This is a translated story from the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo não. ~Laura
Justice prohibits sale of Brazilian books accused of plagiarizing Nora Roberts
American bestselling author Nora Roberts won the first battle against Brazil’s Cristiane Ribeiro Allevato Serruya in a plagiarism case last week in Rio de Janeiro.
In her decision, Maria Cristina de Brito Lima, of the 6th Business Court of Rio de Janeiro, ordered the suspension of the sale of the physical books, e-books and audiobooks of Royal Love, Royal Affair, Unbroken Love, Hot Winter, Forevermore and From the Baroness’s Diary, and the inclusion on the cover and links made available on Amazon, Saraiva, Cultura, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and E-Bay websites of the words “suspended by court order”.
The judge also determined the blocking of royalties from the sale of these books in the bookstores mentioned. The amounts must be deposited in a judicial account. Failure to comply with Cristiane’s judicial decision of bookstores or publishers may result in a fine of R $ 5,000 per copy of work unduly sold.
“This represents a new level of judicial demand in the literary field,” says Gustavo Martins de Almeida, Nora Roberts’ lawyer. Mainly because it involves immaterial media – e-books and audiobooks – and because Nora Roberts, a foreigner without assets in Brazil, is giving as guarantee the copyright of his books published by three publishers. “It’s interesting to see the judiciary adjusting to new technologies,” says the lawyer.
Cristiane Ribeiro Allevato Serruya has 15 days to appeal the decision.
The newspaper O Estado de S. Paulonão got in touch with the Brazilian until the closing of the story.
I’m going to start with the then, to get it out of my system.
Back in the late 90’s, when those of us on-line used message boards to communicate with each other, a reader posted a concern about the similarities in my book Sweet Revenge, originally published in 1988, reissued in 1997, with Janet Dailey’s Notorious, published in hardcover in ’96, in paper in ’97.
It happened this reader read them back to back, and noticed, even cited pages. Initially, I was certain she was mistaken. I knew Janet, couldn’t imagine she’d plagiarize anyone. But it also happened my Jason was working at our bookstore that day. I asked him to bring home a copy of Notorious. Then I opened to the page the reader had cited.
I can’t describe what I felt in that moment, the shock, the grief, the sense of betrayal.
I flipped through and that shock, grief, betrayal increased as I recognized more and more and more of my work in her book.
I called my agent. While I vetted the books, so did my agency. It was massive and awful. My agent contacted her agent and her publisher, who of course, contacted Dailey.
And the first round of plagiarism bingo began. Absolute denial. Did not do this! But the theft was so blatant that didn’t last long. Assistant must have somehow . . . If she did it, it was totally unintentional, it was unconscious copying and so on.
I was asked to keep it quiet, to go through the manuscript for Notorious and remove my work. Because I knew her, because I’d never dealt with anything like this before, I agreed. (Hint: Never do this.)
I remember, clearly, sitting out on my front deck, crossing out line after line, scene after scene, and finally realizing it simply couldn’t be done. As I realized that, my agent called. Pretty steamed. Dailey’s agent had contacted her, very excited. Dailey’s publisher wanted to go back to press on the book, so could I hurry it up?
My agent, the magnificent Amy Berkower and I had quite a conversation about the sheer arrogance, the utter insensitivity or sense of responsibility. Decision? A big, fat no, and you’re going to pull the book. Period.
…and I was done playing nice.
She hired a lawyer. I hired a lawyer. At one point through this process, her people pressed me and mine to allow Janet to call me, to explain and apologize. I didn’t want this, but I finally agreed.
This turned out, as it happened, to be the right choice.
I won’t go through the conversation except to say, through a lot of tears, she swore to me it had only been that one time. She’d been in such a bad place, just that ONE TIME. Her excuses, her (I thought) contrition made me cry.
But when I got off the phone, I went to another of her books as my agent and I had decided I would read her stuff, in case we found more. Five minutes–I swear to God, five minutes after she’d tearfully sworn to me it had only been that one time, I found the second time in the second book.
And that’s when the full rage rose. She’d lied to me, manipulated my emotions, and I was done playing nice.
We found more, quite a bit more in quite a few books over a span of publishing years. My lawyer called her a serial plagiarist.
The lawyers did their lawyer thing, and Dailey and I both agreed not to go public, at least until we had some sort of resolution. I kept that agreement. She didn’t.
She went to the press with her sad story of emotional trauma she didn’t know she had, how her dog died (I’m not kidding on that), how she did it all without knowing she did it. And she went to the press when I was in Florida, speaking to the Friends of the Library on the eve of the RWA annual conference.
I want to say I got a lot of support from the RWA board, from a lot of fellow writers. But there were many who took her side. She was an icon! Why couldn’t I just be quiet? I should be flattered, I was being a bully. I should just forgive her and move on. (My ass!)
