Kernels of Nonsense is a bimonthly discussion feature where I discuss various book and blogging related topics. This week I was unfortunately reminded that although being a book blogger is a great and rewarding experience, it also has an ugly side.
Early last week a fellow blogger tweeted that she had been plagiarized. Another blogger had taken her review, slapped her own name on it, and posted it both on her blog and on Goodreads. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only victim, as several other bloggers were also plagiarized by the same person. While this didn’t come as a huge surprise (I’ve come across several plagiarizing incidents since joining Twitter), it was a reminder that as book bloggers (and bloggers in general), we are susceptible to this kind of thing simply because of the open online environment in which we operate.
In the two years that I have been blogging, I haven’t been plagiarized (at least not to my own knowledge), but it is something that I’m aware of, even though as a community we often don’t discuss it. As far as I can tell, plagiarism among bloggers is rare and because bloggers are so well-connected with one another, word spreads rather quickly when an incident does happen. But the online world is vast and I’m sure there are instances of plagiarism that go unnoticed.
As book bloggers, words are important to us. We are passionate about reading and we became book bloggers in order to share that passion with others. Taking someone else’s words and claiming them as your own is not only dishonest, it robs the original author of the credit they deserve. While we may never be able to rid our community of this kind of wrong-doing, it is important for us to look out for one another.
Unfortunately, this was not the only incident that came to my attention this past week. On the same day another blogger came forward to report that he had been contacted by an individual who claimed to be a part of Penguin Random House. This individual requested his address in order to send him ARCs for review. But once he received a package from this individual, he became suspicious and eventually learned this person was not a Penguin Random House employee, but an author named Christine Catlin who created a fake identity in order to get bloggers to review her book. You can see the blogger’s full post here.
When I first saw this story on Twitter, I panicked a little. I was one of the bloggers “Corinne Rosanna Catlin” had contacted. I went from feeling truly horrified to disgusted to wondering if I did something wrong by trusting this person. A few days after learning that I had also been a victim of this individual, my own package arrived. At the time it put a pretty big knot in my stomach and to a lesser degree, still does. I now have this woman’s book Spectaccolo in my possession, along with an ARC that she obtained (it has a price tag on the back) and I have no idea what to do with them.
After having a couple of days to fume inwardly and work out my own feelings of self-pity, I’m now at the point where I almost feel sorry for this author. She’s essentially shot herself in the foot. She’s unlikely to have a successful writing career under her own name, and her book’s ratings on Goodreads and Amazon have taken a nose-dive since this story broke. While she could have gotten bloggers to review her book by simply asking, book bloggers are now highly unlikely to review her book. Though she deceived me and who knows how many other bloggers, I don’t think she meant it in a malicious way and it is because of this that I can be forgiving. I won’t be reading her book, but I’m ready to move past this whole experience.
This incident regrettably brought to mind what happened with author Kathleen Hale back in 2014. If you’re not familiar with this story (brace yourself), author Kathleen Hale was so distraught over a negative review she received for her book that she essentially stalked a blogger both online and in real life. When Hale discovered this blogger was not using her real name, she used deceptive means in order to gain access to the blogger’s address and then drove to her house to confront her. There are far too many examples of authors’ bad behavior toward bloggers and reviewers and is just another example of the ugly side of book blogging that we don’t often talk about.
Sometimes being a book blogger is not all rainbows and unicorns (or in this case, big books and pretty books). We operate in a digital world where anyone can become a blogger and anyone can contact us. This makes us vulnerable. It is so important for us to look out for one another, to communicate with each other if someone contacts you that you’re unsure about, to inform your fellow bloggers if you discover someone has been plagiarizing their work. We’ll never be able to do away with people taking advantage of those within this blogosphere, so these experiences raise an important question, what can we do to better protect ourselves and the community?
Have you ever been plagiarized? How did you handle it? What steps do you think bloggers should take in order to protect themselves and other bloggers? Do you believe we are too trusting in the book blogging community? Let’s discuss in the comments.