Plagiarism is a serious thing. For what does it say of a persons character when they are caught red-handed, and knee deep of plagiarism? Recently, John Walsh, a United States senator from Montana was caught plagiarizing. He tried to use the excuse that PTSD may have played a role in what he did. I scoff at the notion. A man of his education and position within society knows better than to plagiarize.
I'm no expert in the inner workings of the mind and what leads one to copy another person's work of the written word, nor am I going to try. Nor shall I attempt to understand how one may think he or she can get away with such a thing in today's technological world where everything and everything is posted on the internet as a matter of record. It seems to me that with our technology, it would make discovering plagiarism more obvious. It's not a question of "if" a person will get caught doing such a thing, but "when" they get caught. Trust me, if you plagiarize, you will get caught eventually, and then what? What becomes of YOUR reputation and character when that discovery is made?
I think for myself, I believe that people who plagiarize don't even care about their reputations in the first place. They live in a delusional world where they truly believe they are something they clearly are not. In this case, writers. In my opinion, a writer is nothing more than a very deep thinker with a very active brain. Being a writer myself, I often times find myself just sitting and pondering so many things. My brain is always searching for something to say, and how to say it cleverly. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. Sometimes it pretty good, and sometimes it bombs. But that is the life of a writer. Not everything you write will be a masterpiece.
Speaking strictly for myself, as a writer, I never worry over whether someone out there will try and steal my words. I just figure I don't have much worth stealing. And after meeting author Geraldine Evans, I get the feeling she feels pretty much the same way too. Or at least, she used to feel that way. Geraldine Evans is an author who humanizes her craft with her most humble of ways. She writes what her active brain comes up with. She spends countless hours honing her writing skills and working on her stories. Exactly what a writer should be doing. Not stressing over concerns related to plagiarism. And I now wonder how I would respond to making the discovery that she made - that someone out there is plagiarizing her hard work.
And while I have to continue to wonder how I would respond to such a thing, Geraldine Evans has to deal with this discovery everyday of her life now. And the perpetrator of this act is none other than Karl Jones - a wannabe author who hasn't the author skills to write his own stories, oh no, he has to plagiarize the hard work of Geraldine Evans.
Now, if the name Karl Jones strikes a chord with you it's probably because he does more than plagiarize. He first appeared on my radar a way back, when I broke the story of sexual role playing taking place on a book website known as Goodreads. These sexual role playing groups consist of both adults and minors. With the help of a few people, I was pointed in his direction and discovered that Karl Jones was a convicted child molester. He was, at that time of when I broke the story about him, a member of some of these sexual role play groups, and was an active participator.
Unbeknownst to me at the time however, was the knowledge that he didn't even bother writing his own books, and that he was plagiarizing the work of author Geraldine Evans. And because I broke the story on my "Looking Glass" blog about this pedophile, I felt it was my responsibility to also inform everyone about his plagiarizing ways. But instead of me simply telling you the story of what he did to Geraldine Evans, I thought it best if I allowed her to tell her own story - and to do so right here on my blog.
So, without any further ramblings from me, here is Geraldine Evans herself to tell her story, in her own words, regarding Karl Jones and him plagiarizing her work.
It was just another day – you know the kind of thing – trying to sort out an urgent legal matter with tardy lawyers, heaving about a hundredweight of heavy plant pots away from my back wall so work can be done on a damp problem, wading through the usual bumf in my email inbox.
And then I opened an email from a lady who turned out to be a fan of my novels. She was writing to tell me that a man named Karl Jones had plagiarised two of the books in my Rafferty & Llewellyn mystery series.
My first reaction was one of astonishment that he’d bother! I’m hardly a household name. Surely, I thought, any plagiarist worth his salt and intent on stealing an author’s work would pick on someone other than a midlister like me.
Anyway, I checked this Jones character on Amazon and there he was, with his name as the author on the first two books in my 15-strong series. Clearly, an idle sort of thief because pretty much all he’d troubled to change to conceal his theft was names and places. Beyond that, there was little that’d troubled to alter in my stories. He’d just stolen my words wholesale in a totally brazen manner.
To add insult to injury, the rankings for ‘his’ books were better than mine!
