, and anyone else she stole from do the same. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty, but we have to stand up for our work. In this case, you aren’t alone.” 

(Update: Nora has put up a blog post about both the experience with Janet Dailey and this one, and…OMG, it will break your heart and steel your spine all at the same time. What a human being!)

So, wow.

The implications of this fiasco are…just so many. 

To begin with, I highly recommend checking out a smart (and alarming) blog post by Kilby Blades. Blades, an award-winning romance writer and editor, reports that her editor profile on a freelance writing site regularly draws unsolicited invites to ghostwrite romance novels. She says the sheer frequency of these invites, which dangle a few thousand dollars to write novels to be published under someone else’s name, suggests a definite pattern: “Many of those who post such jobs advertise that they’re looking for long-term ghostwriters—people to crank out a novel every 3-4 weeks and relinquish all rights. But who would need so many romance novels so frequently? And who would pay a lot more than most run-of-the-mill authors make on a single book? Someone who’s making A LOT of money.”

And there’s this tweet from Lee Williams:

So….aaaaaagh. Apparently this is a thing. A rather BIG thing.

Some so-called “authors” are paying ghostwriters to produce content, while the rest of us are working our butts off, sweating tears, doing what Courtney Milan rightly refers to as “heart work.” 

Kilby Blades points out that the unethical folks pumping out books via ghostwriters are gaming the Amazon rankings, as the steady output keeps them at the top of the algorithmic heap, throwing writers who take the time needed to DO THEIR OWN DAMN WRITING into the shade. As Blades says, “plagiarism and ghostwriting are two sides of the same coin. Both of them lie about who’s done the writing.”

Can I  just say aaaaaaaagh a few more times?

Aaaaaaaaaagh. Aaaaaaaaaagh. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH.

Okay, friends…we’ve all had a few days to wrestle with this scandal. Sound off!! Where are your thoughts right now?

 

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UPDATE FEB 23:

The Lucas Mota article that just came out this morning has some rather mind-blowing new info I need to include here. 

He really did his homework, and uncovered some important details (read the whole article to see it all).

One thing he did was dig into those 240 reviews on ROYAL LOVE which smelled fishy to many of us. He tracked down the website Fakespot, which helps evaluate the validity of online reviews, using a rating scale from A (highly reliable) to F (“unreliable,” presumably mostly click farms). No surprises in what he found:

 

Even more remarkable, HE ACTUALLY GOT A MESSAGE THROUGH TO CRISTIANE SERRUYA, asking her to grant an interview via email, and SHE APPARENTLY ANSWERED. 

Go read the whole thing yourself, but here are a few highlights from the responses Mota posted:

-“I never plagiarized anybody. I’m a lawyer and know that plagiarism is a crime. I woke up on February 19th with my name being attacked without me knowing what it was about.”

-About her first attempts to reply on social media: “I posted in my FB fan group and on Twitter, but after an angry crowd began to misrepresent all my words, and virtually lynch me, inventing crazy things about myself and facts that never happened, I decided to take off all my profiles, do not read any more messages, or do anything else, until an official representative contacts me. Social media is not the place to deal with this type of application, or any other of this seriousness.”

-“I’ve never earned any penny with any book in all these years. I’m still at a loss. By the middle of last year, 30% of my royalties were withheld at the source for the IRS and I still paid a further 15% to the brazilian IRS. The expenses for publishing a book are huge —” [And she goes on to list all sorts of expenses, but doesn’t mention ghostwriters.]

-She claims to write her own books, but mentions that, “Unfortunately, I listened to the advice of some mentors that the ideal was to publish at least one book a month, and have many books published. I cannot. . . . I have many ideas, so many that I can’t handle, and the ghostwriters were just to help me in some parts/scenes, never to write the whole book. I often write with ice on my hands to ease the pain. Even so, I can only publish a book every 3 months on average.