A lot of the press had a great time making jokes about it, denigrating the genre at large, its writers, its readers.
It was a brutal experience from the minute I read that message board until the end, two ugly years later. I stuck, because if I don’t stand for my work, who will? And I won. Then I donated every penny of the settlement to select literacy organizations.
It was never about the bloody money.
That was then. Obviously, I’m not over it. You don’t get over it, you get through it.
Since then, I’ve had a couple more less public and ugly cases which we dealt with firmly and quickly. Because I’ll never play nice with a plagiarist again.
That leads to now.
…it’s always a reader, and bless you every one
A few days ago, Laura had to contact me to let me know my name and a couple of my books were listed as plagiarized in a long list of writers and books.
Cristiane Serruya, a self-published ‘writer’ based in Brazil seems to have made a living stealing from actual writers. In this case, a reader again (it’s always a reader, and bless you every one) contacted Courtney Milan, a successful romance writer, a smart woman with a strong spine–and a lawyer, to tell her she’d been plagiarized. If you want to know more about this, check out Courtney’s blog–she lays it out really well.
Twitter exploded (I’m not on Twitter, but I felt the aftershocks). There’s now a hashtag–#CopyPasteCris that follows the ever-growing nightmare. Over two dozen authors, about three dozen books–so far. One of the other victims let me know this morning that she found a line from Whiskey Beach woven in to HER love scene in this woman’s frankenbook. That makes four of mine, so far.
Courtney didn’t waste time playing nice, which gets a solid fist bump from me. She went public, straight off. She stood straight up for her work, and for the other authors involved.
In the usual plagiarism bingo, Serruya jumped on Twitter to deny. She would never!!! But again, so blatant, so egregious, that couldn’t hold.
Here’s where it takes an interesting turn. She then claimed the ghostwriters (note the plural) she’d hired on Fiverr (which I’d never heard of until this) had done this! Shame, shame on them, and she’d fix it asap.
She fixed it by doing a vanishing act. Twitter account down, Facebook page down, website down.
Two of her ghosts–independently–contacted Courtney. And both stated, again independently, Serruya sent them a mishmash of scenes, lines then told them to make it work. And apparently stiffed them afterward.
So this plagiarist lifted lines, bits, chunks big and small, from a slew of authors and books, mashed them together then hired ghosts off a cheap labor site to cobble them into a book.
This was her MO.
She did this for–I think my information is–29 books, put them up on Amazon, used Kindle Unlimited for some. KU pays by the page read. The freaking page read.
This culture, this ugly underbelly of legitimate self-publishing is all about content. More, more, more, fast, fast, fast. Because that’s how it pays. Amazon’s–imo–deeply flawed system incentivizes the fast and more. It doesn’t have to be good, doesn’t have to be yours–as I’m learning hiring ghosts is not really rare. Those who live and work in this underbelly don’t care about the work, the creativity, the talent and effort and time it takes to craft a story. Just the money, and what they must see as bragging rights. I’m a published writer they claim–even if they didn’t write a damn word.
If a book has my name on it, I wrote it. Every word of it.
They disgust me. Please note, I’m not talking about all writers who use KU, but the ones who use it to steal and deceive for profit.
I personally don’t believe fiction writers should use ghosts. Celebrity auto-biographies and such, that’s the job. If a fiction writer uses a ghost to help flesh out a book, or hires a book doctor to whip a book into shape, I strongly believe that person should be acknowledged–on the book.
The reader deserves honesty. The reader’s entitled to know she’s buying the author’s–the one whose name’s on the book–work, not somebody that writer hired for speed or convenience. And I’ll state here as I have before. If a book has my name on it, I wrote it. Every word of it.
I do not, never have, never will comprehend how someone can feel any pride claiming a book they didn’t write.
Some will point to Nancy Drew and its like. Different kettle in my eyes. That’s work for hire, book packaging. And a great way for a ghost to make a living writing fiction. Everyone knows (or should) that V.C. Andrews is long dead and therefore no longer writing.
The late great Robert Parker’s books list the name of the authors who write the current books on the front cover. There’s no deception.
But the bigger point is ghostwriters, honest, hard-working ones can be used by the scammer without knowing. The writer just trying to pay the bills by ghosting can be used this way. Honest, hard-working writers who self-publish are being stolen from, demoralized, hammered down by practices like book stuffing, buying reviews, piracy and outright plagiarism that’s become too common on Amazon.
A creature like Serruyo can have a decent run, make some money–make some best-seller lists–before she (or he, or they, who knows?) is found out. And the pain, the scars, the emotional turmoil this causes to the victims of plagiarism never ends.
Serruyo won’t be the only one using that underbelly, exploiting the lack of real guardrails on Amazon and other sites for a few bucks.
