Respect for Your Fellow Authors

What’s respect for your fellow authors?

Well, let me tell you what it is NOT.

Let’s imagine you’re an author who writes literary fiction. And then you happen to see how much better romance sells. (Note: Of course, you don’t really like the genre.) And you pick one specific subgenre of romance (hmmm… let’s say sweet Western historicals), you pick a novel by a bestselling author in that genre (hmmm, who could that be, I wonder? *cough* Debra Holland *cough*) in order to deconstruct it and learn about the conventions of the genre. Then you go and hire that author’s cover designer and make sure that your cover is designed along the lines of the other author’s very specific branding. And then you write a blog post about “Experimenting with Genre”/”Genre vs Platform” and make sure it’s blasted across umpteen different blogs.


That is not respect for your fellow authors.

And when you continue to blast the aforementioned post across even more blogs, even after it has been pointed out to you that it might be nice to give credit to the author — when you continue, even after the author herself left a reply on one blog, voicing (in a very polite, roundabout way, mind you) her obvious astonishment at the way her branding has been copied and at the way you fail to give the tiniest bit of credit to her? WOW, that shows a whole new level of disrespect for your fellow authors!

(And in case you’re wondering: I’m frigging mad about the way this author is behaving. It goes against everything I’ve experienced both in the romance community and the self-publishing community.)

But actually, it’s even worse…
19 January 2014: A short addition:

In case anybody is wondering: I have never met Debra Holland in person, even though we are both members of a large self-publishing e-mail loop. But you know how it is with such large e-mail loops. When I spoke out about this whole issue, I certainly did not consider her a friend nor any kind of acquaintance. I spoke (and still speak) up about this issue because of my outrage at the disrespect shown to a fellow author and at the way so many people seem to be okay with that kind of behaviour.

3 thoughts on “Respect for Your Fellow Authors

  1. Susanne Lakin

    Hi Sandy, I initially did not mention Debra’s name out of respect for her and thinking she would not like getting a ton of copycats. I contacted her after I ran my post and she wrote me that she wished I had mentioned her name in the post, which had already run. I only had her reputation. We then discussed writing some future posts together, which I thought would be fun to do. I hosted her on my blog last year and promoted that post to my readers and on social media. To learn learn she was angry at my failure to mention her name hurt, because I was only trying to do what I thought was the most respectful to her, but now that I know she does want people to know I studied and used (only) some of her structure, and did not “copy” her cover (mine is very different; I just wanted a similar look, which many authors do a lot, and are encouraged to do so when writing in various genres). I never intended to hurt or cheat anyone, and I did not “blast the post” across other blogs. I only wrote one post, and it got picked up by many blogs without my control or influence. Should I write anything further on the topic, now that I know Debra’s intense feelings on the matter, I will surely give credit to her book as the one I studied to get a feel for the genre. I did not copy her platform or branding. I am sorry you and she got angry. It seems more a miscommunication than anything else, for I could show you all the email correspondence between us, which paints a very different picture. My intent only is to help other writers, which my clients and other professionals in this industry will attest, as my blog has won much acclaim for serving the interests of other writers. I always encourage writers to write the best book they can and learn to write in any genre they want to by carefully studying the structure used by successful authors in that genre. Romance writers, as well as those in all genres, have been doing this for decades and still do, without criticism. And before claiming someone is stealing another’s ideas or plagiarizing (or reporting such to RWA or Amazon, as Debra did), it would be good to first read the book in question (she didn’t) and see if that is actually true. I’ve written fourteen novels in seven genres and work full-time as a writing coach and editor, and so I know what it means to study structure and write accordingly. There is a huge difference between plagiarism and writing to a genre. My novel is nothing like any of Debra’s, and my style and plot original. Yes, I have a love triangle (I think a few novels out there have that) and my characters all move from the east to the frontier (which accounts for a huge number of books in this genre). That’s about where the similarity ends. I notice dozens of books about mail-order brides by different authors. Should some be accused of plagiarism and reported to Amazon because they are using that premise. I don’t think that needs answering.

    I am happy to tell people about Debra’s book and that I studied it to learn some technique. I liked the way she used only two POVs in the book, so did that. I notice a lot of other romance books use that technique. There is no trademarked or patented idea, method, plot device, or element in her book that hasn’t already been used many times before. In fact, I would venture to guess that when she decided to cash in on this genre, she probably read and studied some successful novels and copied some of the structure. And I would never expect her to post everywhere just which authors and books those are. I imagine she found the cover designer much the same way I did–by seeing one or asking the author or looking at the acknowledgments in the book and contacting the designer. That is perfectly acceptable.

  2. Sandra Schwab

    Susanne, you are again misrepresenting facts (as you’ve done before – Debra’s comment on Barbara Rogan’s blog makes this quite clear: ).

    At no point did anybody claim that you plagiarised Debra’s book.

    To claim that your cover is very different from Debra’s is rather ridiculous given that you pressurised the cover designer to make yours as similar to hers as possible. (If anybody’s interested in a side by side, check out this post: )

    Your spiel on Genre vs Platform appeared on at least three different blogs (though under slightly different titles). And each post was carefully designed to be a sales pitch for your books and your books alone (that becomes abundantly clear in the comments section of Joel Friedlander’s blog). And even after Debra left a reply to the article on Friedlander’s blog and e-mailed you (another misrepresentation of facts on your part: you did not get in touch with her; instead she got in touch with you), you again failed to acknowledge the debt you owe to her in the article on Barbara Rogan’s blog.

    And “when she [Debra] decided to cash in on this genre”???? Gee, Debra put sweet Western (non-inspirational) historicals on the map. New York wouldn’t touch them before she hit the NYT list.

  3. Sandra Schwab

    Debra has let me know that you did get in touch via e-mail — but only after she had left that comment on Joel Friedlander’s blog. Frankly, I don’t believe you would have got in touch with her if she hadn’t left that comment.

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