-and finally: “To conclude, I would like to say that the stupidity of copying the words of several super bestsellers is so great that by itself should already be some kind of evidence that it was not me. I do not even know how people think that I, who write under my real name, have lived in the same address for more than 20 years, and am a lawyer, would do that.

When Mota asked a follow-up question about how exactly she could have been deceived by ghostwriters, “She only told me she could not answer anymore for lack of time.” 

 

49 responses to “So, We’ve GOTTA Talk About This Plagiarism Thing”

  1. Darynda Jones says:

    I’m right there with you. Aaaaaaaaaaagh!!! This is such BS. As of this writing, #copypastecris STILL has books up on Amazon. WTH? But OMG that dedication. TO HERSELF! I can’t. I just can’t.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Yeah….that dedication. OMG.

      As for the books still up for sale, someone on Twitter said something about it being harder to get paperbacks taken down, and the royalty-sharing agreements on audiobooks can make that harder, too. So it may just take awhile.

      Like I said, she’s still got two NOOK books up for sale, but not the English language version. I wonder if she actually did write the Portuguese edition herself.

      But no matter what, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!!

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  2. Elisa Beatty says:

    I have to add this: when Courtney Milan first broke the news that this was going on, ROYAL LOVE was still up for full sale, and had 240 reviews, mostly positive. (Which….I don’t even know what to say about that.)

    Assuming the reviews were genuine (which I realize is a perilous assumption to make), some of it was painfully ironic:

    “although well written, I felt it was missing something… but I’m not sure what it is missing…” [UM…a coherent plot of its own? A heart? A soul????]

    “Recommended to those who like intelligent romance with an original plot, and characters with depth and personality.” [Not even going to touch that one.]

    “The writing is effortless and flowed easily.”

    Oh, I bet it was effortless.

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  3. “The writing is effortless and flowed easily.”

    Diarrhea is effortless and flows easily, but I wouldn’t want it around the house!

    This is so infuriating on so many levels.I am so sick and tired of lazy, evil, talentless, worthless people trying to hone in on an art, a calling, that takes hours upon hours of hard work, self doubt, back-breaking hours at a desk, and the baring of one’s heart and soul.

    I had a piano professor who explained the difference between a young Russian pianist who played all of the notes of Rachmaninoff with deadly speed and accuracy and an Austrian pianist who played the same piece with passion and feeling and every ounce of his being, though the notes were not always absolutely perfectly executed. He said “One is having sex with some girl who has paid him for a service which he performs in a no-tell motel on the bad side of town. The other is making love to the woman he loves in a beautiful mountain chalet with candlelight, music, snowfall, and a roaring fire. Physically they both achieve the same goal. Spiritually, is another matter entirely.”

    I am going to call these ghost writers, bot farm writers, and people scamming the system what they are. WHORES! Someone who goes through the motions with no heart or soul or personal involvement who produces a facsimile of a result for money. And I am sick of it. I am sick of readers falling for it because the books are cheap. I am sick of it because these supposed writers are lying, cheating, and stealing to take money away from real writers.

    And unfortunately to keep up we have all had to try and keep up with the pump out content as fast as possible and price it as low as possible or risk not being read mentality, or we risk not getting exposure. I don’t know what the solution is, but it pisses me off. I hope all of the authors plagiarized take this so-called author to the cleaners. And I hope one day Amazon figures out a way to vet real reviews and even more important, vet real authors. I am not holding my breath. Amazon is the biggest whore of all.

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    • I think there is a real need for ghostwriters, especially for true stories with people who are not writers. But fiction, especially romance, it’s hard to imagine “why” someone would need a ghostwriter, a writing coach but not a gw. Romance is about passion and emotion, not a formula. Most of us have struggled for years to get noticed. This fiasco is a slap to readers and writers who love the genre.

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  4. Addison Fox says:

    Oh I have ALL the feels on this one and my thoughts are still a roiling heap, but three things stick out to me every which way I look at this.

    1 – This is theft. It’s theft of another’s work and it’s theft of reader’s money.

