Letters to Editors

Jane at Dear Author has published her open letter to the CEO and President of Penguin, and it’s sharp and eloquent (manishtana?). Well played, Jane!

My letter to the PR rep who published the Signet statement, read as follows:

While I appreciate your
statement on the subject of Cassie Edwards’ novels, your statement of Signet’s position is certainly not well received
and is quite disappointing.

For one thing, the use of the word “done nothing wrong,” allows for
ethical debate that doesn’t do Ms. Edwards any favors. Ethically, if our
comments on Smart Bitches and on Dear Author are any indication, Ms.
Edwards is in hot water with romance readers. She may not have broken
any laws, but she would have failed my English class.

But more importantly, your statement that “reasonable borrowing and
paraphrasing of another author’s words” is permitted under fair-use is
not applicable to the facts of this situation, because our evidence
seems to show that Ms. Edwards allegedly reproduced word-for-word paragraphs of written
data as dialogue for her characters. It wasn’t paraphrasing or borrowing,
in my opinion. It was reproduction without citation or acknowledgment.
Further, many, many authors of historical novels cite sources in their
acknowledgments or “Author’s Note” sections.

I agree with Jane and Nora Roberts that the best option for rage and ire is to write reasoned, precise letters to Penguin, Signet, et al, and explain your reaction to their statement, and why you’re so upset. It’s one thing to vent on a blog. It is a much bigger thing to contact the people who run the company and let them know how upset you are, and your reaction to their statement regarding Cassie Edwards’ novels. I do not think it likely such letters would be dismissed easily.

There are a few sources available online as to contact info though I make no guarantees as to whether the list is up to date. Plus, there are contact email addresses in the comments to Jane’s letter.

I’m working on my letter now. Need more caffeine.

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  1. 1

    Wow!  So I just read Jane’s letter and learned something new…Romance novelists do have a Code of Ethics.  That’s cool!

    Now if only CE had read it…

  2. 2
    Randi says:

    I wish I could be as eloquent as Jane and Sarah…

  3. 3
    Bonnie L. says:

    I’ve written and I wholly encourage you all to do the same.  I posted my letter up at dearauthor.  This is really the only way to get our point across to the leaders of the company.  I as I said over there, Rock on grassroots warriors!

  4. 4
    Bev Stephans says:

    I wrote my letter.  I just hope it, and all of the others, do some good.

  5. 5

    Just and FYI, the Canadian Press (the Canuk version of AP) picked up the story.  You all are international now.

  6. 6
    liz says:

    I’ve written. I stressed that while there are authors I will always buy (Nora Roberts, Barbara Metzger) my faith in Signet is gone and that will make me reluctant to try new authors. Which is sad for author and publisher. I also indicated that I felt the reply lacked respect for the seriousness of the apparent transgression and respect for the purchasers of those books and I hoped a more considered response would correct that.

  7. 7
    Ros says:

    I’ve written.  It’s here if anyone’s interested.

  8. 8
    Bibi says:

    I am in the middle of crafting my letter right now.

    I also wonder if it isn’t worthwhile to contact the companies that sell these books, and outline what is going on, and why we will not longer be buying these novels. That will hurt their bottom line, too. If booksellers get mass letters stating that people will no longer be buying products that they have for sale, they might put pressure on the publishers to make things right. The publishers won’t like it if booksellers pull certain novels, or threaten to, to appease their shoppers.

  9. 9

    I see nothing wrong with her research.  Looks legal to me.

  10. 10
    azteclady says:

    Legal doesn’t alway equate ethical.

    Plagiarism doesn’t always constitute copyright infringement.

    I am not a lawyer, but I’ve managed to grasp these differences.

  11. 11
    Ros says:

    Mary Ellen, I see nothing wrong with her research either, and I’m glad to know she did some.  The problem comes with the use of her research, claiming the words of the authors she’s read as her own.

    I don’t think that kind of fraud is legal, though it may well be that no action can be brought because of the problem of proving causality.  It’s certainly not ethical. 

    Do you see that there can be problems other than merely legal ones?

  12. 12
    Karen H says:

    I understand the rage and ire against Cassie Edward’s either ignorant or intentional plagiarism of her research—I’m ticked off, too, not only because it’s wrong, but because it reflects badly on other romance writers and they’ve fought hard for respect.  But refusing to buy all Signet books?  There are some hard working and conscientious authors like Jo Beverley, Mary Jo Putney, Carla Kelly, and other historical and Regency authors who have written for or still write for Signet.  Do you really have to punish all Signet authors for the actions of one?

