Here’s How I work

Before I start, the latest count from the plagiarism mess is 85 books and 36 authors.

So, some of the fallout from this clusterfuck seems to have generated a lot of questions, speculations, idiotic statements (as if fact) and–to me–strange arguments about my writing process, my output, and my honesty.

In all cases by people who don’t know me, at all.

In a, probably doomed, hope to set the record straight, I hereby take the time before I get back to that process, to outline it.

I write every day

I write every day. It’s just my job, and I’m very fortunate to love my job. Not everyone is half as lucky to be able to make their living doing something they love.

Every day is, at this point in my life and career, mostly a regular work week. I will, if necessary or I just feel the need, put in a few hours on the weekend.

I am disciplined–that’s my wiring. I have a fast writing pace–also just wiring. I was educated (nine year of Catholic school) by the nuns. Nobody lays a foundation of discipline like the Sisters. Trust me on this.

I was raised by parents who instilled, and demonstrated by example, the responsibility of doing your work, doing it well, meeting your responsibilities.

I don’t miss deadlines.

In the normal course of events, I work six to eight hours a day. Some of that is staring into space–writing requires this, or mine does. Some of it’s spent looking stuff up because how do I know until I know? I don’t use researchers because they’d annoy me, want to talk to me, expect me to be able to tell them what I was looking for. And again, how do I know until I know?

I don’t have ‘staff’, which just sound so pretentious to me. I don’t knock anyone for having staff, but I don’t want staff. They would annoy me, want to talk to me at some point. They’d be in my space which includes my entire house. And the land around it. The air.

What the hell would I do with staff? They could open the door for the dogs, I guess, or bring me another glass of water or Diet Pepsi. The trade off would be too great. In My Space. That’s a deal-breaker.

I have a weekly housekeeper who’s worked for me for decades. So in the normal course of events, I’m not doing the vacuuming and so on. And this is great. (She’s only in my space one day a week, and I’ve trained myself to block that out.)

I do not, never have, never will use ghostwriters. I’ve stated my opinion, many times, on the use of ghosts in fiction. My work is my work, start to finish. If my name is on the book, I wrote it. A reader, another writer, a stranger on the internet is entitled not to like my books, or any particular book. They’re not entitled to call me a liar.

I love and treasure alone

I don’t use ghosts, co-authors, I don’t have collaborators. Why is that so hard for some to accept? I don’t brainstorm with other writers, with my editor or my agent on storylines. It’s not my wiring. I love my agent, my editor, and respect them just as much as I love them.

If either or both of them insisted we brainstorm, I will be forced to kill them until they were dead.

I’m a solitary woman. I love and treasure alone. I also love my family, and am thrilled to be part of my grandkids’ lives, to see them, watch them grow. I adore my daughter-in-law beyond the telling of it. Ditto my sons, my husband.

But every day, when BW finally calls upstairs that he’s leaving for work, I have a little internal celebration.

My space.

I’m an early riser (wish I wasn’t, but wiring). I fiddle around with email and whatever for awhile in the morning–mostly hoping BW might leave a little sooner. (Sorry, BW.) But I’m usually in work mode by 8. Sometimes before, sometimes later, that’s just usual.

I work. Stare into space, wonder WTF should happen next, look stuff up, and somehow by around 3 (sometimes earlier, sometimes later) I’ve actually written a decent chunk.

Yay.

Then it’s time to go workout. 90 minutes, daily. That’s my routine, and I’m a solitary woman who thrives on routine.

Then it’s actually speak to BW, maybe have an alcoholic beverage. In good weather, get outside, walk the gardens with the dogs. Whatever.

Three nights a week I sign tubs of book orders from our bookstore. Some nights–like tonight–I’ll proof galleys for an upcoming book.

I work on a three-draft method. This works for me. It’s not the right way/wrong way. There is no right or wrong for a process that works for any individual writer. Anyone who claims there is only one way, or that’s the wrong way, is a stupid, arrogant bullshitter. That’s my considered opinion.

The first draft, the discovery draft, the POS (guess what that stands for) draft is the hardest for me. Figuring it all out, creating people I’m going to care about enough to sit here with hours every day in order to tell their story. Finding out information about the setting, the careers involved, and so much more.

I don’t outline. I have a kind of loose mental outline, then I sit down, get started and hope it all works one more time.

I don’t use visual aids, don’t have color-coded note cards. I scribble notes, then irritate the crap out of myself because half the time I can’t find the one thing I scribbled down I want now, right this minute.

Outlining, visual aids, note cards–not wrong. In fact excellent if any and all work for that writer.

I don’t know how long it takes me for that first draft. I don’t care. Am I getting the story out, are these people interesting, layered, human, am I putting myself, and therefore the reader, into the setting?

Setting, pacing, character development and evolution, connections, relationships, transitions, conflicts, beats, hills and valleys, dialogue, description.

I can’t analyse how they come out of my head and onto the page. I’m not an analytical person. I just know it’s work, often frustrating often fun. But work.

I don’t go back in the writing of that first draft, fiddle and fix, I just plow on, get the story, the people, onto the page, taking it on faith (and through a lot of experience) that I can fix what’s wrong, shine up what’s right later.