    2 – I’ve been a bit annoyed by the outshoot of this online which has been discussion of writer speed/books produced a year and resulting quality of either method. Are we STILL going over and over that? See #1 for what this issue is really about.

    3 – I realize Amazon is a platform and we all enter there at our own discretion, but at this point it’s hard to look at them as not being somewhat complicit in what is happening in the community. The page stuffing and the algorithm cheating and the offshoots of these practices which, again, see #1

    I’m also just sad about the whole thing. We’re here wrapping up the Winter Writing Festival and I see how hard people are working on their craft. The conversations in the chat room and the excited posts each week during the check ins. I know how hard I work on my craft. The effort I put into my writing and the continued hope I have of finding and connecting with readers. With MY work.

    I refuse to believe that it is wasted effort. When this story first broke I was feeling rather down and discouraged, but as I’ve processed it I realized that it’s just another example of (and Louisa put it quite eloquently) whores trying to take advantage of a moment. I want a passionate, vibrate, wildly wonderful career. Of my own making.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Yes, Addison…the big takeaway is THEFT. (And fraud.)

      I hate to see her, and quite a few folks on Twitter, blaming the ghostwriters.

      In this case, it seems fairly clear that the plagiarism didn’t originate with the ghostwriters.

      And if big name authors are using ghostwriters and NOT ACKNOWLEDGING THAT FACT PUBLICLY, the blame still goes to the big name authors (who, not coincidentally, are the ones making the big profits).

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      • Addison Fox says:

        Elisa

        I so agree. The “whore” I was referring to was gaming the system with plagiarism.

        There’s a wonderful and very legitimate market for ghostwriting – and has been forever – and I applaud opportunities to find additional ways to write and make a living at writing. I totally agree, because of the way this story has unfolded, hard working writers have now been painted with this issue and shouldn’t be.

        The real issue is theft. Theft of another author’s work via plagiarism and attempting to pass it off as your own.

        Addison

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  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    Since my first day in this industry, I’ve known I don’t write quickly enough to compete. If pace of production is the success metric, I’ve barely started the race! But I know writers who write quickly, and well. I know writers who write quickly, and…maybe not quite as well, not yet, but they’re getting better with each book. I know writers who are just starting their first manuscript.

    One thing we all have in common? WE WRITE OUR OWN DAMN BOOKS.

    WRITERS WRITE. We care about craft. Scammers and book stuffers and plagiarists…don’t. They’re not writers, they’re grifters. They’re motivated by money, by greed, exploiting Amazon’s algorithms to make a fast buck. But unfortunately, they’re ripping off readers and damaging indie publishing while they do it.

    If a system or algorithm is exploitable, unscrupulous people will do so – but in exploiting Amazon’s algorithm, these grifters are flooding the market with cheap crap, creating an environment where even authors who release frequently find it difficult, if not impossible, to compete. This leaves a lot of us trying to compete on price, which has created its own set of problems.

    While it’s always been a challenge making one’s living as an artist – doing, as Courtney M. so aptly calls ‘heart work’ – having grifters flooding the market with crap has real-world consequences for writers. How many published authors do you know who’ve gone back to day jobs within the last couple of years because they can no longer make even a modest living writing? How many writers do you know who work so many hours per day, trying to maximize word count, that they’ve developed physical problems? How many writers do you know who might be thinking, “If I can’t beat them, maybe…I should join them?” How many writers do you know who’ve quit altogether? How many stories haven’t been written? How many never will?

    I think Amazon’s perverse incentive system is doing lasting damage to our industry, and I don’t know what the solution is. But I think suing Cristiane Serruya’s ass off is a righteous start.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Yes…Amazon’s model effectively encourages plagiarism like this, and gives the whole romance writing community a black eye.

      Search engines that detect plagiarism already exist. Amazon could run checks of new material against material they’ve already published. That would stamp out this particular type of scam in a hurry.