    Write to Signet, don’t buy Edwards’s books if you believe it the right thing to do, but why refuse to buy the works of other authors who are honest and hard working?  They have to put food on the table and clothes on their families’ backs like everyone else.

  13. 13
    Randi says:

    Karen,

    please believe that refusing to buy ANY Signet authors is a topic that has been covered in-depth, and I believe no one has any plans to do so. For one, La Nora is a Signet author and she is highly respected by everyone posting and reading here, and no one wants to penalize Nora because of CE.

    I encourage you to read some of the other threads, starting with the first string of these CE articles to get a feeling for what people are really thinking and planning on doing about it.

    And you are right; it is NOT fair to any other author at Signet, to boycott Signet specifically.

  14. 14
    Lucy S. says:

    If you truly believe in freedom of speech, then I am going to be “devil’s advocate” concerning how SBTB’s blog is handling this specific topic.

    From reading this SBTB blog, it seems that four days ago, one of the SB’s recommended CE’s book as ‘a bad example’. Then someone else found on google, that some of CE’s background info dump was copied from unattributed sources.

    So, we have an author, CE – who has spent years of her life, building her reputation as a writer, and building up her income from writing – and in a mere FOUR DAYS, the two females at SBTB has LOUDLY and PUBLICLY attacked CE’s works, and are destroying her reputation.

    Are you thinking, that SBTB, is entitled to atr the whim of a few blog entries, to destroy CE’s entire lifetime of hard work? I think SBTB could have dealt with the issue of copying sources, but also do it more thoughtfully and privately.

    I think SBTB is too full of herself! Are you so reckless? that you don’t care how publicly destructive you are, toward a writer, CE, who has worked for years! SBTB does this reckless work in a mere 4 days?!!

  15. 15
    azteclady says:

    We have an author, CE, who has profited from the original work of other writers for years. By all means, let’s handle it privately so as not to hurt her reputation.

    /sarcasm

  16. 16
    Bibi says:

    Here’s my letter to Penguin:

    “It has come to my attention that Cassie Edwards, a Penguin author, has been accused of plagiarism. This is not an accusation that I, a faithful Penguin reader, take lightly. I had hoped that it is not an accusation that Penguin would take lightly either, however the only official statement to come from anyone associated with the Penguin Group seems to suggest otherwise. The official statement from Signet was nothing short of shocking. According to Signet, Cassie Edwards has done “nothing wrong”. It remains to be seen whether or not Ms. Edwards has done anything technically illegal, but she has certainly done something wrong.

    The extensive evidence provided, by Penguin readers I might add, shows that Ms. Edwards has reproduced long passages of works previously published, by other authors, verbatim in her own fiction without any citation whatsoever. Her excuse, and the justification given by Signet, appears to be that these passages are evidence of “research”. I beg to differ; these passages are evidence of plagiarism. Authors of historical fiction must necessarily do extensive research, and certainly they are not expected to provide an academic bibliography. Ms. Edwards’s actions, however, go beyond research. The verbatim lifting of passages from an outside source into ones own work is not research, it is theft. It is at most offensively dishonest and at best lazy. Indeed, in my opinion, it is both.

    I am not a lawyer, and thus cannot attest to the legalities, or illegalities, of Ms. Edwards’s actions. I am, however, a reader. And I will say that, as a reader, I expect quality and integrity from the authors I read. I expect quality and integrity from their publishers as well. It is not only Ms. Edwards who has effectively flushed her integrity down the metaphorical toilet, but Penguin has as well. I expected better from Penguin and Signet. The publication of plagiarised works is a serious literary offence, and an alarming blemish on Penguin’s reputation. Your readers expect better. Indeed, your readers demand better. You have a responsibility to provide quality fiction to your readers. If you shirk this responsibility, readers will respond appropriately: they will refuse to buy Penguin products.

    What is becoming an increasing groundswell of reader outrage is under way. I suggest you begin to treat this matter with the appropriate severity.

    Sincerely,
    ***** *******”

    Hopefully they’ll start to get the message if a lot of us keep writing letters.

    And… to Lucy S: Cassie Edwards doesn’t deserve a good reputation if indeed it is true that she’s a theif.

