Daily Archives: May 7, 2004

Plagiarism Debacle

The solution:

1. We cut most of the offending material, as it’s non-essential.

2. We cite the other book the author published the information in, for the bits we keep.

3. The author never works with us again.

I’ve put too much work into it to cancel the book, so I’m fine with this. We have to recoup the time and money we’ve put in somehow, and publication’s the only way to do it. The manuscript is in galleys now, which is usually the point of no return; you can edit for punctuation or spelling errors, or remove something, but you can’t add anything. Galleys are also known as proofs, and they’re the final step before publication. They show you what the layout of the final book is going to be, and it’s the last chance you have to catch errors.

Thank the Goddess I caught this one before it was too late.

I have a feeling this author’s agent has received a nasty eye-opener concerning her client. I don’t know what the fallout will be, but we reap what we sow, so I’ll leave it up to them to work it out. Interestingly enough, the same agent represents the other author we’ve been working with on the second book, and that’s been sailing along so beautifully that the agent has a unique opportunity to compare and contrast the two situations. The only variable has been the author; the editing team is the same. The agent can draw her own conclusions.

An editor is supposed to be “a partner, not a critic” according to Richard Webster (author of How to Write for the New Age Market), but by this point I’m so unimpressed with the author that I don’t feel that this is a partnership at all; I feel like we’ve been doing most of the work. I know that there are authors out there who hand in substandard work and expect the editing team to polish it for them, and I find this attitude intolerable. I can’t know this author’s attitude throughout this process, but the lack of response to the first set of requests for rewrites, and this previously published material issue don’t do much for my confidence in him. A reader wants to trust the author. The editor helps that happen by making the material as accessible and as interesting as possible. Technically our goal is the same: to create a strong, positive product. So why do I feel so let down?

Everyone slips from time to time. This author claims that the material was a placeholder, that he meant to pull it out and rewrite it, and forgot, and he’s terribly embarrassed. Every single author I know is busy and overloaded with work of various sorts. There are authors out there who write books to pay the bills. This author had two projects that overlapped, and identical material ended up in both. I just happened to browse through the one that got published first. Whatever. His story might be true, it might not. It’s just further proof to me that he doesn’t really care about his readers. It also suggests that he doesn’t respect his subject, either, which as a reader upsets me.

I keep trying to like humanity, I really do. And then something like this happens, and I get all dejected and wonder if anyone’s honest at all.

It seems to be sunny today. I might wander downtown to clear my brain.