My dander was up now. I’d worked long and hard to get a publishing contract. I wrote a book a year for six long years before I got a publishing deal all while holding down a full-time day job. I was no stranger to 7-day working weeks. How dare this man who lacked the industry and perseverance to do likewise, steal my work?
I was in no position to sue him as I couldn’t afford the expense I’d incur as I thought it likely that I’d end up paying my own legal expenses for a case that dragged on and on (like Charles Dickens’, I too have a horror of ‘going to law’—a law that, too often it seems, punishes the innocent while giving the guilty a mere slap on the wrist). Even if I chose to pursue Karl Jones through the courts, I doubt such an underhand individual would leave money conveniently in an easily-traced bank account. Besides, apart from stealing my work, this man had also stolen a considerable chunk of my time. I felt no inclination to allow him to steal more of it when all I was likely to get for my trouble was a lot of stress and a large bill.
Instead of contacting a solicitor, I immediately wrote a post for kboards.com/Writers’ Café, a place where authors gather, to warn other authors about the multi-published, multi-genre ‘writer’, Karl Jones, as I suspected he might well have stolen other authors’ work, not just mine. I also notified all the retailers about this man.
Fortunately, I’m one of life’s hoarders and was easily able to prove that I had the rights to publish my books by emailing copies of the letters from Macmillan and St Martin’s Press returning my rights in these two books.
I must praise Dan at Draft2Digital (a business that distributes digital books to retailers). The response from D2D was impressively prompt. They immediately asked retailers to remove Karl Jones’s fakes of my work as well as all his other books from their shelves. Amazon turned out to be the slowest to react. They were also the only retailer to ask me to provide proof that I hold the rights in these books (that must be around the fourth time I’ve had to provide such proof to them. Shame they didn’t ask Karl Jones to provide some).
I must also mention that the sympathy and support from every author who commented on my post on kboards was tremendous. The thread to my original post grew a very long tail (here’s the link if you’d like to have a browse: K-Boards Forum
But then fates decided to do what they do best and put a spike in my wheel. My internet connection died shortly after my post on kboards and I was unable to keep up with what was happening. I was only reconnected on Sunday 27 July.
I’ve managed to respond to most of the comments by borrowing a kind friend’s computer for a few hours (thanks Chrissie!). But before my internet connection went kaput, I also received a second email from another Rafferty fan. She sent a link with the name ‘Karl Jones’ on the UK and Eire Paedophile Register. A kindleboarder had posted the same link. But I don’t feel able to comment on that as I have no way of knowing if this Karl Jones is the same one who plagiarised my work. If he is, he’s an extremely unpleasant character whose other ‘P’ crimes are far worse than plagiarising.
As well as sympathy, several kboarders offered more: Carroll invited me to write this blog post about my experience and I was also invited to do a podcast for letteschat (which I’ll be doing live at 8.00 PM New York time on 31 July). Fingers crossed my internet connection cooperates!
One kboarder even offered to organise a whip-round in case I changed my mind and decided to sue and several authors said they’d be happy to chip in. What a lovely gesture. I was moved to tears that people I had never met should offer to help in this way.
Why did this man pick on my work? I’ve no idea. I’m not one of the writing world’s stars. Nor do I earn a fortune. Although many of the public, who read about writers like J K Rowling, imagine all authors earn spectacular amounts, it simply ain’t so. I live in a small terraced house and drive a second-hand car. I often buy my clothes from charity shops and sometimes (especially when my income doesn’t quite stretch to the end of the month) dinner is beans on toast.
I rely on my writing income to live and to pay my bills. I turned indie towards the end of 2010 after refusing to sign the latest contract from my publisher as I thought the demand for the digital rights to my entire back-list was a demand too far and they refused to publish my latest work unless I signed on the dotted line. I’d followed the indie revolution and the blogs of a number of authors who’d already taken the decision to go independent and publish their books on Amazon’s Kindle and elsewhere, so I was aware that digital rights could be a valuable commodity. Why should I sign mine over to my publishers and receive a meagre share of the digital income when I could earn a far greater percentage by publishing myself on Kindle?