I’ll have a lot more to say about this, all of this. I’m not nearly done. Because the culture that fosters this ugly behavior has to be pulled out into the light and burned to cinders. Then we’re going to salt the freaking earth.
If we determine Serruya’s theft of my work reaches the bar of infringement, I will sue. I can afford to while many of her victims can’t. If it’s determined it doesn’t quite reach that bar, I will support every one of my fellow authors she harmed. And I’ll use every resource I can to speak out, to help pull these practices, this bastardization of the craft, into the light.
As readers, you deserve better than spending your time and money on a book that turns out to be a lie. As writers we deserve to have our work respected and protected.
Here’s a warning for anyone who’s stolen any of my work and claimed it as his/her own. I’m coming for you.
Laura Notes: I was just getting to know Nora in 1997 and wasn’t her publicist then but I know that the timing of this was deliberate and cruel — it was the week Nora was honored with RWA’s Lifetime Achievement award, a week in which the honoree is feted the entire conference. So the revelation completely undermined anything good about that week.
If you ever see something that makes you uncomfortable about another person’s work compared to Nora’s email me at LMReeth@gmail.com and I will look into it.
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me, starting in the dentist chair. The tooth had to go, and that part turned out surprisingly easy. In and out, over and done–including a bone graft deal. Huh, I thought, naively, no big.
The big, literally, came the following day when I woke up looking like I had a tennis ball tucked into my left cheek. Whoa! I’d done the whole ice, ibuprofen, soft food thing–and didn’t have much discomfort. Now I had a cheek the size of Kansas, and a book signing in a couple of days. Won’t that be interesting?
Still pretty bad the next morning, but by evening more like a good-sized plum in there. Now it’s the moist heat treatment.
Fortunately it shrank down to like a half golf ball by Saturday morning, and went down a little more by signing time. Good thing because it’s a big, bust out signing day. Here’s where a little theater training comes in handy. Doing photos with a swollen left jaw? Cheat out your right cheek.
Now I’ve got until Tuesday for it to go down more, we hope, before I go out in public again.
I’d been asked to give the commencement address for my alma mater–Montgomery Blair High school. As I did a million years ago, the class of 2018 graduates from the University of Maryland. Blair’s a big school, with a big graduating class, in fact, with close to 700 grads, the biggest in the state.
I’m so impressed with these young people, found myself amazed as their principal read off some of their accomplishments, the GPAs and academic achievements, the community involvement, the scholarships–one earned himself a full free ride to MIT. You have to be pretty damn smart and dedicated for that.
I listened to the senior class president speak, saw her brains, her poise, her commitment.
I looked out at that sea of red gowns, white gowns–Blair’s colors–and saw the future. It looks good. If this class is representative, the future is in strong, creative hands.
Go, Blazers. You’re astounding.
Because the U of M is a good 90 minutes away–with traffic add an hour–Laura and I had the treat of staying at Jason’s and Kat’s the night before. I got to see the garden they’ve worked on, visit with their cats, have a lovely dinner (and get in a few rub the baby bumps!) and a solid night sleep before the event.
Then it’s back home and a few days of solid work–and back to workouts, which had been off the list.
And a happy, happy Saturday for me weeding, deadheading (pretty much off the list, too for awhile). I decided, since I felt all the way back to myself again, I’d take myself to my favorite nursery for some shade-loving, deer-resistant astilbes to finish off a couple areas. I also wanted one more hydrangea, and a few more annuals to fill things out some.
Deer continue to be a problem, and I’ve caught them more than once just in the nick as they try to sneak down and snack on my plants. I will say Atticus–when he spots them–barks mightily, so that helps.
A truly lovely Saturday morning and afternoon for me.
I spent some of the late afternoon packing for our upcoming girl trip–for Kayla’s 16th birthday. A month early, but July’s as packed as June. I can’t believe my baby girl’s going to be 16, AND has her learner’s permit. She also made the all-county A team again for her distance running.
We leave in a couple days, then Kayla, Laura, Kat (and Laura’s daughter Clare who lives and works in NYC) will take the town. The first time I took Kayla on one of these NY trips, her biggest thrill was The American Girl Doll store. I can’t remember how many trips we ended up taking there.
This time it’s makeup, clothes, shoes–all of which I can get behind!
I took a quick walk around the garden–had to be quick as it started to rain–then began to pour. Things look good!
I’m going to finish packing for whole bunches of fun, then I hope to spend a couple hours repotting some of my pool house plants.
That’s a fine weekend for me. Hope you have one, too.
Note from Laura: It’ll be our little secret that sometimes when I tell Nora I’m leaving her home, I actually poke through the gardens and take pictures . Keep it between us, ok?