Get it out, get it down, put the words on the page. Every day. Hours a day.

And when the first crappy draft is done, I go back to page one. Now, second draft, fix it, expand it, get rid of it, work more thoughtfully on the language. Is it all holding up? Does it make sense? Is it a good, solid story? I can do a chunk of a second draft every day. This is for me, the easier part of the process. It’s fun to fix things up, to play with the words, to add more layers.

It still takes time, but it’s the happy middle of the work. Look what I did there, that’s not bad. I’d forgotten about that. Aren’t I so damn clever? Or–oops, that sucks. Must fix.

Again, I don’t know how long it takes me. I don’t care.

When I finish the second draft, it’s time for the third, the last, the polish. Not as big those daily chunks now. This is what I’ll send to that agent and editor I love and respect. I need to make it the best I can. I might find spots that sag, so I try to shore them up. I might find I’ve taken a quick angle that works–maybe add to that–or doesn’t, change it until it works.

I don’t know how long this takes. I still don’t care.

This is also where I spell check. My spelling is miserable, so I’m grateful for the technology. Except when it doesn’t work. What do you mean Word Not Found? It’s a damn word!

When I feel this is the best I can do, I send it off, make a wish, then definitely have an alcoholic beverage.

I’ll add I do all this work with my very, very old Word Perfect program–that’s DOS. Many of you will have to look that up as you’ll never have heard of such a thing. It’s like a strange tool from an ancient era. I like the blue screen–easy on the eyes. I like it doesn’t have bells and whistle that would get in my way (like staff).

I do all of the above myself, alone, solitary, ass in the chair, mind in the book, fingers on the keyboard. Someone asked me once, in a Q&A what three pieces of advice I had for other writers. Here they are:

Stop making excuses and write.
Stop whining and write.
Stop fucking around and write.

I take my own advice.

I don’t, as claimed in some article long ago and has become the stuff of myth and legend, write a book every 45 days. When I started selling I had several mss, rejected, in the drawer I could then take out, fix, polish, submit. So those first couple of years, I sold a lot of 55k word Romances to Silhouette. I had that jump start.

At this time it’s being winged around I write five books a year. It’s actually four. Two Robbs, one stand-alone Roberts, one portion of a trilogy. That’s a lot, but the pace and process suit my current life.

If I did write five books a year, they would still be all written by me. Just me.

Back to process. My editor–that’s Leslie Gelbman, St. Martin’s Press–works fast, too. I’ll hear back from her on the new ms in a very timely fashion, which I’m very grateful for because even with that quick turnaround, I’ll have started the next book.


Routine is my god.

It’s what I do. A day or two off to recharge, to maybe start fiddling with research, to play with that mental outline, then it’s close the cage door and go again.

I may have to stop the current work if Leslie wants any changes. Since she’s going to be right about those changes ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I don’t argue. The one time I KNOW she’s not right, she doesn’t argue.

Respect.

I’m able to produce a lot of books because I work every day. Because I don’t go out to lunch or dinner, or to events, go shopping, have hobbies or socialize all that much. I don’t want to.

I like home. I like my space. I have plenty of people living in my head for company.

I don’t spend a lot of time, sometimes none at all, on social media. It’s a time suck. My time’s valuable to me.

And routine is my god.

Get up, fiddle, write, write, write, workout, engage with my husband, make dinner, maybe have the kids over for dinner a couple times a month and enjoy grandkids.

I garden in the spring and summer, bake bread, but that’s weekends.

I make soups and breads in the fall and winter, again, that’s weekends.

When on vacation I’ll write here and there. Because I miss it if I don’t. I don’t slave while on a break, but I’ll write now and then.

And I think about the book all the time. In the shower, in the workout, in the garden, in the kitchen. I can work out plot points while kneading bread dough, so good for me.

There’s no secret, no formula, no magic spell.

It’s called writing, regularly, consistently, daily. It’s discipline and drive and desire. The three Ds I also tout when asked. Talent’s great, but without the three Ds, it’s hard to produce.

Fortunately for me I have them, and I use them.

I love my work, even on a bad day, I love my work. Being a writer is a gift I’m grateful for, even when it’s a bad day.

I value and respect the reader. Lying, to me, equals devaluing and disrespect.

So to the readers–whether or not you enjoy my books, have read any of my books, read my books occasionally or all the time–I write every one, myself, alone, in my space.

Whatever you think of the finished product, it came from me.

Nora

Update

The current count for books and authors copied by Cristiane Serruyo is 67/35. That’s thirty-five authors who’ve been impacted by her thievery, and sixty-seven of our books she treated like an all-you-can steal buffet.

There will be more. There are many people doing the laborious, tedious work of searching for infringing material, doing comparisons, documenting. I can’t express how grateful I am to every one of them.

As I outlined before in my blog, I’ve been plagiarized before. Janet Dailey was the most egregious, but not the only time. It’s horrible, always horrible. It’s gut-punching, time consuming–and all too often financially draining to deal with. It interferes with creativity, with the simple ability to sit down and put–and keep–your mind in the story you’re trying to write.

