Saturday, October 02, 2010
The Author-Publisher Relationship
Rick Ferrel Moore sent me a story some years back for critiquing. The story: "Electrocuting the Clowns." It was a good story. I made my comments and he accepted them with grace, and then wisely ignored most of my feedback. Imagine our surprise when his tale started appearing around the web with another author's name stuck on it. I won't go into detail about this here, if you want, read Rick's own account. I am sure based on Rick's efforts and others who have allegedly been wronged by this individual that he will eventually find it difficult to continue his scam. For instance, I am positive that a bookstore where he is scheduled to do a book signing, with this information coming to light, will cancel his appearance.
All this being said, let me return to my original premise...I don't think authors should fear for their work, especially in the age of the internet. While the net might make it easier to suck people in, it also makes it harder to hide. Search engines are a wonderful floodlight. My students have found that out. When they have attempted to plagiarize text in the past, all I've had to do was cut and paste a sentence or two of their writing into a search engine and voila, I would be able to find out if they were cheating.
A friend of mine who taught English at the college level is fond of telling how his students, when given an assignment on Poe, would "google" the topic and sometimes copy information from an essay on a blog, rather than come up with their own thoughts and research. Unfortunately for them, the blog they would plagiarize belonged to their instructor.
I still maintain that as a whole, editors and publishers are a trustworthy lot. As authors we must submit. Bottom line. However, we can lower the chance of becoming prey for the unscrupulous by first checking where we are sending our material and by making sure we keep copies of email and cover letters. However, even the most careful author will get burned. It's part of the price of doing business. It won't make it any less painful. That being said, the writing community will continue to police itself and those who continue to lie and cheat will find themselves boxed into a corner until they are toothless and without credibility.
Posted by Stewart Sternberg at 8:52 PM