Publisher’s Lunch has a discussion today about a book that was supposed to publish but had to be delayed due to plagiarism concerns. A further review shows that other books by that same author also had instances of plagiarism as well.
According to the article, these passages were not the responsibility of the main credited author but due to his co-author. Unfortunately for the main author, most of the discussion I’ve seen around this particular issue has used his name.
The reason I mention this here is that if you’re using your real name to publish your books you need to consider the reputational impact of any contract terms, work arrangements, or edits to your work.
I occasionally will get approached by publishers related to my Excel books because they see the books are selling well and want me to write versions for them. (Which also generally would involved unpublishing my existing titles.)
The last time this happened I had to say no because the contract terms would have allowed them to continue to publish new editions of those books using my name as the author even if I didn’t write the new material. I think it may have even been worded that I would have to pay for any new author they hired to make those edits to update the books, too, because I would’ve still been paid for sales of the books.
That was an immediate no for me. Because that book and any examples it used and any language would have been published under my name. And my coming back and saying, “Oh, but I didn’t write that part, some random person who isn’t listed on the cover did” isn’t going to save that reputational hit I could’ve taken if the content were plagiarized or wrong or offensive in some way.
I also had a situation in college where I had a poem published in a literary magazine and the editor wanted the last two lines removed, changing the overall tone of the poem. I went along with it at the time, but have regretted it ever since because that poem came out under my name and was interpreted as my work even though the poem that was published is not the poem I wrote.
(Stay away from random college lit mags, kids. I also basically had that same editor steal something I wrote and publish it as their own because they made a few minor edits to it. College kids are not professional enough for that role. At least that one wasn’t.)
If you’re going to sign contracts related to your work, you need to know what you’re agreeing to. And even if there isn’t a contract involved, you need to keep in mind that at the end of the day if something is published under your name, you will be judged for those words and that story, regardless of whose idea it was behind the scenes.