Home » Copyright/Intellectual Property, Legal Stuff, Non-US » The girl who stole my book: How Eilis O’Hanlon found out her crime novels were swiped by a stranger

The girl who stole my book: How Eilis O’Hanlon found out her crime novels were swiped by a stranger

29 March 2016

From Independent.ie:

Last October, I logged on to Twitter to find that I was now being followed by an account with the username @DonnaPatel. Something made me click on this particular link to see who it was. Call it intuition.

Donna Patel described herself as an “aspie” and “Potterhead”, and her most recent interaction had been with an Irish author calling herself “Joanne Clancy”.

Donna had been reading Clancy’s latest book, Tear Drop, a thriller about the hunt for a serial killer in Cork. At the time, it was the 111th biggest-selling e-book on Amazon’s UK division, and the number-one bestseller in Irish crime fiction, and Donna Patel had a simple question for the author: “Are you Ingrid Black?”

Next day, having received no reply to her message, Donna sent another tweet to the same account, saying: “Your book Tear Drop is The Dead by Ingrid Black.” Shortly afterwards, a third: “So you must be one of the authors behind Ingrid Black, or you are plagiarising.” Shortly afterwards, Joanne Clancy had deleted her account.

I found this exchange particularly interesting, and for a very good reason.

I am Ingrid Black.

One half of Ingrid Black, to be precise. She is a pseudonym, adopted more than 10 years ago for a joint crime-writing project between myself and my co-author and partner, Ian McConnell, and The Dead was our first book.

. . . .

By this time, however, the editor at Penguin who had championed the books had left for Australia, and, sadly, our new agent died. Feeling like we were back at square one, and not knowing how to start over, Ingrid Black slipped off the radar. In time, the books fell out of print and copyright reverted to us as the original authors.

At various points over the next few years, we toyed with the idea of releasing the Saxon stories as e-books. It seemed silly not to. They represented many years of work. Why not give them a new lease of life?

We set up a Twitter account in the name of Ingrid Black to prepare for publication. Our first tweet: “Now all I have to do is figure out how you put a book on Kindle, and I’ll be a millionaire by Christmas. That’s how it works, right?” Though, of course, it wasn’t done by that Christmas. Or the next one. Procrastination was our middle name.

We’d only sent six tweets and had less than 100 followers when, in October, we logged on to Twitter to see Donna Patel accuse Joanne Clancy of plagiarising The Dead.

. . . .

The first step was to find out if there was any truth to that allegation. Amazon’s summary of the book in question, which had been released in August 2015, certainly sounded familiar: “The serial killer known as Tear Drop vanished almost a decade ago, and nothing has been heard from him . . . until now. As death stalks the dark streets of Cork City, Detective Elizabeth Ireland must embark upon a frightening psychological journey to uncover the killer’s identity.”

Still, a blurb wasn’t conclusive proof; there are only a limited number of plots. So Ian and I downloaded a free sample and started reading Chapter One. The truth soon became apparent. Donna Patel was right.

Tear Drop wasn’t simply similar to The Dead.

It was The Dead. Everything about it was the same, from the plot to the protagonist’s sarcastic manner of speaking, to the jokes, to the very structure of the sentences and paragraphs.

. . . .

Once more, detail by detail, our book was being raided and filleted in front of my eyes. Tear Drop had been put together by someone who had The Dead open at the side of the keyboard as they typed.

I knew I had to read to the end. Gritting my teeth, I paid to download Tear Drop on to my Kindle. I didn’t have much doubt what I would find, but it was still a shock to find all my worst suspicions confirmed.

. . . .

Not only that, but it was doing well enough to be among the most downloaded books on Kindle at the time, and to be top of the charts in Ireland. It was also being widely, and enthusiastically, reviewed by fellow authors and crime-fiction fans, both on Amazon and elsewhere across the internet, many of whom were hailing it as Joanne Clancy’s best book to date.

“Personally, I really do not know how she came up with the superb storyline,” said one.

We did.

. . . .

Google searches discovered a few more facts about Joanne Clancy. There were a number of photographs purporting to be of her, which could be found online. She was listed on the professional networking site LinkedIn, where she was described as an “Amazon bestselling author and creative entrepreneur”. She had a Facebook page, which I bookmarked for later reference, but within 24 hours that, too, had been taken down.

. . . .

A few days after emailing the mysterious Joanne Clancy, I checked the email account we had set up for Iseult O’Malley and found that Clancy had replied to our fictional student: “Thanks a million for contacting me. My apologies for not replying sooner, but my website’s been having a few glitches, which have just been fixed.”

She agreed to an interview, but only by email, adding: “I look forward to hearing from you. Best wishes, Joanne.”

We began to feel almost bad for tricking her. This was one of the strangest aspects of the whole affair. What Joanne Clancy had done was devious, and yet, without knowing why she’d done it, it was hard to know how we felt about her. We kept changing our minds. What if she genuinely had no idea that she was doing anything wrong?

. . . .

Within hours of the publication of Insincere, we finally submitted a complaint to Amazon on the grounds of copyright infringement.

