On a deadline, so a short post for the authors who are just starting out on their career path. Publishing industry has some typical practices. Established writers view it as the cost of doing business.
1. Reoccurring Titles.
This is normal. Happens all the time. You can’t copyright your titles. Copyrighting your titles in a misguided effort to brand yourself won’t really do anything to help your book sales.
2. Reoccuring character names.
Happens all the time. Is not a cause for alarm, unless someone is really trying to write in your universe. For example, if that second book was about Kate Daniels, the magic mercenary, living in the world of magic waves and killing werewolves and vampires with her sword, it would be an issue.
3. One Star Reviews on Books That Haven’t Been Released (or gone to ARC).
Again, this is normal. People tag books with 1 star reviews for various reasons. It doesn’t matter. Don’t lose any sleep over it.
Not linking anything, but Brandi has sent 60+ notices to pirate sites this Friday alone. Your book will be pirated. It’s up to you how much sleep to lose over it.
All of this is normal.
When to freak out:
If you find passages that are copied word for word from your books in another author’s book. This is plagiarism. You can shame them, take them to court, etc, but generally simply stating in public that something is plagiarized usually leads to a swift removal of the infringing material.
If you find a book under your name that you haven’t written. It may be a coincidence, but most likely a scam.
If you find any of your books for sale by someone else, meaning not you or your publisher.
In conclusion: it sucks when someone copies you. We had that happen, but in the end, imitation is rarely as good as the original. Writing is stressful enough as is. Try to stay sane.
Thanks for the business-side post. Taking notes over here!
Just learned this is an author that copyrights dthe word cocky in titles. Does this have anything to do with your post today?
On a little funny note if I type in cocky on Amazon the first three kindle books for me were not books written by her.
On the other hand if you Google cocky a bunch of related articles pop right up (I don’t use Twitter so did a search to check it out)
I’ve been watching this play out on Twitter, intellectual property law fascinates me. I have to say, this particular situation is so outrageously weird. I’m really confused as to how she thought this would go well for her.
Always wonderful to hear your industry related thoughts.
Not the same industry but on one of the Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares had something similar happen. On the Cafe Hon episode, a restaurant owner copywrote the term Hon, which was a regional term of endearment.
Beautiful post and wonderful that you guys and most of the community has kept a level-headed approach. It sucks that we are in this drama because one couldn’t
Can we perhaps have Cornelius set the ferrets on her?
Similar issues with just about everything that can be copied – all types of art, jewelry, clothing lines. It’s part of the price you pay when you take something that only lived in your imagination and make it public. There are huge, angry discussions on Amazon handmade and Etsy about this all the time.
I noticed the other book called Burn for Me. I kind of assumed it was just a coincidence. There are lots of books with the same name. I would have changed it if it had been my book, but I thought that publishing might have made that not possible.
It’s good to hear the ends and out of the writing business. The more aware we are,the less this kind of thing can happen. Because we know.
You guys are absolutely the best.
They really are!!
Agreed! The best indeed! Thanks for the insider information.
Patricia Schlorke says
Plagiarism is bad across all types of writing. In the academic world, it’s stressed to everyone to “when in doubt reference the sentence”. I had around 100 references in my dissertation because I didn’t want any whiff of plagiarism surrounding it. My professors raised their eyebrows at the number of references, but none of them complained.
The statistical part of my dissertation I would love to see someone trying to use what I wrote word for word, and then having to explain it. For the majority of people, they wouldn’t know how to explain it. ?
I once had a class with two ladies who tried to pass of a word for word copy of the Amazon book description as a book report…on the same book…which was identical to the blurb on the back cover. The teacher gave them the option of dropping the class or getting to meet the department head to discuss expulsion. They dropped the class.
Carysa Locke says
YES. 1000 times yes. I’ve been following this since the news broke last week, and it’s crazy. She genuinely seems to think if other books use the same stock photos on their covers, or the word “cocky” anywhere in their series or book title, they are direct copies of hers. She has even attacked other authors for having a character with the same name – not the same story, or anything like that, just a character with the same first name (which happens to be Luna – Harry Potter, anyone?) I can’t understand this thinking, other than she must really be that ignorant of industry practices, and arrogant enough to ignore everyone telling her the truth.