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  6. Paula Huffman says:

    This is both infuriating and tragic. If I were a published author, I’d spend my day copying and pasting my work into google or some more effective format to see if my words had been stolen as well. I hope this is an isolated incident…. but it may be only the tip of a mountain.

    Sorry I haven’t been active in WWF this year. It’s been a tough couple of months at work and I’ve had to focus on the day job, but I’ll be back! Love you, Rubies! Thanks for all you do for this community!

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    • I almost feel like we need some kind of massive non-plagiarism database – like isn’t there a way for teachers & college professors to check for plagiarized papers? I dunno.

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      • Vivi, such plagiarism detection services exist. I just finished a post-baccalaureate credential at Arizona State University, and my papers were put through a service called Turn It In. It highlights same/similar passages. Truly amazing!

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        • But is it only for non-fiction/academic papers?

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          • Elisa Beatty says:

            TurnItIn checks the whole internet, as well as its in-house database of other papers that students have been made to submit to the service (we use it at my school, and require it for major essays). But it’s for academic institutions, not open to the general public. (Part of the reason for that is that if it WERE open to the general public, students could run their stolen papers through it to see if they get flagged BEFORE they turn the work in.) Unfortunately, it still doesn’t catch everything, but it at least puts some fear into would-be plagiarists.

            Apparently, there are other online plagiarism search engines that are available to the general public. Copyscape is one, and Grammarly apparently offers another. Don’t know if you have to pay or not…haven’t tried them.

            But, YEAH, Amazon really ought to be capable of at least comparing digital text submitted to them for publication to other digital text they already have for sale.

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        • Jennifer Bray-weber says:

          I wish this was a service provided to our community. Who knows if any of us have been plagiarized?

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  7. I can’t even wrap my head around this. It just so wrong. On so many levels. It’s so disheartening to be struggling to make a living in this industry, to have to make sacrifices in your life for financial reasons because you are dedicated to the pursuit of your dream, and then to see someone else who is successful for such awful, unethical reasons. I respect the authors who have achieved greater success than I have through honest means, I admire them and work harder to try to get there too, but this just feels like a hit to the solar plexus. I can only imagine how it must feel for the incredible authors who had their hard work stolen. What a nightmare. I write fast. I think I write well. And I am still hanging on by my fingernails, but this woman… Ugh. I can’t.

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  8. Rita Henuber says:

    Theft is THEFT, IS THEFT. No amount of justification changes it. Can’t lie your way out. I’ve seen so much posted and really haven’t spent that much time looking. I think we will have more revelations. Who ever this person is they picked the wrong people to mess with. I hate this discourages new and established, talented authors. For those saying “If you want to be successful you have to do it” YOU are part of the problem. I need to stop now. Blood pressure rising. Thanks for posting this Elisa.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Thanks for sharing that, Rita!!

      It made me cry. I remember those message boards way back then, and how warm and kind and supportive and straighforwardly approachable Nora was. The idea that she was going through this unbelievable crap at the time just breaks my heart.

      I’ve added an update to the main post.

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  9. Legitimate ghost writers – those who write books for non-writers telling THEIR personal stories – are usually skilled writers with the ability to work with another person to tell that person’s story in the best way possible. I have nothing but admiration for them. But if you are a fiction writer you need to write your own books. Period. Even if that means you don’t crank out 20 books a year. A fiction writer hiring a ghost writer to write books for them in order to keep their production up is nothing but a pimp – getting someone else to provide a service and taking most of the money. I don’t read books my big-time authors who put their names on books written by someone else. When this business becomes solely about making money and NOT about storytelling and making art I am not interested in reading the result.