Link to the rest at Independent.ie and thanks to Craig for the tip.

Copyright/Intellectual Property, Legal Stuff, Non-US

14 Comments to “The girl who stole my book: How Eilis O’Hanlon found out her crime novels were swiped by a stranger”

  1. O’Hanlon describes her sensations when reading Clancy’s plagiarized version of The Dead most movingly. I shivered a little as I allowed her to take me there: reading a strangely distorted version of her own words. Creepy!

    O’Hanlon is more generous toward Clancy than seems prudent. Why posit that a thief might still be a “nice person”? Clancy stole intellectual property. How is a thief nice?

    O’Hanlon also takes a typically traditional attitude toward prolific writers, calling into question whether any writer can write more than one book per year.

    But do readers never ask themselves where all these books are coming from, when, for most professional writers, producing one new title a year is hard enough?

    We are all different, and many writers are very capable of writing more than one book per year. After all, write just 1,000 words per day (that’s 2 to 2-1/2 hours for me, and many writers are faster than I am), and you have a 100,000-word novel in 100 days. And if you don’t write sloppy (I don’t), the revisions won’t take all that long.

    But O’Hanlon has my sympathy for her experience with a plagiarizer – ugh! – and I hope The Dead and the rest of the series does well, now that she’s releasing it as an ebook. I imagine that this article in the Independent is part of her marketing push for the newly re-released first-in-series. Good luck to her and her co-author Ian McConnell!

  2. Worth a click through to read the whole thing.

  3. That plagiarized author needs a lot more righteous anger and a good bit less sympathy for what looks like an industrial con, judging by the number of books involved.

  4. This is a scary situation, and it brings up the same emotion every time I read an article about a writer being plagiarized.

    Thievery is prevalent in today’s society. I think the “glut” of eBooks has brought it about quicker than in the past when stories were tied to ink and paper. Do these plagiarists think that because there are so many books being published every day that they can just swipe one and have it never be found out? The truth generally comes to the surface eventually with the amount of people reading eBooks.

    I think it’s just insulting to hijack someone else’s hard work for profit. It’s one thing to be inspired by a book (one you loved that you wish there was more of, or one you hated and felt could have been done better) and create your own work based on the feeling. But, to just rip the sentence structure, plot, and everything else, changing a few words here and there – that stuff got you nearly expelled from school where I come from.

    The repercussions are probably non-existent, which is sad as well. This is the age where you can steal a debit card off the floor and just “credit” it at any store you like without having to pay it back. It just becomes another issue brought up to a system that can’t do anything but waive the fees. I’ve seen that happen to a few people. I wonder if Amazon is in the same sort of situation where they can cancel an account, but the money is already stolen from one author and awarded to the plagiarist.

    My sympathies to O’Hanlon. Luckily she was made aware of the whole thing. It would be worse to never know, or to publish her book and then be cited as the wrong party.

  5. If you read the original article, she mentions something of significance – most of the people doing this sort of thing do not plagiarize famous authors. They pick on the little guys/gals. It has happened to me- You cannot even imagine the sick feeling you get when you read a slightly distorted or off-kilter version of your award-winning story, word by word, chapter by chapter – as through a glass, darkly.

    It’s happened to other ‘midlist’ writers I know too.
    There are ‘authors’ out there who make money copying the works of other self-published authors. It’s an industry, just like those scam books (inflated page reads). Don’t kid yourself.

    None of us has the bank account for a court fight, nor do we self-pubbers have a publishing house ready to do battle.
    We do what we can- sometimes that’s something, like getting help from Amazon, sometimes our efforts come to naught.
    Yes, you feel violated. That is the best word to describe it.

  6. Yeah, i’m not buying the whole shtik either, considering that she kept a blog featuring the Ironically named How to Write series of articles.
    Author plagiarised
    Loses respect
    No sympathy.

  7. Whoever “she” really is, she knew what she was doing. The book was changed enough so that any software that searches the internet for possible plagiarism would miss it. It’s the kind of thing you need human eyes to discover. Much harder to catch.

  8. Confused why Amazon isn’t divulging the plagiariser’s identity and demanding repayment of sums earned fraudulently.

    Shutting down the account won’t fix the problem. The plagiariser may well be doing this on an industrial scale, under numerous names.

    If Amazon won’t help, GoDaddy, who host joanneclancy.com, might.

  9. What killed me was Clancy’s upset over her income being destroyed. That was income that had been fraudulently obtained. That’s like an embezzler being fired from a company and complaining about the income loss. YOU WERE STEALING. You got caught and got punished.

    Her books are still discoverable on the Amazon UK site, including the plagiarized ones. That woman’s account should have been entirely shut down.

    I wish we could start some kind of indie author union, and that there could be a plagiarism insurance fund that we could pay into and then get the legal fees necessary when we sued someone for plagiarizing.

  10. Well, it hasn’t all worked, because Joanne Clancy is selling everything _but_ the Elizabeth Ireland books on Amazon. So much for Amazon banning her for life.

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