Plagiarism sucks, and it’s horrible when it happens. But this…this is not plagiarism. I know some of the authors who have been affected personally. People who have had their books removed by Amazon, who have lost income and hard work. And who did not even know her series existed beforehand. They aren’t even writing in the same genre. (She is contemporary romance; this person is reverse harem romance.) It’s sickening.
I have wondered how it works when a character in a book quotes a line from that character’s favorite book. Is this ok because the character references the book and author? Would this be considered praise not plagiarism?
I think that would fall under “fair use” but I would double check before betting on it. It also might depend on how old the favorite book is, and how popular it is. (Like how some phrases (usually from movies) become a part of everyday slang/language.)
Tina BL says
If the character makes it known it is a quote and references the book, I would think it is ok.
Thank you for this educational piece.
I am blown away that you would need to send 60 plus notices to different sites. I would have hoped with being able to check things with the internet there would be less but it doesn’t sound like it is.
I think the Internet makes it easier to pirate work and make money, so the sites breed.
Like fruit flies.
Patricia Schlorke says
Or like a swarm of termites.
And 30 of them were probably from the same person.
Well said. Being in the entertainment industry, hubs and I have had occasion to see actual infringement. Also, as an addictive reader, I have multiple books that have the same title as others. I keep them straight by … this is going to sound crazy … looking at the author’s name. In fact, they’re filed on my kindle by … wait for it … the author’s name. I have a master’s degree, that’s probably why I’m smart enough to do that. /sarc
I hope this whole thing goes the way it’s supposed to go and others learn not to try to pull this garbage. Trademark bullying is just as bad as infringement in my opinion.
Over time I see a number of same titles. We have gotten used to that. However , I do not agree that Kate Daniels is your series name, and someone new uses it. That not fair, as they are using your success to get people to buy there books. Titles can be hard, so I understand that, but there are a million names.
Technically, ours is not called KD series. It’s actually called the Magic Series. Everybody just defaults to KD, though.
Carysa Locke says
Hi Ilona! My comment is stuck in your spam filter I think. <3 We'll see if this one goes through.
Huh. I never knew this! I can find no place it isn’t referred to as the KD series but I also generally look up anything KD related through your name rather than the series title.
Your intelligent equanimity in the face of potential publishing drama is so admirable.
Carysa Locke says
:O I never realized this WASN’T officially the Kate Daniels series! Everywhere I see it is referenced that way. Also, thank you for fixing my comment. 🙂
Hilarious satire book about the situation if you want a good laugh!
Also, if I see a book with the same title, then I check the author and think, “Oh, it’s not Ilona Andrews, won’t be buying that then…” and even if I did accidentally buy it thinking it was an Andrews book, I can return it…
I’ve bought second copies of the same book by a favorite author because the title was different (British version). A little strange, but the second title was a nice touch.
“It’s always something.” – Gilda Radner as Emily Litella onSNL
I saw your post on twitter, downloaded the first chapter of the Mari Hannah book and deleted it after the first few lines.
Not my cuppatea!
Even with your deadlines you are generous with your time letting newer authors know what they are in for in the big wide world ?.
I’m not a writer but an avid reader, it makes me cross to see others riding on the shirttails of successful authors – such as yourselves – because they can’t think of an original title or in some cases plot of their own ?
Happy writing ✍️ guys ?
Writers not riders … hate auto correction ???
I’m just going to say this. Those Burn for me book covers are hot as hell.
All of this sucks. And to be honest even some of the so called “normal” stuff piss me off a bit.
Pirates – no help there, I agree. People giving one star – fine, I can be ok with that too since there are just as many giving 5 stars to books that aren’t out yet. Similar titles is a bit much but I guess I’m used to it by now.
The identical series name though – I mean seriously?? Like there aren’t enough female names in the world … I find that one really annoying.
About the direct plagiarism and scams, no comment. I very much hope something nasty happens to them.
Love your profile picture BTW
Dana O says
The problem with being upset about same-series-name is that often the other author DOESN’T KNOW because the popular first series is in a genre they DON’T READ! I imagine there are many coincidental main character names between soft romances and hard science fiction – because when you get down to it, there are only so many common first names and common last names in use. Look in the phone directory of a large city for Kate Daniels (or K. Daniels), and you would be shocked how many there are. And as a writer doing contemporary stuff, you don’t want outrageous names for your main character, you want one people can identify with. Maybe not Mary Jones, but Mary Oliver would play, or even Janet Johnson (with maybe some play around the alliteration in the story).