And it just hurts. Your head, your heart, your spirit. Every single time.

To The Pain, a la The Princess Bride’s Westley.

One woman stole from (so-far) thirty-five authors, picking and choosing, I suppose, what sounded good to her, then–apparently–tossed that to ghostwriters she hired from Fiverr. So she could put her name on books, pose for photos, do interviews, engage with readers and brag.

And lie as she talked about having to ice her hand down from the pain of hours at the keyboard.

I doubt her copy and pasting gave her any freaking wrist pain.

Quotes like that? I sincerely believe she did it as much for ego as money. Look how dedicated I am! I work through the pain! Admire me.

At this point I wouldn’t mind challenging her To The Pain, a la The Princess Bride’s Westley.

As far as I can tell, she’s still claiming it’s all some terrible mistake, and not altogether her fault. But that’s almost always what plagiarists say.

The scope of her theft is so huge, so stunningly wide, she really has nowhere to go, no excuses or reasons that can possibly hold even a drop of water.

But then, she never did.

We’re not done with her, and what’s coming will not be pleasant for her. We’re not done with the others–because there are undoubtedly others–who’ve followed this pattern of theft.

Nora

Edited May 23, 2019

To Sum Up–Sort Of

There are things I can’t talk about at this point that are going on behind the scenes. Legal stuff is legal stuff.

But there’s a lot of chatter out there about my blogs, my information, my opinions. Those I can talk about.

PLAGIARISM/COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

It’s theft of intellectual property. Full stop. It cannot be excused or justified. Another writer recently (and has done so before) claimed that I dragged Dailey through the muck, that copying happens ALL THE TIME, especially to best-sellers, and most writers affected by it handle it privately and professionally. Mean Girl Nora only went public (despite the fact Daily went public first) to destroy poor Janet.

Bullshit. Every word of that is bullshit. Plus shameful.

I apologize to no one for standing up for my work, or for standing up for any writer whose work is stolen. Any writer who thinks plagiarism is no big deal earns my disgust.

GHOST WRITING

Since this has generated a whole bunch of chatter, let me try to be really clear.

My opinion–which I’m entitled to hold, entitled to state:

The profession of ghostwriting is absolutely legitimate. Talented and professional ghosts are paid good money to write memoirs, auto-bios and so forth. They work with the client, interview the client and others. They put in the time, do the job, and are very often credited.

Other avenues are work-for-hire, where GW assume a single pen name (I use Caroline Keene’s Nancy Drew simply because it’s so well known) to write books in a series.

There are GW who act, basically to my mind, as editors or book doctors, helping smooth out or bring together a book–someone else has written–where the client needs some help. I personally think they should be credited, but that’s up to the client/GW and their particular partnership.

OTOH, there are ghosts–and this appears to be more common in the self-pubbed area, but may, in fact, be more common in traditional pub than I know–who take a fee–often just a couple hundred bucks–to write a book for someone who just wants to put their name on it. The client’s not actually a writer. The client wants to be published, or much worse, just wants to create a business where money is generated.

In far too many cases these clients hire many ghosts cheaply to create a lot of content so they can publish them quickly on-line, generate that income.

I think this is deplorable. So I’m told, but these GW are just trying to make a living. So is pretty much everyone in the world. This practice is a cheat for everyone but the client who punches up his/her numbers and makes a killing.

It’s absolutely true the GW may, in fact, be unaware. My take is if the GW wants to be a professional, do you due diligence.

But what, I hear, about the person who has this great idea, but doesn’t know how to write it and wants to get published? What’s wrong with that?

What’s wrong with that? Learning to articulate an idea into a story IS writing. It takes time and effort to learn how, to learn to write well. The name on that book is a lie because the client isn’t a writer, but pretends to be. And this practice dilutes the craft, the art, the science, the WORK of writing a story.

I’m routinely contacted by someone with–they say–a great idea who hopes I’ll write it for them. Many offer to split the bonanza of royalties it’ll earn. I believe the vast majority who ask me this ask with a pure heart because they honestly don’t know how it works.

There are those who want to publish, and fast, so send what they’ve cobbled together to a ghost who in many cases has to rewrite the mess. The person in a hurry here learns nothing by not taking the time, making the effort to hone her craft.

A lot of people seem to think I was birthed a best-seller right out of the writing womb. Contrary to that, I had a drawer full of rejections. I kept at it because I wanted it. I learned, I improved. And when I finally sold, I also had a drawer full (my agent called it my Magic Drawer) of rejected manuscripts I could take out, fix, edit, improve. So I sold a lot of books very quickly in the first couple years.

Someone accused me of having ‘several’ pen names, which they said was the same as all this. No, I write as Roberts, and as Robb for the In Death series. But when I sold Born In Fire (I think) to England for the first time, the publisher insisted my readership would be confused, insisted I take a pen name. I argued, but had no clout. For this single book, in GB, I took the name Sarah Hardesty. And when I was proved right, the Brit publisher killed the pen name, and published all future editions of the book under mine.