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  10. Heather McCollum says:

    Thanks for the post, Elisa. I hadn’t heard all the details, so this was incredibly helpful.
    I don’t know how anyone can do this either, but then again I stopped the grocery bagger from putting my steak in the bag because I didn’t think the checker person had rung it up (she missed it). Plus, doesn’t it take time to read and pull stuff out of books to use? I guess not as much time as it takes to create fabulous books! I just hardly have time to read so the idea of trying to figure out how to do something criminal without getting caught is so far from my brain it might as well be circling a distant star. So yeah – hard for me to wrap my head around how someone can steal and still sleep at night, going so far as to thanking themselves in the dedication because they work so hard. Could she really be that narcissistic? Sounds like a fabulous villain.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Assuming she really is an actual person (and I think she probably is…I did check out her husband Raphael Serruya’s Facebook page when the story first broke, and there are quite a few candid picture of her there that look like the woman shown on her webpage/Twitter and the NYT interview…)

      I do suspect she’s a narcissist.

      That crazy self-dedication (“I deserve”) is case in point.

      I mean, it DID take a lot of effort to read through all those books and chose passages that kind of fit what she wanted and put them in order…and given that she was apparently working from hard copies, she did probably type a lot.

      SHE PROBABLY REALLY FEELS LIKE SHE WORKED HARD FOR THIS CAREER. And can’t understand why the work done by the authors who did the original writing negate her finger-breaking effort BECAUSE NARCISSISTS DON’T REALLY SEE OTHER PEOPLE AS MATTERING IN ANY WAY.

      Oh, yes…great villain fodder for us all!!!

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      • Elisa Beatty says:

        I just posted this over on Facebook, but I’ll say it here, too:

        As a teacher, I battle the Plagiarism Monster all the time. And I’m all too familiar with the Franken-paper (what’s called “mosaic” plagiarism, in which the plagiarist steals bits and pieces from different sources and cobbles them together into a seeming whole). What stands out for me is how often students caught doing mosaic plagiarism seems SHOCKED that it’s wrong. “BUT I SPENT HOURS AND HOURS ON THAT! I WORKED SO HARD!” they plead.

        So I’m not at all surprised that #CopyPasteCris has said so much publicly about how hard she’s worked on her books. She may truly believe it.

        Probably takes a lot of effort to pull off a bank heist, too.

        Still theft.

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      • Rita Henuber says:

        Until someone comes forward and says they’ve met them in person I don’t think she or her ‘husband’ are real. As you’ve said it takes work to go through dozens of books and copy and paste. I think this is a scam that involves many people.

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        • Elisa Beatty says:

          LOL, Rita…you and are both highly suspicious, just of different things.

          I want to psychologize it, you’re looking for dark conspiracies.

          Her Amazon page described her thusly: “Cris is a writer, a lawyer, a reader; a woman, a mother, and a wife. Not necessarily in this order. Or in any order…” SO maybe you’re exactly right in your suspicion, and “they” (in classic super-villain fashion) couldn’t resist giving us a clue.

          I really do hope we get some definitive answers soon as to the question of her existence.

          Anybody know her? Bueller?

          In any case, if she does exist, and is who she says she is, there’s obviously a huge difference between her and my students: she’s a grown-up and a LAWYER, and she must have understood she was doing wrong.

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  11. Elise Hayes says:

    Hi Elisa,

    Thank you so much for pulling together the details of what happened. It’s … well “unbelievable” doesn’t begin to cover it.

    I teach about plagiarism, and I’m familiar with TurnItIn. I don’t love that service for academic work because it doesn’t distinguish between what’s quoted and what’s plagiarized (it just recognizes that the words are duplicated in another text and doesn’t account for the fact that there are quotation marks and a citation next to it).

    That said, it would be great to have a service like that for fiction where *we don’t quote other works* because that’s not what happens in original fiction.

    Thanks for the discussion!

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Supposedly Copyscape and Grammarly can do this…I haven’t checked them out myself.

      But, yes, as a teacher, I see the limits of TurnItIn. When text is flagged, I’ve learned to do a quick check at the source and see if they’re just quoting the same lines from Paradise Lost as someone else, and usually it’s clear it’s just coincidence and there was no plagiarism. (Though sometimes a pattern of using EXACTLY the same quotes, in the same order, is a sign that I need to look closer…they may be borrowing directly and just have changed wording in what’s not quotes.)