Sure, but basic probability makes it unlikely. If you get the number of existing female lead series and compare it to the number of common female names, to have an “accidental” match of not only one but both names of the character is statistical anomaly.
Not to mention that not only the author but editors, publishers and so on go through the book before it’s even announced. If you really don’t want the match, you can easily avoid.
It’s possible to copyright the use of a common word as for instance a company name. Perfect example is Sprint. I can use the word sprint in a sentence or title of a book without violating that copyright. This author is trying to do something quite different and won’t be able to successfully defend this “cocky”right in court. She should have gotten a better lawyer before trying this. Lol
Meh, possibly it’s the jaded part of me speaking but I can’t help but feel that she knows it’s all bullcrap and it’s a publicity stunt. The publicity surrounding it has probably sold her books to the curious and now everyone knows her name. Once the hullaballoo has died down she will keep releasing books and some people will recognise her name on Amazon etc but not remember where they know it from, which will also sell more of her books.
Regardless of any legal outcomes she has quite successfully raised her profile
Sprint is trademarked, not copyrighted. Trademark is a different form of protection for intellectual property, and confers different rights and benefits. In order to protect their intellectual property, a science fiction writing duo actually trademarked the name of their series and world. All their books in this world carry the trademark symbol. I don’t know if anyone else has followed their example, but I thought it was a creative use of trademark law.
Fan in California says
As generous as always with this post!!! I’m not an author of any status (learning or experienced) but these posts are still always very interesting. Thanks for another peek into the publishing world!!
I already knew about the “no copyright on a title” rule. What I find occasionally hilarious is people using the same image on their covers.
I understand that cover images are for sale, but seeing the same, very recognizable cover model in the same pose over and over bothers me, until it becomes a case of “How many more books will have that cover?”, and worthy of a giggle or two.
I once saw two books on Amazon’s “coming soon in Romance” page with the same cover, coming out the same day, next to each other on an alphabetical list. The titles were very close to the same, but not identical. I’d never heard of either author, before or since.
Because Indie Authors tend to use the same photo stock, whereas Pub House authors have access to personalised book designs. Indie authors have a shallow pool of covers accessible to them.
Erin Burns says
I once spent a summer trying to read all the books I could find with a cover of a specific model with a strong focus on her eyes. It was fun and funny.
As a reader, the plagiarism one is the BIGGEST no-no for me…. There is currently an indie author who is very popular, but the readers clearly missed the parts in her first book that were ripped off another indie author, I don’t know about her following books as I stopped reading her as soon as it was an apparent rip off, I even reviewed what I had read to say that.. And without a doubt, those readers had/have read both authors. And yet they continue to buy this plagiarising authors work. Unfortunately the readers who ONLY read indie books have no great subject for comparison on what they have and haven’t read before, why because they binge read the same, same, same. But I for one love variety… makes life interesting and gives you scope for comparison. But a HuGE no from me if I see ripped off work.
Good information. It’s a shame people like FH can’t seem to understand it. She’s getting some really bad advice or not hearing what people are telling her.
I read some professional posts (like yours) on FB about this matter. Neither explained the inspiration for the suddenly popular topic.
And then I checked Twitter. ????
I was VERY upset to find out about the author who trademarked a descriptive word she frequently used in her book titles.
Her audacity and selfishness absolutely sickened me. How DARE she, an author, a person who should respect words, as well as the right to use them, actually HOARD a word so that only she may use it in her book titles!
She followed that despicable action by contacting authors with an apparently legal demand to change their book titles if it contained the same descriptive word.
Dear G*d, the rage on Twitter over her actions was shocking to me (no matter how understandable). She’s lucky mental telepathically doesn’t exist. She would be a pile of ash by now and sprinkled into litter boxes across the country.
I never heard of that author before today, and now that I have, I added it to my newly created “Never Buy, Never Read” list. I will never support that type of….I can’t even think of the right word to use here!
I wish there was something I could do to protest and get that TM cancelled.
There is a petition you can sign at https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/cancel-faleena-hopkins. It’s being sent to the USPTO to cancel the trademark.
Thank you. I saw it already and I signed it.
Good idea. Signed it too.