In, I think it was, 1981 (maybe ’82) my agent got an offer from a kind of tabloid (in structure, not content) publication for my first (and justifiably unsold ms.). I had a great fondness for that story because it was the first I’d ever written. I took the name Jill March for that sale. Once, then killed.

And in both cases, my name was on the copyright, not the a/k/a.

CHEAP AND FREE

I absolutely understand the idea of using a book, often the first in a series, or as a special, as a loss leader. Something to get exposure, to generate future sales. My publisher routinely puts one of my books on special for a day on-line.

My problems here are with, first, the scammers that buy books or book stuff, or whatever they do to put out a 99 cent book every week, or more under different names. They flood the marketplace so the legitimate indie reader can’t really compete.

I have a problem with the claims by some they they can absolutely write a book a week. Boy, do I call bullshit. First, I’d have to ask for a word count. Back in my Silhouette days when I wrote 55k Romance, I could write them fairly quickly, but a book a week? Nope.

A book a week, week after week? Did you write it, polish it, send it to a professional editor, and is it over 100 pages?

With this proliferation, many indie writers have to devalue their work, work they did take the time to write, polish, have edited to have any chance of visibility.

I object to that, for them, and for the reader.

On the reader–I thought I made it clear, but I’ll try again. Everybody likes a bargain. Everybody should be able to snag a free or cheap book. But. When that’s all you buy, and particularly when you demand it, it’s gets to be a problem. When you contact a writer pushing for more, cheap, cheaper, free. It’s a problem.

I read a comment from one indie writer who said she’d just published her new book, and a reader contacted her–like that day!–wanting to know when she was going to make it free.

This is a problem.

The reader’s on a budget, she’s voracious, this is all she can afford. Not her fault, don’t attack the reader from your big-ass imaginary mansion while you sit on your mountains of money.

Again, one-time single mother of two on a budget here. Voracious reader. And she–and I–say first: Library. I’m a big lover of the library. And I used it a lot back in the day, even though it was a thirty minute drive away. The writer gets paid for the book you check out. Libraries offer all kinds of services, and you can borrow an e-book on line without leaving your home. They have inter-library loans, or will often buy a book (paper or e) you request.

I’d take my boys with me, and all of us would go home with a stack of books.

I did learn that in many other countries, this isn’t nearly as easy. I think that’s a serious shame–I mean it. I don’t know what can be done to fix or improve that. But knowing that now, I hereby remove the reader–anywhere–who has no access to these services from this group.

I have a charitable foundation that supports literacy (and libraries). We might be able to look into it. Access to books, in any form, is a human right. Or damn well should be.

Used book stores, flea markets, yard sales, on-line trading, library sales. I’m sure I’ve left some avenues out. Someone bought this book, at some point, so the writer got paid. I also haunted used book stores back in the day, though yeah, a half hour away. I also before the internet, haunted those used book stores and the library for research books. They were a godsend. (And I always paid the library fine because I always brought them back late.)

I want to stress–again–I’m talking about the reader who demands, feels entitled to free or dirt cheap. Who hounds the writer for his/her wants. I’m not talking about the reader who sees a bargain, likes the cover, the blurb, has read that author before happily, or thinks hey, I’m going to give this new-to-me writer a try, and clicks Buy.

SELLING PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED BOOKS TO A BIDDER,
PUBLISHING UNDER A NEW NAME AS NEW WORK.

This is such a horrendous practice. Closed sites where books that have dried up their income stream sold–sometimes books in bundles, like 5 Historical Romances, 75k words, $1,000. Most usually I’d guess, these books were written by a ghost (who may be totally blameless), generated income through other nefarious practices like clickfarms, then sold to the next person. That person tosses them up, new cover, new name, as new work. It can and is done over and over again.

Since I wrote about that in detail on another blog, I won’t repeat myself. Except to say, it’s in every way wrong. Like plagiarism, I believe there is no excuse, no justification. It cheats everyone.

CLICK FARMS, BOOK STUFFING, BUYING REVIEWS

All of it wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

So is posting a nasty review on a competitor’s site to try to tank their sales. So is treating books like products, which is what the scammers do. It’s just business.

Writing is, most definitely a business–and every writer should treat it professionally. It’s a job–and I’ve treated it like a job throughout my career. The best job in the universe of jobs, imo. But it’s not just a job, just a business.

The practices I’ve come out, strongly against, have no respect for the craft, the art, the creator or the reader. It’s all just a way to make a bunch of money fast.

To any who claim I can’t and don’t understand what the new or newish writer goes through in today’s market? You’re wrong. If I didn’t understand, didn’t care, I wouldn’t take this on.

I can and will, and am, handling the plagiarism that targeted me and some 30 other writers. This is more, and I’m spending this time, making this effort because it matters.

To the absolute jerks who claim if the indie market goes down I’d benefit. Kiss My Ass.

All of the above is my opinion. YMMV. But I’ve a right to hold and speak that opinion.

I value and respect every writer who labors over their stories. I feel for every writer who finds themselves crushed and demoralized by the scams in the marketplace. I value and respect every reader who buys, who borrows, trades, lends books. I am, and always will be, grateful for the work libraries and librarians do, for all of us.

And I hold in contempt those who use and abuse what I value and respect.

