What happened to the money? That was the question which people kept asking after reading how a fellow author clocked up sales worth almost $20,000 in a little over two months last autumn by plagiarising two crime novels that I’d co-written some years earlier.
The story was told in detail in last week’s Life magazine in the Sunday Independent. It explained how I happened to discover, thanks to an eagle-eyed reader called Donna Patel in England, that the first two books my writing partner and I had published as “Ingrid Black” a decade earlier had been lifted and republished on the online bookstore Amazon under new titles, with all names and locations changed to hide the original source.
The plagiarist’s name was “Joanne Clancy”, and she’d received just under $2,000 in royalties by the time her deception was uncovered. (Amazon, being American, calculates everything in dollars). Because Amazon pays the authors of Kindle books every 60 days, that meant there was just over $18,000 still waiting to be paid. So where would it go?
My co-writer and I had been wondering that, too, since discovering just how many copies of our books “Joanne Clancy” had sold.
It wouldn’t go to her, obviously, as she had been exposed as a fraud, but it didn’t seem likely that it would go to us either. Then we discovered, accidentally during the course of a conversation with a representative from Amazon, that the company does actually pay out to the original author of a book if it could be proven that their work has been plagiarised.
. . . .
We were fortunate. We caught “Joanne Clancy” at a vulnerable time. She’d only just discovered that her books were being removed from Amazon and that she was banned for life from publishing her books in the online store, at least under that name. She was also worried about the prospect of legal action, and seemed keen to mollify us.
Had she taken a day or two to think it over, she might well have decided that silence was the best strategy. She certainly vanished off the radar shortly afterwards and ignored all email requests for further information.
. . . .
Legal action is time consuming, expensive, and mentally draining, with no guarantee of success, especially against a shadowy opponent who seemed to exist mainly in cyberspace. Because that was another problem.
The internet is a big place. Many people got into contact to explain how to trace people through their online fingerprints. “Joanne Clancy” had a website, which yielded some further clues, but nothing conclusive. Other authors were able to provide IP addresses from comments left by this “Joanne Clancy” on their pages and blogs.
. . . .
But out of all these thousands of readers, not a single person has contacted me to say that they know this woman, or have ever come across her, in real life. Some are closely involved in the literary community in Cork, which “Clancy” claimed as her home town. They can find no trace of her existence either. She seems to exist only online.
Link to the rest at Independent.ie and thanks to N. for the tip.