There actually is already a motion by a retired IP lawyer (now writer) to challenge the TM (at his own cost).
Thanks, I’m going to check out how this unfolds.
I love you and your no nonsense common sense pronouncements.
Interesting! I’d always assumed that duplicate titles by different authors was an accident. Shows you how naive I am!
Plus I’ve always been interested in copyright and I work in a library, so if anyone is interested….here’s some more info….
Susan Jaworowski says
Titles CANNOT be copyrighted. CanNOT. This is basic information provided on what can and can’t be copyrighted from the Library of Congress website (which registers copyrights in the US and provides a ton of helpful information). So if someone says that are copyrighting a title, they lie. They may try to trademark a word, but the US Patent and Trademark Office does not allow the trademarking of common single words. A made-up word, like Haagen-Daz (not a real word in any language), yes, but a common adjective? Laughable and not possible.
I’ve been reading up on this since the weekend – apparently the author in question was granted a trademark for both the stylized (with a particular font) and non-stylized version of the work “cocky” for the romance genre. Seems like a major fail on USPTO considering the word was in previous titles and series, but there’s already a motion to challenge the trademark.
The USPTO has been giving trademarks to people for years in this way. I know so many who lost their business because of this. I had an embroidery business. Some lady had multiple trademarks on common words like Bride, Bride Tribe, One. There’s hundreds of trademarks like this. Trademarks are supposed to be for branding. Like a company name. Or a unique product. Instead lazy people get trademarks and have their competition removed from Amazon and Etsy. It’s such bullshit and so unfair. I’m happy to see the authors fighting back but I’m not confident this practice will end. The USPTO doesn’t care and it costs a lot to fight this.
Bill G says
Pirates, bah! May the Bluebird of Happiness desert them, and the Lesser Grebe of Terminal Ennui nest in their chimneys.
Shannon from Texas says
What a lovely curse. May I copy… err, quote that? 😉
I think a certain kind of plagiarising is flattering for an author.
Not the one where people copy and paste pages of your own writing, of course.
There was a period when I kept stumbling in an endless series of Wheel of Time, or Harry Dresden clones. But among them there were a few that were pretty good, and whose similarities with the original felt more like a clever emulation than a mere rip-off for commercial gain.
Dana O says
A lot of teen and young adult wanna-be authors start out with fan fiction, setting their stories right in the universe of a popular author. I’ve always thought of this as more “the sincerest form of flattery” than true plagiarism. Some actually move forward past the fan-fic level to their own works, and strike out to become true authors on their own.
Rachel Caine and Seanan McGuire started that way, and grew to create their own universes.
Here is another example. Here in the UK we have a supermarket chain named Iceland. That does not seem a big deal until you think about the fact that there is also a country named Iceland and it cannot use its name in any products it produces because the supermarket chain has copyrighted the word. Now isn’t that ridiculous? Shouldn’t there be some common sense around the use of words like this?
Debi Majo says
? saving this info. I would like to write when I retire.
I checked Amazon for Iron and Magic just now, and there is a book titled that on the IA page. Not written by you, obviously.
All I can say is it is sad what some people do to get publicity. I can’t imagine that she (FH) really thought her actions were justified or would succeed. Therefore, logical conclusion is it is just an attempt at publicity, which unfortunately she is getting. I sincerely hope people recognize this for what it is and if they purchase her books it is because they like what she writes, not what stunts she gets up to in order to promote herself. It is a very unfortunate choice on her part, in my opinion. For myself, it simply leaves a bad taste in my mouth and decides me against purchasing or reading any of her works. Things like this can rebound against you, and I think for most intelligent people this is what has happened.
On a less unpleasant note, thank you for your post and the information. I always appreciate learning something, and feel that understanding how this works makes it easier to navigate through what might be confusing at times.
I have in the past run into the problem of searching for the title of a book I wish to purchase, and two or more books with exact same title come up as the result. When that had happened, it did not take much thought to then look for the appropriate author’s name. If I didn’t know the author – only the title and a bit about the book – a brief investigation of the summaries of each book was sufficient to pick out the one I was after. I NEVER have purchased or checked out from the Library a book I did not intend to because of an identical or even similar title.
I have a list of favorite authors, and usually search for books that way, with of course Ilona Andrews being at the top of the list!! ? That doesn’t mean I don’t try new authors, I do. But that is based on subject matter, and possibly recommendations.