I’m Nora Roberts, and I write my own books.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

I’m going to put all this aside after this blog, and step back in my cage and write. But I feel, really strongly, this single issue deserves attention before I do.

When I checked the latest comments on yesterday’s blog, Blowback, I found this.


Frost
In reply to Nora Roberts.
The link you posted above is suggesting that authors cannot sell their intellectual property (their books) to other authors and publishers. It’s literally calling someone a “scammer” for selling the rights to some books they wrote.
How on Earth is that a scam?
By that measure, every single traditional publisher that has ever bought rights to a book (and subsequently published that title with their own cover and marketing spin) would be a “scammer”.
That’s silly.
Do you genuinely think it’s a scam for someone to sell the publishing rights/copyright for their original work to another person? If that person then packages and sells that book to the masses, is that a scam?
I’m genuinely open to talk if you want to have a quick dialogue about this stuff. That link you posted is just an honest author trying to sell the books THEY wrote, and some random silliness besides.


This is, first, just stunning to me. After the stun, the anger and the outrage for every real writer, every single reader in the whole freaking world–in the whole damn multi-verse–rose up like the red, fiery tongues of ten thousand suns.

This commenter feels it’s just perfectly peachy for someone (because I’m not going to dignify that someone by calling him/her a writer) to publish a book, rack up, one assumes, some sales, some income. Then when that person decides that income stream has run its course, to offer that book for sale to another person (new income stream!). That person can do a search and replace on names, maybe a few tweaks (or maybe not) then slap a new cover and name on it, publish it all over again.

I suppose that could be done multiple times. I suppose it is. Income stream dries up, sell, someone else opens a new stream.

This commenter equates this with a traditionally published author who gets the rights back to their book, then republishes it. Under THEIR OWN NAME.

That is such utter bullshit.

First, I know many, many writers who have done just this. When rights revert, those writers take their book, do the work–or hire a pro to do the work–of formatting for e-form. They find a fresh cover–but in every case I know use the original title, or explain the title change. And they market it as classic or vintage or whatever term suits. They’re not deceiving the reader. It remains their book, their name, their work.

They put the publication on their website, their social media, letting readers know their book, previously published in paper, is now available in e-format. Full freaking disclosure.

They’re not selling it to somebody who’ll now pretend he/she wrote it to recharge that income stream.

That’s a cheat. A lie. And it infuriates every pulsing cell in my writer’s being.

It undermines and disrespects the very art, the essential craft of writing. Hey, why spend time actually writing (which I will bet a whole buncha money they can’t do anyway) if I can just buy a manuscript and put my name on it?

I will also bet a whole buncha money that many of the original somebodys paid to have a ghost write the book in the first place.

It smirks at the reader while it does so, showing him/her no respect. The reader isn’t valued, they’re just dupes to this scammer–and yes, by all the gods, they are scammers.

These people aren’t writers. They have no pride in their work. If it was ever their work. They couldn’t possibly have put any real heart in the work as they obviously have no emotional attachment to the story, the characters, the words.

It’s just an income stream.

Anyone who does this deserves to be outed, deserves to be banned from the site on which they ‘publish’.

Nora

Edited May 23, 2019

Blowback

Current totals on #copypastecris as of this morning: 51 books, 34 authors.

Blowback’s inevitable when you go public–especially on social media–about any issue.

With this one, I’m finding (unsurprisingly) people who object, complain, or smack at me and others tend to be protecting their own interests.

It’s all, yes! Fix this, fight this, go after the crooks and scammers, make the system fair. But don’t talk about or criticize or upset my personal apple cart.

Ghostwriters aren’t to blame, stop being mean to us!

The profession itself is certainly not to blame. But that profession is being used and abused by scammers, and by those willing to ghostwrite ebooks fast and cheap, often for the same ‘author’ who then tosses up multiple books a month.

They couldn’t generate those books, crushing the honest self-published writers without the ghosts who provide the service. So stop providing the service if you’re an honest person.

I’m not, and was very careful not to toss the entire profession or honest ghosts or work-for-hire authors in that same muck. But the practice of hiring ghosts, the practice of ghostfarms to generate scam books has to be exposed.

This is a cheat to the honest writer and to the reader.


I want to take a stand for my fellow authors, and to take a stand for readers. Because I value all of them.

Free or cheap books. I explained my thoughts on this as best I could. The reason so many self-pubbed must give away or sell their honest work so cheap is BECAUSE the scammers exploit a weak, flawed system. A readership now accustomed to fast and cheap demand it. And many of those readers don’t understand an actual writer can’t produce a book a week.

The writers going off about me being rich, privileged, not understanding their situation couldn’t be more wrong. I do understand it. I had to work my way up through a very crowded field in the early 80s. I know what it’s like. I’m not condemning anyone struggling to get their work noticed, I’m saying the prevalence of free and dirt cheap are devaluing the very writers who struggle. And the system and the scammers have forced them into this.

Do you want the scams exposed, do you want a level playing field in a stronger system? Do you want a chance to build a career, make an actual living doing what you love? Or do you just want me to shut up about it when it affects you?