What would you do to protect your family?When Paul Rogan sets off a bomb at his office, killing eleven people, no one can understand why. He was a loving husband and father, with everything to live for. Then his wife and daughter are found chained up in the family home, and everything becomes clear. Rogan had been given a horrifying choice – set off the bomb, or see his loved ones suffer and die.Lieutenant Eve Dallas knows the violence won’t end here. The men behind the attack are determined, organised and utterly ruthless. In this shocking and challenging case, both Eve and husband Roarke are heading into serious danger.
You’ll find the first chapter of Leverage in Death here.
I don’t know why this month’s always so difficult. Okay winter, but it’s short. It should be easy.
But we have ice on the lane, ice on the patio, dogs who don’t want to be outside more than five minutes. Who can blame them? We have cold. We have gloom. Then how about some more gloom? With some ice and sleet and whatever else February wants to toss down.
Then we have Thursday. Suddenly it’s sixty degrees. I hear birds celebrating. I don’t get outside myself for long, but when I do, it’s ahhhh. Between the rain and the sudden warm, the ice is just a bad memory.
Then Saturday happens. Gloom is back, and cold. And let’s just throw in some snow. It wouldn’t be such a thing, except psychotic February gave us Thursday. Why?
So due to snow, and the fact my guy’s coming home, I spent most of snowy Saturday in the kitchen. Pasta e fagioli sounds good, and the traveler’s very fond of my sour dough pretzel rolls.
It’s a nice way for me to spend a February day, and it’ll be good to see my guy again. Even though . . . this is my kitchen counter without a man in the house, even after making soup and bread.
And this is my kitchen counter after BW.
It soothes my double Libra soul to have the tidy. Clutter and chaos just bring on a underlying stress I mostly ignore because, well, life and I do share that life and the house with a male.
I’ve always shared life and houses with males. A father and four brothers. A husband and two sons. I happen to know not all men are messy, but mostly the ones who aren’t don’t live in my little world.
The offset here, other than I actually love my man, is someone else will go outside on the frigid mornings to feed the dogs, take out the trash and recycling. That same someone will plow the snow off the lane. That someone will do the dishes after I cook, even if he appears to be genetically incapable of cleaning off the counters or stovetop.
Note to BW: (A few swipes with a questionable dishcloth is not cleaning off.)
Still, February’s more than half over. I don’t wish time away–ever–but that doesn’t mean I can’t think about spring while I’m looking out at my snowy woods. It’ll be harder to take when they’re forecasting close to 70s later in the week.
Psychotic February. You just have to take it as it comes.
Cranky Publicist note (or…And Now something different):
As the winter yang to Nora’s winter yin — in the summer we reverse — I must speak up for those of us who go outdoors in the cold months. While I’m grateful on the truly miserable days to work in a home office, I need to put on layers and get outside at least once a week to breathe and reset.
The rewards abound: I found gorgeous blue skies and ice sculptures in Frederick. Roses under sulky gray skies in NYC. Reds and golds and dragons in NYC’s Chinatown to celebrate the dawn of the Year of the Dog.
Summer will be here way too quickly (the mid-week forecast is closer to 80 in my elevation — yikes!) for my thick blood, while Nora will embrace the warmth with thanks and celebration. (And WHY does the summer contain TWO months with 31 days? The winter haters get February. I want a February.)
And yet, the seasons will turn and we’ll each have our moments in the sun.
When last we met, Nora was home from work, ready to dive into a brand new book after a wonderful week in NYC. I stayed for a couple more days — mainly to take photos like this one:
but in the end, we each settled into routine back home. And routine is important, but not necessarily glamorous, so I’ll share some highlights:
Kayla finished 6th in the Washington County Cross Country meet last week. The week before, she placed in the to 20 of a large cross county meet that featured small and large schools. States are up next!
On October 17, we debuted the cover of the 2018 hardcover, Shelter in Place on Facebook:
I’ll create a separate thread for that book early in 2018.
This weekend was the Turn the Page Halloween signing and one of us went all out. One of us wore her Cranky Publicist pin. <g> When I walked into the house to drive to the signing, I called out “Hello!” but didn’t receive an answer. I turned into the kitchen, and there Nora was, in all her glory. I just laughed and took the photo.
The TTP staff gets into the spirit and in a moment of rare synchronicity, one of the Kims wore a costume in direct contrast to Nora’s. I said they channeled the late 1970s since Nora was CBGB and Kim was Studio 54.
Then there was BW:
And Kayla stopped by after practice with some of her teammates:
Which brings us to today. Nora’s back at the keyboard, I’m working on adding the recent FB posts here on the blog.
Much more to come as the weeks speed by until Year One is in your hands.
No, wait! Here’s some extra special #randomkatness. She just became an aunt and created this reversible baby blanket for her niece as a nod to their Hawaiian roots. Isn’t it stunning?