The Worst (and Best) Day of My Career
Several months ago, I heard via Twitter that one of my dear friends, Tammara Webber, had been plagiarized by author Jordin B. Williams in Williams’ book Amazingly Broken. I was so angry for her. I knew how much Tammara’s novel Easy meant to her, and someone using your idea—much less taking exact words from someone else’s hard work—and capitalizing off of it feels much like it does when someone breaks into your car or home. It’s a violation. Even worse, plagiarism isn’t a battle typically won. Not because it’s not easily proven, but because most don’t find the end result worth the stress of a lawsuit worth it, or have the money to fund what could be a potentially long legal dispute.
Shortly after, imagine my surprise when I learned that the same author had not only plagiarized Tammara’s Easy, but Amazingly Broken also contained exact wording from my novel, Beautiful Disaster. My anger and empathy for Tammara was even more real, and not just for Tammara—for the dozens of authors who’d rallied for this author and book, and had felt lied to and taken advantage of as well.
Bishop took to Twitter, siting that it wasn’t her at all, and that she herself had been a victim of a ghost writer, even though she had stated many times in different interviews and blog posts that she enjoyed writing Amazingly Broken.
What happened next was a surprise to everyone. Jordin B. Williams, a sweet-looking, blonde beauty by the looks of her Goodreads pic, was not a female at all, but a man, James Bishop. This revelation lead to several internet savvy bloggers and authors, in particular blogger Jane Litte and author Teresa Mummert to discover a tangled web of fake personas authoring novels, all created by James Bishop.
But even that wasn’t the most astonishing to me. What was so surprising was the overwhelming support of readers, bloggers, and authors for Tammara and I. The outrage, the outreach, the out and out love that was shown to us was awe-inspiring. During a day that I could have shut myself in my room in despair, I felt like I’d just won homecoming queen. I don’t remember a single day in my career where I felt so much positivity and encouragement.
That was exactly why we came together and agreed that we couldn’t allow this to stand. We went to our publishers, who agreed to let Tammara and I pursue legal action against Mr. Bishop. Some told us that it wouldn’t be worth it, but we stood our ground. Tammara found Pamela S. Chestek of Chestek Legal in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ms. Chestek came highly recommended as a copyright attorney, and once she got all of our information, she hit the ground running. I was afraid she would say the same thing some others had, that it wouldn’t be worth the fight, but she didn’t. She got behind our cause and she never once told us to reconsider.
It wasn’t an easy battle, but we fought, and we won. We were awarded every penny Mr. Bishop made from Amazingly Broken, and with this victory, Tammara and I know that it can be done, and neither of us will take plagiarism sitting down! More importantly, no one has to. With the rise of self-publishing and fan fiction, the publishing industry is seeing plagiarism more and more. It’s important for these would-be thieves to know and see that there are real consequences to their actions, and that even if a ghostwriter is hired, the author who publishes that book is still responsible for the final content published.
Tammara and I were not only awarded the full earnings Bishop made from Amazingly Broken, but also an amount of legal fees. We paid nothing out of pocket. We agreed from the beginning to donate the proceeds. Tammara and I wish to donate to RAAIN.org, the Red Cross for the recent Philippines disaster, and then we’ve each chosen a personal charity. For me, I donated to the National MS Society, in honor of my uncle Brad, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1986.
Thank you again to the reader who recognized our words in someone else’s book, to blogger Jane Litte who courageously made the plagiarism public, to author Teresa Mummert who is an accomplished Internet detective, to author Sara Celi and source (they know why), copyright attorney Pamela Chestek of Chestek Legal in Raleigh, NC for your professionalism and efficiency, and finally to Tammara Webber for being a steadfast teammate and friend during this stressful time. Last but not least, a huge thank you to every person who emailed, tweeted, and sent Facebook messages to show their support, love, encouragement, and sometimes even anger over the ordeal. Your reaction inspired Tammara and I, and instrumental in getting us through some very tough days.