I’ve been noticing a lot of bad behavior on the part of new writers—minor squabbles motivating petty deeds. So I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should write a little guide called “How to Play Nice with Your Fellow Authors.” In fact, I was going to write the article this morning, when I heard about perhaps the single most disgusting incident that I’ve seen in thirty years as a writer.
It happened last week to a longtime acquaintance of mine, Rachel Ann Nunes. Now, I have to admit here that I know Rachel. I’ve met her at conventions for years, and my daughter happens to be one of her fans. So I’ve probably known her for a good fifteen years, and I like her.
Last week, Rachel discovered that another author had plagiarized her book. It was one that was published fifteen years ago as a clean romance. The other “author,” writing under the pseudonym Sam Taylor Mullins, made some revisions to the published text, adding some erotica, and tried to pass it off as her own. (I’m assuming that it’s a female author, although we don’t know at this point for sure, since she won’t reveal her true name, and her accounts keep changing)
While the plagiarized book hadn't yet been published, copies of it were sent out to reviewers. When one reviewer recognized what was going on and notified Rachel, Rachel tried unsuccessfully to get a copy of the book to see for herself. She then sent emails to six reviewers. Four of them looked at Rachel’s book and said “Yes, you’ve been plagiarized,” and then declined to review the plagiarized novel.
One reviewer said that she didn’t like the way that Rachel was handling this by talking to the reviewers, so she was going to complain to Rachel’s publisher and some other authorities, and claimed that Rachel’s publisher was her aunt. (A claim that the publisher said is false.)
Now, at this point, given the dubious lie, I’m wondering if the reviewer in this case isn’t also the plagiarist, Sam Taylor Mullins. Why? Because later the plagiarist told a lie in which she claimed that Rachel Ann Nunes was her aunt and that she had given Rachel the idea for the book in the first place, and that Rachel had given her permission to rewrite the novel.
In any case, a sixth reviewer suggested that Rachel was a much inferior writer to the plagiarist, and that perhaps Rachel should get a copy herself and take a nice long look at how much the new porn elements improved the book. In a leering manner, he suggested that the book would definitely make her blush, and one got the feeling that he would enjoy that.
The behavior of these two bloggers quite frankly astonishes me. In a way, it’s like having a rape victim shout for help, only to have the bystanders join in the attack.
Now, I don’t know these bloggers. I don’t even know their names. I suspect that these may not even be real people, that they’re sock puppets, or perhaps friends of the culprit.
But it gets stranger.
Sam Taylor Mullins provided a number of different accounts as to how the plagiarism took place.
In one account, a man in her writing group provided the original manuscript, said that he had been the coauthor and that it was no longer in print, and asked Sam Taylor Mullins to rewrite it. Unfortunately, he later died in a car wreck, so no one will be able to verify that story. But doesn’t it make sense that even if someone did come to you with a story like that, that you would recognize that it was a lie? Obviously, the book was far too modern to be in public domain, and even if you are the coauthor of a book, you can’t give away the other coauthor’s rights. So this is an obvious lie, an outrageous one, even on the face of it.
In another tale, Sam Taylor Mullins told one of the reviewers that Rachel Ann Nunes was her aunt, that she had given Rachel the idea for the novel many years ago, that she was therefore a coauthor, and that Rachel had given her permission to write the book. Well, Rachel says that that’s just not true. She doesn't have a niece that would have been old enough to do that. Sam Taylor Mullins also claimed that she had consulted with an attorney who said that Rachel just doesn’t have a case.
Sam Taylor Mullins also claimed, in the same letter, that she didn’t want knowledge of all of this to get out, because she was widely known as a good member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and didn’t want people to know that she was writing porn. She claimed that it might hurt her marriage if people knew.
I have to tell you, I have no sympathy for that point of view. To say that you want to hide the fact that you’re a plagiarist, a fraud, a liar, and a pornographer because you want everyone in your private life to believe that you’re a good Christian is just an affront to people of all faiths everywhere.
But it gets worse. Once Rachel uncovered what was going on, Sam Taylor Mullins and her friends struck back at her by writing negative reviews of her books and posting them on Amazon.com and elsewhere, thus trying to hurt her career. By the way, this isn’t just bad manners, it’s called “slander” and “libel,” and it carries some stiff penalties.
It’s like having the rapist and his friends decide to piss on the victim just because she dared beg for help.
I have never seen behavior this outrageous from another author in all of my life. Yet to this moment, Rachel still doesn’t know who the perpetrator is. The plagiarist has taken down her websites and her books, and Rachel has not even named the reviewers who did her wrong.
A lot of authors have written to Rachel to offer her sympathies. I think that we should do one better. This is the kind of case where you can contact the authorities, and they will do nothing. They’ll tell you that it’s a civil case.
But suing a person requires money that I know Rachel doesn’t have.
This is the kind of case where it is in the best interest of all writers to see this criminal—and her cohorts, brought to justice. So I’d like to do just that.
Now, last year, most of you know that my son had a tragic accident, and I really feel grateful that many of you made donations to our family through GoFundMe. I want to thank you. You really saved our lives economically. My son is doing much better, but I’m still working for 90 to 100 hours per week trying to get out of debt. So I’m going to kick off the fundraiser with a payment of my own, and I’m just sorry that I’m not in the position to help Rachel even more.
But I’m hoping that some of you will recognize that what is good for one writer is normally good for all. It is in your enlightened self-interest to help Rachel in this case. This particular plagiarist exhibits many of the behaviors of a sociopath, and she will just as gladly steal from you and ruin your career as she will Rachel’s.
You can help by going to GoFundMe, donating to the cause, and sharing it with others. Even if you can only donate $5, if enough people do that, we can make a difference.
You might also want to help by looking through Rachel’s books, and perhaps ordering any that strike your fancy.
You can read Rachel's personal account of this whole situation on her blog
Meanwhile, I’m going to be talking this week about do’s and don’ts with authors. How should we be treating each other, whether we are indie’s or traditional authors.