Read all about it on How Publishing Really Works – http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/
My name is Teresa and I’ve been plagiarised – or perhaps I should say my work has been plagiarised.
Let me make one thing clear. I write for a living. It’s not a hobby or a nice little pastime; it’s a job of work. Okay, it’s a job that I enjoy, but it is a nerve twisting and precarious way to make a living, now more than ever.
And I know I go on about displacement activities, but I do work hard and when I found out someone else had earned money by passing my work off as their own, I was very upset.
Devastated in fact.
I won’t go into the rights and wrongs – well wrongs really because there are no rights – of plagiarism. There are others who can write far more eloquently about it than I can.
I was very lucky, I came out of the deal better off because I was able to prove it. But it’s left a niggling doubt behind. How many times might it have happened?
So you want to know what happened to me? I’m not sure of the ethics of naming names, so I’ll just say that about 8 years ago I received a magazine from overseas with one of my stories in it.
As I flicked through the pages an illustration caught my eye. It was a scene from another story of mine that had been published in the UK.
Wow, I thought, what a coincidence, that picture would perfectly illustrate my . . . by which time I’d started to read it and realised that the opening lines were very familiar.
I went cold. Then hot. Then cold again. I got out my copy and checked. Yes, it was my story word for word the same, but written with a by line I didn’t recognise. The thief (because that is what she was) had only changed the names.
I showed both copies to my husband just in case I was somehow imagining things (that is how much you doubt yourself!). He confirmed. Word for word the same.
Still I couldn’t believe it. There must be some mistake. I knew that I hadn’t submitted that story to the magazine myself because I didn’t submit stories I'd had in that UK magazine to that particular market.
So how had it got there? I had to read the whole story alongside my own copy before I convinced myself that it had really happened and wasn’t just some bizarre coincidence.
I actually felt sick.
And we writers sign all sorts of rights agreements. Luckily this one hadn’t breached any contracts, but what if it had? What kind of trouble could I have been in?
I’m a writer, of course I immediately start worrying about what ifs and maybes.
So what did I do? I emailed the publication concerned and told them what had happened. I should say I wasn’t angry about it – not with them anyway – I didn’t go steaming in all gung ho and oozing righteous indignation or anything like that.
I was worried more than anything. It doesn’t take much to worry me at the best of times.
They agreed that it was very worrying and asked if I could send them my copy of the published story, so I scanned the story from the UK magazine and emailed it to them.
They had other stories from the woman and sent them to me to see if I recognised them. I didn’t. When they contacted the woman she made a full confession and reimbursed what she’d been paid.
She’d sent in a lot of stories. All were suspect.
We agreed between us not to take the matter further as they felt it had been resolved and she wouldn’t do it again.
At the time I felt sorry for her. She said that she loved the stories so much she just wanted to write something similar.
Time has made me feel less sympathetic.
We all start out desperate to be published, but isn’t the whole point to have our own work published? I actually came out of it $800 better off because they paid me for a story they wouldn’t normally have even looked at.
I still remember her name. It’s imprinted on my memory!
Perhaps she subscribed to the idea that if you have a story published you are automatically made. Anything you write in future will be snapped up. Well it doesn’t work that way, love. If it was the case and I’d sold everything I’d written over the years, I’d be living out my retirement on an island in the Caribbean right now and not sitting here worrying about the ever increasing cost of living!
Well that’s my personal experience of plagiarism. And I can honestly say that it does hurt. I was lucky. I spotted it and I made money from it, but how can we be sure it hasn’t happened before and since – to any of us?
But what sense of satisfaction can the plagiarist have? Apart from the payment if they get any that is. All they have proved is that they can copy something. There’s no talent involved - none at all.
It must be so much worse when someone steals your unpublished work and passes it off as their own. At least I had concrete proof of what happened and I made on the deal.
So that’s it – my own personal experience.
Do link to HPRW where there are links to far better posts than this one!