Welcome to Biting-Edge, a blog shared by authors and vampire experts, Mario Acevedo and Jeanne Stein. We’ll cover urban fantasy, vampires, pop culture, and all things Joss Whedon. Unlike other fantasy blogs, we don’t insist on body cavity searches (unless you ask politely). Snarkiness is most welcome...though we won't promise not to bite back!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011
  Why Would Anyone Want to be a Writer?
This has been a strange week in the writing world. First there’s Q. R. Martin and his spy novel, Assassin of Secrets released on November 3. Turns out it was stitched together from John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Charles McCarry and a host of other well known thriller writers. Lifted word for word. Only the name of the protagonist was changed. Spy novelist Jeremy Duns even blurbed the book. His blog with his thoughts here . Now the book’s publisher, Mulholland Books, susposedly pulled it when the plagiarism(s) came to light, but it’s still on Amazon . In fact it’s ranked #151 in books.

And the reviews from Kirkus (starred), Publisher’s Weekly (starred), and several NYT Bestselling authors call it thrilling, smart, and, according to PW, (with an) obvious Ian Fleming influence(that) just adds to the appeal. I’ll say it has an Ian Fleming appeal. Most of it is plagiarized from James Bond novels.

So here is a book earning starred reviews from most of the biggest review sites in the business and it’s a fraud.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Today on a loop several authors discussed the publishing business and how so many of us are either in between contracts, pitching new series, or waiting to begin contract negotiations. Agents are telling us advances are on a downward trend. That it’s up in the air if contracts will be renewed at all. No one is confident about the future. Words like unsteady and fearful are bandied about.

And yet. There is an alternative now, isn’t there? E-pubbing. It’s no longer something we don’t want to think about or for books not considered good enough for a New York house. Well-established authors are releasing their backlists or putting new work on line.

I’m teaching an online writing class now. I want to be optimistic with my students. I tell them that talent and perseverance win out. That publishing with a New York house is the goal.

Is it really?

I don’t think I know anymore.
It's not a mystery Assassin of Secrets got such good reviews. It was stolen from really great books. Who remembers word for word the super books we've read? It just makes me wonder how many other best sellers are plagiarized and no one has figured it out yet.
It just seems like such a stupid thing to do--especially plagiarizing from books so well known. And in the age of google search, it's also a very risky thing to do.

Hey Shannon? How the heck are you?
If there's a way to corrupt something, someone will find a way to do it...and succeed. Madoff gave the stock market a black eye. The Black Bloc gave the occupy movement in Oakland a bad rap. We won't even talk about the corruption in Congress. So why not the publishing business? Those of us who are better than that have to rise above the stupidity and persevere. Best to everyone. Terry
Many years ago, I believe back in the 80s, I read an article (most likely in American Film magazine) in which the author sent the screenplay to Casablanca to a variety of agents purporting to look for representation. He changed the title to Everybody Comes to Rick’s, the name of the original play, and made perhaps one other slight alteration (character name?). Only a couple of the agents figured it out. The rest had no idea and, let’s face it, Casablanca is not an obscure film. (They mostly thought it was a bad screenplay and were not willing to rep the writer, never mind that the script actually won the best screenplay Oscar). So I’m not surprised that this could happen with a book. Perhaps the surprise is that it doesn’t happen more often.
I wish I could find a link to that article. It was quite entertaining.
It’s going to be interesting to see how publishing shakes out over the next few years. If trad publishers want to keep their position then they have to figure out how to differentiate themselves and brand their writers (you know, like MGM stars in the 30s. Self e-pubbing writers are going to have figure out how to make the wheat stand out from the chaff. Anybody can self e-pub. That doesn’t make it good. It’s gonna be tough, but something will have to happen.
What else would you do?
It's definitely a weird time. What we've been doing so long, writers, publishers, is just not certain anymore. I guess it's just good to try to enjoy the process and the company and not let the long view get you down.
Terry-- unfortunately I believe you're right. I don't know what happened to personal integrity and respect for others...maybe those things never existed. It makes me sad to think so.

Catfiend - Separating the good from the bad is the biggest hurdle facing epub writers now. But it may be as it's always been--that luck plays more of a role than talent. Look at how many bestsellers you read and think, how the hell did that get published let alone make the lists?

It's a puzzle, for sure.
Julie-- what else would I do? I don't know and therein lies the problem!! ;-0

Chris--easier said than done. But the one thing I'm sure of is being grateful I've had a chance to pursue my dream.
You write. And write. And do YOUR best. Write some more, and fight the good fight. Look for YOUR outlets.

Of course there's bad out there, and if you keep looking for it, that's all you'll see. Live YOUR life the best you can, and that will eventually create a "collective better."

What else you gonna do? Be consumed by the bad and grow dark? I don't prefer that alternative.
its a pleasure reading all these informative things.
Janine Zargar
I don't prefer the dark either, fp--it's sometimes hard to see through it, though.

Janine, welcome to the Biting Edge!

The selfish part of me hopes you never do anything else. But if you do, I have no doubt that you will succeed with all the grace you bring to publishing.

thank you, Julie--you are too kind.
You have something going with your post. I believe we all steal something, from someone, at some point in time of our careers. In a world webbed together in a net, where everything feels it has seemingly been done, it is so hard not to cross those boundries by trying to put a fresh spin on an old plot. We live in an age unlike our father's, who would read H.G. Wells and believe things like traveling to the moon, or the use of technological inventions like the A-Bomb were merely impossible fiction (Sorry, I'm old). In this age, we know that all is possible, almost, and that thin line between the imaginary and the believable is a subjective obstacle to creativity. It is almost no wonder why we recompose. The question is how can this generation surpass the conventions of a "postmodern" age, with a market fueled by greed and meaningless literature, and redefine the works of your age with aestetic quality, not butchered quanity. Yet, readers these days seem to like to read book written like scripts.

Sorry, I guess this is just the ramblings of an old man who has watched the world he's embraced fall apart over the years. The things you speak of in your post are a matter of ethics really.

Keep up the good work.

An old, retired novelist.
To an old, retired novelist-- thanks for your thoughtful comments. I am old, too. I lived through the Cold war age where duck and cover exercises were the norm at school. I remember vividly where I was when Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. I believed in 2001 we would be vacationing on the moon. You are right. There are no new plots. And maybe we have gone away from timeless literature into a reading world where writers want books written like scripts. But ethics haven't changed that much, have they? If our concept of right and wrong is such that Martin could take wholesale passages from others' works and put them together to present as a book of his own and anyone thinks that's okay...we're really in trouble. I feel the same about piracy. Just because someone can do a thing, doesn't mean he should.
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