The readers who slap back because: I can’t afford to pay more. You’re a millionaire in a mansion, (note, I don’t live in a mansion), I want to read lots and lots and lots of books every week, so lay off me.

Readers don’t have as much skin in the game as writers, but they do have some. For every cheap fake book you buy for a buck–because you didn’t take a couple minutes to check that author’s credentials, you’ve tossed money away.

You shouldn’t have to check. It’s outrageous any reader should have to take even two seconds of their time for anything like this. It enrages me.

To the readers who demand–and I mean those who demand the fast and cheap or free–why do you think the writer should work their butts off for nothing? You want to call me entitled because I’ve spent over three decades working MY butt off? Excuse me, I really think that shoe fits the other foot.

Let me quickly speak about used books. I have never–even when it was an unpopular stand with a lot of other writers–had any issue with used books. The stores, the trading books, the yard sales, whatever. In fact, I’ve often suggested a reader new to me try one of my books from that source. Someone bought the book, and therefore, the author was paid.

There are lots and lots of ways to access books inexpensively, and this is one of them. Libraries are amazing–and the writer gets paid.

You have a budget? So does Writer Jane Smith who’s doing everything she can to write her book, maybe in addition to her day job, raising a family.

But you’re a voracious reader, you have to read.

Jane has to eat. Jane has to pay the mortgage.

I sympathize with the voracious reader on a budget. I’m a reader, voracious, and when I was a single mom raising two kids, I had to find a way to work a book buy into my grocery budget.

The problem is, this is an ugly, cheating, greedy beast with many, many tentacles. You can’t kill the beast by ignoring any of those tentacles. because it’s going to take another swipe, and the other tentacles will regenerate.

What I’m hearing from those who object to my statements on specific areas is: We want change, we want fair, we want some asses kicked, oh yeah, but . . . Only our way, only the asses we want kicked, only if it doesn’t touch me.

Not going to happen. I do this my way, or I don’t do it at all.

Guess what? I can deal with my specific issue–Serruya’s infringement of my work. And walk away from the rest. It’d be a lot easier to do just that.

I should be working on my book, right now. As I should have been since this all started. I want to take a stand for my fellow authors, and to take a stand for readers. Because I value all of them.

Because it’s the goddamn principle.

For those trying to tell me how to do that, understand. With me, this is all or nothing.

Now I have to go let my dogs out in my imaginary mansion, because it seems it’s my staff’s lifetime off.

Nora


Back to add a link to Shiloh Walker’s excellent post : How to Spot scammers…and raise hell

Let Me Address This

As I said before I’m getting an education in the self-pubbed, indie author world. I’ve always been an traditionally published author, so I’ve neither lived nor worked in this world.

My books are, of course, available as e-books. My publisher publishes them in all formats. I just write the books.

Regarding books cheap or free, I’ve gotten an education there, too. What I’ve heard from various indie authors is basically this:

When this market opened years ago, those who chose to self-pub were able to take the time they needed to craft their story, do all the work required to publishe that work on line (it’s a lot). Most could and did–from my understanding–price their books at (rounding) about five dollars. Maybe more depending on the page count of the book.

At that price, the author earns 70% of the cover price. They’re doing all the work, paying–I hope–for a professional editor, paying for cover, for ads. It’s all out of their pocket, so they earn the lion’s share of the cover price.

They did the marketing, the advertising, the social media–while they worked on their next book. Maybe it took them three months, six months, even a year to craft that next book. Which they then published for about five dollars.

In this way, many could make a decent living.

A Broken System

Then came the scammers, and with the methods discussed in previous blogs, who flooded the market with 99 cent books. What a bargain! Readers couldn’t know these books were stolen or copied or written by ghostfarms. Couldn’t know about the clickfarms, the scam reviews.

At this price, the author receives only 30% (there’s a price point cut off on royalty rate). So all those out of pocket expenses may or may not be covered.

The legit indie saw her sales suffer, her numbers tank, her placement on lists vanish. To try to compete, many had to struggle to write faster, to heavily discount their work. Some had to give up writing altogether.

One other scamming method is to list a book–forever–as free. Not as a promotion, or incentive, but to toss up hordes or free books, so the reader wants–and often demands–free. They make their money off the scores of cheap and stolen books, and destroy the legit writer. Why pay when there are scores of free books at your fingertips?

Reporting bad actors, filing complaints didn’t do much. There have been, I’m told, some actions and improvements. But the scammers continue to thrive.

So those struggling authors have to devalue their own work, as many readers became accustomed to the fast and the cheap. Or the free.

I am NOT saying all books at a bargain price are scams, I am NOT saying readers should never scoop up a bargain or download a free book. I AM saying if you’re a reader who pushes for fast and cheap, who buys books simply because they’re under a buck, who hounds authors for free (and yeah, you know who you are, too) as I’m often hounded, this is a problem. This just plays into a broken system.

And I’ll happily say it again. Pay the artist, pay the creator.

Many authors–as Kasey Michaels explained so well in the comments on my previous blog–are and have been publishing their backlist on-line. Books they wrote for traditional publishers (for which they were paid) and now have the rights to. So many of them, like Kasey, offer a free book or a 99 cent one as a loss leader. But then up the price point for the rest in that series, or another group of books.