      I think this #CopyPasteCris scandal will have more authors regularly running key lines through Google, at the very least, to catch more thieves.

      Again, I think Amazon needs to be pressured to run text submitted for “new” books for sale against a database of text they already have listed for sale. That would catch a lot, and I can’t imagine the technology would be particularly difficult to set up.

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      • Elisa Beatty says:

        One thing TurnItIn does really well that some people may not know about is that it will flag multiple plagiarized sources for any given document, in order of how heavy the plagiarism is. And when you click on the flags, it takes you to the source text, with the borrowed language highlighted. So one run through the system could potentially uncover lots of sources, no matter how small the borrowing was from any single source.

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  12. Gwyn says:

    A while ago, I took a sample ‘class’ on boosting my writing. That guy, whose name I’ve forgotten, I’m sorry to say, was TEACHING how to do this–game the system using ghosts–while going on about the money he made sitting around or playing with his kids. I was appalled and said so, only to be told he was doing nothing illegal, and he was sorry I wouldn’t be paying to take his class. (Yeah. I’ll just bet he was. One less person to scam for a couple hundred dollars.)

    Anyway,as disgusting as this is, I was unsurprised by the ghostwriting part. The plagiarism part? A little–churning out novels by the gross requires a never-ending source of readily mined material. The carelessness of the plagiarism? That surprised me.

    Amazon’s current algorithms are ripe for abuse by the less-than-ethical, but the blatancy defies logic. It just goes to show how comfortable these supposed “authors”—Grrrr—are gaming the system. And I’m willing to bet that the guy who wanted to teach me the ropes of his money-making technique isn’t riding the wave alone.

    We were all so excited when self-publishing became viable, but sometimes, I sure do miss the vigilance of the old gatekeepers. *sigh*

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      It’s just so revolting that people not only do this, but teach others how to do it.

      “Everybody’s doing it” is one of the oldest, ugliest excuses in the world.

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  13. Elizabeth Langston says:

    Does anyone know how these marketers/ book-packagers/ not-authors copyright the books that ghostwriters write? Don’t they have to copyright under the name of the person who actually wrote it? I don’t understand how this is legal.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Great point.

      Do they even bother to copyright?

      Would be interesting to do some digging and see what names (if any) have been filed with the copyright office.

      Wouldn’t be surprised if plenty of laws were violated.

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  14. Sometimes because of all the evil wrong-doers out there, I feel like why try. Why put my work out there to be stolen. And I’m sure it is, somewhere, and I’ll never know because my fan base is not huge like Courtney’s or Nora’s.

    I’m sadden and angry, hearing that women we admire have been targeted, again.

    Thank you for taking the time to post this, Elisa. I know it took you hours you don’t have.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Plagiarism just boils my blood.

      Like I said, as a teacher, it’s been a bane for me at work for years.

      I always tell my students, “I’m super easy-going about almost everything. If you can’t get a paper done on time, just be honest with me. I understand how busy everybody is, I understand that emergencies happen in your personal life, I understand that essays can be really hard to write, and I’m always here to sit down and work with you if you need help with an assignment. But if you choose the plagiarism short-cut and I catch you, I will show no mercy.”

      I also have to tell my seniors that if I’ve written them a letter of recommendation for college and then catch them cheating, that I feel honor bound to write the college again and tell them I have to withdraw my letter, and why. Thank God I’ve never had to actually do that. But I truly feel that if I didn’t, I couldn’t feel like I was writing letters with integrity and whole-heartedness going forward.

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  15. Elisa Beatty says:

    Okay, I have a couple more thoughts after seeing the Lucas Mota articles.