Your books I recommend highly! Your world and character building are amazing, and your storylines are fresh and very interesting. That is plain to see, just by looking at this blog and how many people are willing to spend their time discussing your characters and stories.
I love what you do, how creative you are, how connected, accessible, and generous you are to your fans, and how honest and straightforward you are with your business. I believe that not only are you a great role model as authors in terms of your creativity, talent, and hard work, but also as for your integrity. Thank you a zillion times for what you do and how you do it, and PLEASE don’t stop!!!!!
D Lm A says
Forewarned . . . & all that
Tempest in a teacup,
Imitation is the sincerest form of . . .
Lazy is as lazy does . . .
Don’t sweat the stupid stuff,
Good attitude about the vicissitudes of the uninformed
uneducated posuers who truly believe to quote
Dire Straits, that the exercise of intellectual property,
‘that ain’t working, get your money for nothing’
Now the important info left out
What’s PSA, in title & about 1 star review what’s ARC?
Inquring minds want to know!
PSA – public service announcement
ARC – advanced reader copy
Thank you for the PSA. It clarifies a lot of legal issues and is a lovely explaination of basic writers etiquette. Still, after all the discussion of the “C_ck-” drama, I have a few questions:
1) I understand that if someone copies someone else’s writing it is called plaigerism. What is it called when someone uses and copyrights another person’s Font without permission / compensation?
2) Can you even own the rights to a particular Font?
3) If an author uses stock photos for a book cover with permission and the artist / cover designer is paid, that is clearly a business deal. Is there a word or legal phrase for when that author attempts to commandeer / control the artists stock photos and keep other authors from using the same photos?
4) Finally- and honestly more importantly-, I’d like to know, how do you upload a cool little picture next to your name instead of the little colored snowflake?
1) Using font without permission is a violation of copyright and opens the user to potential legal action.
2) Yes, you can, if you are the creator of said font.
3) This simply can’t be done unless there was a contract that specifies exclusive use. Several levels of contractual obligation are possible here.
For example, when we commission a cover form Doris, we purchase exclusive right to use it as a cover and the right to use the art in promotional materials for that book, such as wallpapers, etc. Doris retains all other rights. She can’t ever resell the image to another author or publisher or release her own book with this cover, but she can mass produce it on tote bags or T-shirt, sell prints, etc etc.
On other hand, when we bought photoshoot images from Gene, we buy exclusive rights to these images. Nobody else can use these images except us.
In a typical case of stock images usage, as purchased from Shutterstock or Getty’s Images, the purchaser acquires only a non-exclusive right to use said images. Everyone else can use them as well.
Thank you Ilona,
You’re the best!
Katherine Nobles says
We owned a dojo in Northern Virginia. One day, a someone from the government office that handles copyright/trademark called us to ask if the word “Gi” could be copywritten, in our opinion. We laughed, because it just means uniform. Told the man it would be like trying to copyright the word pizza.
Love it! Very common-sense approach.
Wow!! I’m not surprised by the reoccuring titles, or even the same character name (I can see how another writer could have not come across another author’s book series, or did, but was already stuck on the name). But the rest? It’s very interesting
Regarding the one star reviews, Buzzfeed had an article Monday about the extent of Amazon’s fake review problem. https://www.buzzfeed.com/nicolenguyen/amazon-fake-review-problem
Makes me wonder if these are part of something like that. But I appreciate your calm approach to all these potentially pulse-raising things. And your willingness to post and then receive all our email alerts (!!) while finishing up the draft. Congratulations on finishing!!
There is a knitting stitch pattern website that makes their money from ads. The woman who takes credit for posting each picture, many times, photocopies them directly from other stitch books ( which I have on my shelf and can compare).
At the top of the page was an ad banner from a prominent on line yarn company.
When I brought the plagiarism to their attention, they said that it was unfortunate, but they had no control over where there ads showed up, and couldn’t do anything about it. REALLY?!
Funny, but I can do something about it– I can stop supporting them with my purchases.
Richard Cartwright says
So, as for #1, don’t get cocky. 🙂
It really irks the hell out of me when ppl rate books they’ve not read. Even more so when the book hasn’t been released!! I just… I don’t get it. What is the point?