After studying the reports of these authors’ progress and sales which they generously shared (Joe Konrath’s posts in particular), I felt encouraged to follow suit. I was fortunate in that I mostly write about series characters and that I have a substantial back-list (fifteen in my Rafferty& Llewellyn series and two in my Casey & Catt series, as well as other, standalone books), so I decided to take my chance and go it alone.
To be frank, I didn’t think I could do any worse by publishing direct with Amazon, Smashwords and the rest of the retailers/distributors than I’d done with various traditional publishers over the years. I’d never earned enough from my writing to be able to give up my day jobs and write full-time. My work was marketed in a minimalist fashion that meant it sank without trace. I was never given the support that would enable me to rise above the mid-list, which meant my sales were as minimalist as the marketing my books had received. It’s the same for the vast majority of authors, not just me (see this post on the Reports of Authors’ Earnings: WriterlyWitterings. Before Kindle, if we wished to be published, we had no other option but to accept these less than generous contracts.
But Amazon changed all that. Imagine my astonishment when within six-eight months of uploading as many of my novels as I was able, time wise, to publish on Kindle, for the first time in my writing life I was actually earning a full-time living. I could scarcely believe it.
Yes, the heady early days on Kindle of large (large for me, anyway!) sales on Kindle when everyone put a Kindle on their Christmas list, have long gone alas and my sales have settled down to a regular, far from enormous number.
I get by—just—most of the time. But after all my years of striving and working 7-day weeks, to have the products of my industry lifted by a man too lazy to write his own books, was galling.
Thankfully, the copies of my books that he stole have been removed from Amazon, Draft2Digital, Createspace and Smashwords and D2D has, as I said, removed Jones’s ‘work’ in its entirety. It might take a little longer for ‘his’ books to be removed from the shelves of Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo and other smaller concerns; it usually takes a little while for such instructions to filter through and my internet access is still intermittant at best so I’ve been unable to check.
Now I must just hope Jones doesn’t start over with a new ‘author’ name and a new email account and begin his plagiarism all over again, as I imagine it was his intention to steal all fifteen books in my Rafferty series.
I don’t know if there’s any sure-fire way of stopping plagiarisers like Karl Jones, but I’m a firm believer in ‘what goes around comes around’. In time, the fates, karma, whatever one chooses to call it, will deliver to Jones the punishment he so richly deserves and when that day arrives, I’ll be the first to applaud.
But until then, it is only by being vigilant that authors can protect their work and hard-won income from predators like Karl Jones. I’ve already made clear that most authors, me included, don’t earn a lot; but we’re doing what we love and getting paid a fair sum for our efforts (which is, for many of us old mid-listers, akin to a miracle). So when we finally achieve the dream we’d worked so hard for—a liveable income—it’s tough indeed when thieves like Jones take the bread from our mouths. My baked bean dinners taste far nicer with a slice of toast, after all.
I urge other authors to check out Karl Jones’s claimed novels, many of which, in various genres (the last time I was able to check), remained on most retailers’ shelves.
I’d like to thank all the readers and authors who voted down his reviews and ‘outed’ him to the world. His name is now well and truly known, but not in a way I imagine he much likes. Thanks also to Carroll for the invitation to write this guest post; it’s helped me to write about my experience as will doing the podcast I have also been invited to do.
Lastly, I’d like to thank the lovely ladies who emailed me with the tip offs about this man’s reprehensible activities. If it hadn’t been for them I’d have carried on in ignorance of his theft and he’d have been able to continue to profit from my labour. Readers—ain’t they just great?!
I understand that Geraldine Evans isn't the first person to have her work plagiarized, and unfortunately, she won't be the last. But if you can go to the K-Boards Forum through the link provided above and give her some support / advice, I know she would be most grateful.
As for Karl Jones, let's hope he rots away in prison like the pedophile monster that he is. Like the plagiarist that he is - as I am getting word that most of his work has now been removed from most of the book sites where he had them listed and posted. That is good news. Especially for Geraldine Evans.
No author should have to spend his or her time dealing with people like Karl Jones, they should be spending their time writing new stories for readers to read. And as for Karl Jones and people like him, if you can't write, find another profession to pursue. There's no shame in conceding to the fact that you're not a writer, but there is a ton of shame for those who plagiarize from writers - and get caught. I hope Karl Jones is now feeling the shame. But I doubt it. People like him have no shame - or morality.