    1) As a lawyer, she should be aware that plagiarized material published under her name is HER legal responsibility, whether or not she’s the one who originally stole the text (kinda like a pawn shop owner who sells stolen goods has a legal responsibility, as it says in CA law, “to make reasonable inquiry to ascertain that the person from whom the property was bought or received had the legal right to sell or deliver it,[and] without making a reasonable inquiry,” is guilty of a misdemeanor or felony, “even if he truly believed the person who brought in the stolen material was legitimately the owner.”

    2) publicly available information makes it clear she did at least a couple other ethically questionable things with her books and marketing, like her (surely unauthorized) use of Joe Manganiello’s photo for her readers’ group, and the fact (ascertained by several folks on Twitter) that she had individual books available wide while simultaneously available in bundles on KU, a violation of Amazon’s terms of service. Plus, there’s the questionable nature of the origin of her reviews.

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  16. Elisa Beatty says:

    But let’s set aside those apparent ethics violations for a moment, and try taking her at her word that she was “deceived” by unscrupulous ghostwriters.

    If in fact “the ghostwriters were just to help me in some parts/scenes, never to write the whole book,” that sounds like she must have handed them at least a partially finished manuscript to work from.

    So let’s say she handed over COMPLETELY ORIGINAL work that just needed smoothing out, with a little expanding here and there and connective tissue worked in (and some help with her obviously less-than-perfect English).

    So her story is that the ghostwriters, instead of just doing some smoothing and simple stitching with their own original words, instead took the time to SCAN THROUGH 45+ PUBLISHED ROMANCE NOVELS looking for finished scenes that somehow magically matched what was happening in the “original” manuscript, wove those together, and gave the book back to her, and when she read back through it, she said, “Yup, sounds like my own original work, just polished up a bit.”

    And this happened for multiple novels? For the small amount of money ghostwriters get paid (so small she didn’t even bother to list the expense in her tally of publishing expenses)??

    Now, I haven’t bought any of her books, but I did spend a little time with some of the sample pages you could look at online, and it quickly became clear in even the opening pages that the plagiarism was almost constant. Different sources, but line after line after line.

    As Tessa Dare tweeted on Feb 19, as she was slogging her way through ROYAL LOVE: “I’m now 12% into this book. Almost every phrase I google is plagiarized from somewhere. I can’t even keep this up; it’s exhausting. I’m going to selfishly skim for anything else that might be mine and call it a day.”

    To be clear, the plagiarism wasn’t a handful of paragraphs scattered through a 300 page book. It was virtually the whole body of the book, with just a few scattered lines, or parts of sentences (changed character names, or phrases appropriate to the characters’ specific situation) that weren’t plagiarized.

    Assuming it was all the ghostwriters’ dastardly faults, how could she possibly have read back over that, even just given a quick skim to the first few pages before publishing, and not have noticed???????

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I’m going to have to say AAAAAAAAAAAGH a few more times. And go have a drink.

      0
    • Katrina Snow says:

      A couple of her ghostwriters contacted Courtney Milan and said they were given a bunch of scenes and lines to put together into a book. They didn’t know the lines were plagiarized. That seems much more plausible to me than Cristiane’s version of events. Anyway, the ghostwriters also said she didn’t pay them. Which, I’m thinking, is why she didn’t report the expense. It may be the only honest thing she’s done.

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  17. I am sorry, reading the e mail interview with this woman my BULLSHIT monitor was going off SO LOUDLY I couldn’t concentrate to read her lies, I mean answers. Apparently, she got away with it SO LONG she feels that the entire romance world is populated by stupid people. SURPRISE, SWEETHEART !! And if she wasn’t making any money she would not be doing it. Period. I was born at night, but I wasn’t born last night. Or as my Dad used to say “Don’t piss on me and tell me it is raining.” This woman has no respect for her ghostwriters, for her “readers,” for her fellow writers or for the art of writing. She needs to be run out of this business, preferably wearing a stunning outfit made of tar and feathers. Good. Grief!

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  18. Kathy Crouch says:

    She did the same to Nora Roberts. Nora posted three blogs about it. She’s hot and pissed and going after the author.

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