The straight to indie author is paid ONLY through those on-line purchases. And they can’t survive on thirty-three cents a sale. They wouldn’t have to without the culture these scammers created.

The scammers can survive, because of the volume they produce, of the bonuses they earn from incentive programs. I’m told some earn thousands, many thousands a week.

Feeding the Beast

Your honest, hard-working self-pubbed author? Not even close.

Writers are nowhere without readers. But readers are nowhere without those hard-working writers who pour their creative juices, their hours at the keyboard into the best book they can write.

If you want a book for a dollar, that’s your choice. It’s easy enough to check the author’s website, take a little preview of the story, see what else they might have to offer.

But if you’re a reader who’s just glomming those books because they’re cheap, because you’ve gotten used to cheap, it feeds the beast.

It’s still your choice–will always be your choice whether it’s buying on-line or buying paper.

For those–you know who you are, too–who’ve tossed my money back in my face, claim I’m elitist and mouthing off because I’m rich?

Bite me.

Nora

Not a Rant, but a promise

The count of my books lifted from is now five. And the count of writers victimized has gone up.

I’m getting one hell of an education on the sick, greedy, opportunistic culture that games Amazon’s absurdly weak system. And everything I learn enrages me.

There are black hat teams, working together, who routinely hire ghosts on the cheap, have them throw books together, push them out–many and fast–to make money, to smother out competition from those self-pubbed writers who do their own work. Those who do their own work can’t possibly keep up with the volume these teams produce by these fraudulent tactics.

They tutor others how to scam the system.

Some of them pull whole books in the public domain, stick a new image and name on. Sometimes Amazon’s algorithm catches it, sometimes it doesn’t.

And often, when a writer without real clout calls it out, complains, they bury her with ugly social media raids.

If they’re caught, they simply go under, regroup, come back and do it all again.

Some of these grifters and thieves gather together in closed social media group to brag about how many ghosts they have working, how much money they’re making.

I haven’t learned nearly everything about these tactics, but I’ve learned enough to say this:


You’ve got bills to pay? Guess what, so do the writers you’re helping to ruin.

If you’re a ghostwriter who takes a job, cheaply, to hammer out a book this way, if you take a job from someone who sends you a bunch of lines, scenes, chunks and you work that into a book, you’re complicit. If you didn’t do the very minimum of due diligence, check those chunks, lines, scenes on the many available plagiarism search engines, you’re complicit.

You’ve got bills to pay? Guess what, so do the writers you’re helping to ruin. So do the writers who have to deal with the turmoil of having their work stolen. And you’re dragging legitimate ghost writers and the whole damn profession down with you.

You know who you are.

To those publishing ‘books’ using these tactics, whether it’s hiring ghosts then slapping your name on a book, whether it’s stealing work someone else sweated over, you’re thieves and liars. Every one of you. And none of you will ever be a writer.

You know who you are.

To the black hats who exploit, steal, tutor others to do the same, your day of reckoning’s coming.

I’ll use the same to out every one pretending to be a ghost and exploiting the system. The same to every fake writer gaming the pathetic system to make a quick buck.


Writing, real writing, is work, it takes time and talent and effort.

And to readers, those of you who keep pushing for more and cheaper books, just stop it. Writing, real writing, is work, it takes time and talent and effort. By snapping up a book just because it’s ninety-nine cents on line, you’re encouraging this. The creator and the content they work so hard to produce is devalued.

Pay the artist, for God’s sake, or the artist can’t create. What you end up with is rushed from a desperate writer struggling to keep up to pay the bills. Or mass-produced crap thrown together by scammers.

Years ago during the Dailey nightmare, I had another writer at the RWA conference where it broke come up to me. Smirk. She told me I was over-reacting, it wasn’t a big deal. She said whenever she read a book, she had a notebook by her side. She noted down phrases, lines, bits that she liked. Then when she sat down to write, she wove them in, made their her own.

I looked her in the face, and I told her that made her a thief.

If you sit and read with a notebook, use the work and words an actual writer slaved over, you’re not just a thief. You’re lazy, pathetic, and don’t have a creative bone in your body.

And yeah, you know who you are.

Stand up for your work, those of you who are being knocked around, whose work is stolen. Stand the hell up for yourself. Stand up for the craft, and call these fuckers out.

And the next idiot who accuses me of using ghostwriters, you better be prepared.

One More Thing

These bad actors also hire ‘click farms’, where people using multiple devices click through books on KU, to make more money. And to reach award levels to make the scammers big bonuses.

They’re not writing—they don’t care. They’re not reading—they don’t care. They’re just using angle after cheating angle to rack in the dough.

Nora

Edited May 23, 2019

Plagiarism, Then and Now

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?

Jesus Christ.

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.

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.

Nora Roberts

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.

Nora

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.

Edited May 23, 2019

Freedom!

I haven’t posted a blog in weeks as I’ve been hip deep in a book. The result? Brain drain at the end of the work day, and a zillion tasks to deal with on weekends.

