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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There was a scandal some years ago about an an author who copied the framework of a particular genre (cowboy romance, I think) by reading books by a successful author in the genre. This person wrote similar books to the successful author's and used very similar covers. She also became quite successful, although she also received a ton of backlash.

Does anyone remember? Could you please tell me what happened in the end? Are both authors still publishing?

Just by looking at bestseller lists, it looks to me like lots of people are doing similar things now. I'd like to know what the current consensus is (if there is one) about this type of behaviour.
 

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I don't know what you're specifically referring to so I can't answer that.

Having said that, every single romance written--at least those properly written--is based on a "framework" and probably/possibly a trope.
 

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There's a big difference between actually plagiarizing and meeting a reader's expectations, which (surprise, surprise) also includes covers.

West Side Story is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, so is These Violent Delights. If you're doing Romance right, you're following the same pathway as a the other authors in your genre, with the tropes turned on their sides. I've heard a lot of authors claim other authors are copying them, but upon closer examination, they aren't. There are only so many eye colors and so many hair colors and so many big cities to chose from. Just because Jane R. Mancer wrote a book with a heroine who has brown hair, blue eyes, freckles, and lives in San Francisco, just like my character who doesn't have freckles, but does have a beauty mark (are they still called that?), doesn't mean she copied me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for your responses. Some people accused the author of plagiarism. I'd really like to know how it went with that author and whether she still writes, and the one she got her ideas from. I hope someone remembers this story and can let me know.
 

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Oh man, so much has happened since then, that scandal faded away. But I remember it now. Harner wasn't known as a Western Romance author, she was known as an MM Romance author and since McGraw wasn't the only author she plagiarized, she hit all sorts of genres.

It was settled for an undisclosed amount. At least according to The Atlantic. Stealing Books in the Age of Self-Publishing

However, I also remember several authors accusing others of plagiarism, but upon closer examination, really just an eyeball test, it was obvious no plagiarism took place. Like I said, heroines from big cities in horrible office jobs, with brown hair isn't really an original thought. Horrible jobs in big cities is actually a trope. And then there was the whole Alpha-Omega debacle. There was a three-month period where you couldn't log into FB, Twitter, or Instagram without seeing unsubstantiated accusations thrown at different authors every day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Thanks! But that's not the story I'm looking for. There was no real plagiarism with what my author did, but she did copy the style and plot of a successful author. I think what people disliked most about what she did is that she too became very successful. This author even launched a course on doing like she did. I cannot for the life of me remember her name.

I believe the romances were on the sweeter side and I remember horses being on the covers of those books.
 

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That was actually a different scandal. The "cowboy" scandal was Becky McGraw v. Laura Harner; the one you cited is the "Mormon" scandal, Rachel Ann Nunes v. Tiffanie Rushton. The "Mormon" scandal turned into quite the lollapalooza!
Did you read the article?

McGraw and Harner coverage begins in the 8th paragraph, and yes, it was settled.

I believe the romances were on the sweeter side and I remember horses being on the covers of those books.
And you just described every Western Romance cover ever. If authors are smart, they will brand their titles and pen name with a font, but Romance is a genre that is very much about doing just what everyone else does.
 

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There wasn't any plagiarism involved in this case but was this CS Lakin, writing Western Romances under the name of Charlene Whitman? She called it a "genre experiment" on a couple of blogs? It's hard to find any details on it now. But she deconstructed a bunch of western romances and used them and the authors like a blueprint for her pen name? One of those author's she used for "inspiration" was Debra Holland. Who was quite put out by the whole thing and vocal about it? There was a lot of discussion and back and forth about it at the time. The only thing I found with some details was this Dear Author column:

 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
There wasn't any plagiarism involved in this case but was this CS Lakin, writing Western Romances under the name of Charlene Whitman? She called it a "genre experiment" on a couple of blogs? It's hard to find any details on it now. But she deconstructed a bunch of western romances and used them and the authors like a blueprint for her pen name? One of those author's she used for "inspiration" was Debra Holland. Who was quite put out by the whole thing and vocal about it? There was a lot of discussion and back and forth about it at the time. The only thing I found with some details was this Dear Author column:

CS Lakin! Yes! Oh, I'd forgotten she lied to the cover designer that she was friends with the author she copied. Thank you so much. I googled this story until late at night but came up with nothing.
 

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wrote similar books to the successful author's and used very similar covers
This isn't plagiarism, it's the exact advice given in the "write to market" discussions. Basic story framework, tropes and cover designs are key to WtM, and aren't copyrightable anyway. Ideas aren't copyrightable, either. Exact words are.

Do people accuse others of plagiarism? All the time. Is it always true? No.

I remember following the Nunes case. Man, she had some times with that. She won in the end, though it cost her a lot of money and time.
 

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There was a scandal some years ago about an an author who copied the framework of a particular genre (cowboy romance, I think) by reading books by a successful author in the genre. This person wrote similar books to the successful author's and used very similar covers. She also became quite successful, although she also received a ton of backlash.

Does anyone remember? Could you please tell me what happened in the end? Are both authors still publishing?

Just by looking at bestseller lists, it looks to me like lots of people are doing similar things now. I'd like to know what the current consensus is (if there is one) about this type of behaviour.
There was Janet Daily way back who plagurized Nora Roberts. Apparently, Janet had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was under deadline. It did not go well for her. She was blacklisted. She did continue to write but she died a few years back. That's the biggest case I remember.
 

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Nora Roberts said that the woman plagarized several of her books over a number of years, so...
 

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Yeah and it wasn't cancer, if I remember right, she was the one who was going through a mental health crisis. Although, it could have been caused by cancer, I guess. The saddest part of the story is that Janet Daiely was a successful author prior to the scandal. If I remember the story, one of the smallish publishers picked her up after Nora and Janet reached a settlement. I imagine for Nora it was a double kick in the pants because Janet was established before Nora published her first book. It's kind of like a rookie playing with Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa in the summer when they were on the hunt for the home run record, only to learn later that both of them were juicing.
 

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thank you! But that's not the story I'm looking for. There is no real plagiarism of what my author does. But she copied the style and plot of the successful author. I think what people dislike most about what she does is that she's also successful. This author also runs a course to do like she does. I can't remember her name all my life.
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I believe love is sweet and I remember the horses on the covers of those books.
 

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We got that. You said it was the Laskin case. This was just a tangent about Nora Roberts.
 

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Plagiarism is more of an academic thing. It's not a legal thing. In academics, you're supposed to cite sources, even if you're doing original work that simply builds on them. But if you read 50 Shades and write a billionaire romance, you're not expected to cite 50 Shades. Writing to market or writing a pastiche could easily drift far enough for something to be considered plagiarism, if it was academic work. It's also completely legal.

The real question is copyright violation. And there was a flurry of "it's not word for word, I change names and adjectives in the sentences" a few years ago. I suspect some armchair lawyer on a dodgy forum suggested it was ok. But it's not. That's copyright violation because you are copying a substantial amount straight out word for word.
 
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