Yesterday, finally, I sent the manuscript off to my agent and editor. And today I unlock and throw open the cage door for a couple of days.

After I finish this blog, I may sit in the corner and stare at the wall for several hours.

Things have happened besides the book in these first chilly weeks of the new year.

Our annual New Year’s Day Open House was–as they say in Regency novels–a crush. Lots of people, lots of food. Laura and Kayla and Kat helped me make and bake and stir and chop on New Year’s Eve.

For the crudite, Kat created a little Christmas tree out of broccoli, with bits of red peppers for ornaments and a star carved from a radish. Who else but Kat would think of that?

#randomkatness

So I got to ring out the old, ring in the new with friends, family. And got plenty of Griffin time.

We had our annual January trip to the spa–which meant I had the glorious Griffin with me for a week. (Oh, and his parents, too.) One of the butlers brought in his personal rocking chair for our use–what a guy.

The Magickal Griffin

Griffin and I seriously appreciated it.

Then, despite the ugly and annoying head cold that struck me on my first day home, it was a return to work–with no afternoon massage.

And the start of my annual purge. Due to ugly cold this got a slow start, but progress was made. By the second weekend of purging, I hit my office.

For a zillion years I’ve kept a ton of research books–ones I really haven’t cracked open in about a half a zillion. This year, I determined to cull them down brutally, and give my office shelves some breathing room.

Clear space on office shelves

And poor BW had to haul the heavy boxes (box after box) downstairs. They’ll go into storage, then the next library sale. And my office is reborn!

I haven’t hit the lower level yet–always a big chore–but the third floor is purged, and I only have the library and guest room left on the main.

At BW’s request I cleaned out my candle cupboard. Apparently I actually have a candle cupboard. And okay, I didn’t purge there, because candles, but I organized it.

And as Parker suddenly developed–we’ll be delicate and call it heroic flatulence–my scented candles came in really handy. So does yogurt mixed with his dog food (thanks Google) as we seem to have solved the issue.

Thank all the gods as if was far too cold to banish the boy outside.

As January slid into February with those shockingly cold temperatures, I stayed snuggly and smugly at my workstation, and in the book. It was so cold, the house couldn’t keep up, so I worked with a blanket over my lap. We got some snow, which from inside, looked very pretty.

Atticus, brave snowdog

Writing can drain the brain, but you don’t have to shovel out your car and go out into the world.

The really good thing about February is it’s short–and spring training starts. This one’s been busy and eventful in my world. My running girl and her teammates took first in Regionals in indoor track (four years running!) In a couple weeks, she’ll compete in States. And she got her driver’s license.

The newest driver in the family

How strange and lovely it is to have my first girl old enough to drive and my latest boy laughing and cooing.

We snuck in a signing at Turn The Page last Saturday that turned into a door buster. The cold finally broke, lifting the temps into the 40s–with sun! Actual sun. Maybe it was the break from frigid and sunlight, but we had the happiest group of readers and authors for our mid-winter event.

And I got more Griffin time. It’s incredibly rewarding for me to see happy recognition in his eyes when he sees me. He knows his Nana!

Happy, happy boy.

Mid-month we’re celebrating Inn BoonsBoro’s tenth anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade. Especially when our truly incredibly staff keeps it looking as fresh as it did the day it opened.

I’ll end the shortest month with pals coming up to whip through the bags and bags (I’ll hang and organize) of clothes I purged from my closet. Girl time! (With Griffin attending as the token male.)

That’s a fine way to move into March, and start pining for spring.

But for today, before and after work out time, I’m going to play sloth as I expect to slam the cage door again on Monday.

Nora

Connections in Death discussion thread

And now the year can really start — Connections in Death arrives in stores/on e-readers today. And here’s the place to discuss it all.

A quick reminder of the cover copy:

In this gritty and gripping new novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, Eve Dallas fights to save the innocent—and serve justice to the guilty—on the streets of New York.

Eve and Roarke are close to opening build a brand-new school and youth shelter. They know that the hard life can lead kids toward dangerous crossroads—and with this new project, they hope to nudge a few more of them onto the right path. For expert help, they hire child psychologist Dr. Rochelle Pickering—whose own brother pulled himself out of a spiral of addiction and crime with Rochelle’s support.

Lyle is living with Rochelle while he gets his life together, and he’s thrilled to hear about his sister’s new job offer. But within hours, triumph is followed by tragedy. Returning from a celebratory dinner with her boyfriend, she finds Lyle dead with a syringe in his lap, and Eve’s investigation confirms that this wasn’t just another OD. After all his work to get clean, Lyle’s been pumped full of poison—and a neighbor with a peephole reports seeing a scruffy, pink-haired girl fleeing the scene.

Now Eve and Roarke must venture into the gang territory where Lyle used to run, and the ugly underground world of tattoo parlors and strip joints where everyone has taken a wrong turn somewhere. They both believe in giving people a second chance. Maybe even a third or fourth. But as far as they’re concerned, whoever gave the order on Lyle Pickering’s murder has run out of chances…

So, how fast did you read it? Did you find all the teasers?

Hope you enjoyed!

Laura

The official blog for Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb readers