  17. 17

    Lucy S, it should be clear to you that Signet intended to do nothing about this. They’ve publicly stated that she’s done nothing wrong. Do you know what would’ve happened if this had been drawn to their attention in a thoughtful, private way? Absolutely nothing. A cyber-pat on the head. The point of making a public deal out of it is to bring attention to the fact that stealing another author’s words is wrong and a company (or a group of writers or fans) cannot make the decision that it isn’t wrong. Plagiarism sans copyright violation is not a crime. It is an ethical violation policed entirely by one’s peers whether in academia or the world of fiction.

    But I do concede something… If I were a plagiarist, would I want it handled privately? No doubt about it. But that is no the point.

  18. 18
    Bev Stephans says:

    Why not a boycott of Penguin Group books?  If plagiarism is allowed, I don’t want to read anything from their respective houses until they correct this.  A boycott is sometimes the only effective way to get the CEO’s and the President’s attention.

    A lot of my favorite authors (Nora Roberts included) write for the Penguin Group, but I can’t, in good conscience, purchase anything until they resolve this matter. This is hurting me as much as I hope it will hurt them.

  19. 19

    I realize I’m in the minority on this issue, but I can’t believe that Cassie is the only writer or romance writer that has used the “same words” as her research material.  I guess I would like to know why she is singled out and why.

    Mary Ellen

  20. 20

    As a follow up I agree with those (not many of course) that feel this blog has gone too far and has ruined a good reputation, possibly without good reason.

    I for one will be writing Signet and telling that I WILL be buying and reading their books.

    Mary Ellen

  21. 21
    Ruth says:

    Mary Ellen Carmody, I see that you consider yourself a writer. Can I take some of your “same words” and slap them into my work, Mad Libs style? Because you’re right, that doesn’t sound like a good reason to ruin someone’s reputation. Because it isn’t like CE herself actually stole those words. Obviously Sarah and Candy went back in time to steal them and place them in her manuscripts so that here in 2008 we could ruin her.

    What. In. The. Hell.

    Are these people being obtuse on purpose? SHE HAS STOLEN FROM PEOPLE. It is the same as if she had walked into their houses many years ago and walked out with their written work and then slapped her name on it. She has taken credit for passages that she has lifted VERBATIM. This isn’t a case of paraphrasing or inspiration, this is a case of word for word transcribing.

  22. 22

    Mary Ellen, I don’t understand. Are you saying you don’t think there is such a thing as plagiarism or that you just think it’s okay?

  23. 23

    Ruth, I don’t know about you, but I keep thinking I am done with this, but what keeps dragging it out is this idea that, Hey! It’s not plagiarism! It’s just research!

    Those of us who do actual, ethical research don’t appreciate it.

  24. 24
    Ruth says:

    Yup, Victoria, that’s what keeps bringing me back. I simply cannot fathom the idea that people can’t see the word for word copying when they look at the passages.

  25. 25

    God, let’s go get a drink together, shall we? We can stumble down the street screaming ferret-research quotes at passers-by.

  26. 26
    Ruth says:

    First round is on me. I feel like there is steam coming out of my ears. The ferret one is KILLING me. Why aren’t articles citing that? I feel like the passages they are citing may not necessarily be as damning as the ferret one.

  27. 27
    azteclady says:

    Ruth, Victoria, the next round is on me.

    M. E. Carmody, the horse is not just dead, but old glue at this point, yet here we go:

    —-something that is not illegal can be profoundly unethical.
    Specific to this case: it may not be copyright infringement, but it’s still plagiarism.

    —-research does not equate wholesale copying of other writers’ passages smack in the middle of dialogue/action/description in your own work.
    Specific to this case: check the threads with side by side comparison.

    —-a good reputation should be earned by behaviour that can stand analysis by the public and one’s peers, not something granted on the basis of how long it took for people to discover wrongdoing (nor on the basis of motivations ascribed to those who blew the whistle)
    Specific to this case: if CE ‘earned’ her reputation through the plagiarism of other people’s work, she doesn’t deserve it.

  28. 28
    Nikki says:

    So, we have an author, CE – who has spent years of her life, building her reputation as a writer, and building up her income from writing – and in a mere FOUR DAYS, the two females at SBTB has LOUDLY and PUBLICLY attacked CE’s works, and are destroying her reputation.

    Lucy S.—
    Based on the evidence I have personally found and documented, Cassie Edwards has spent years of her life building her reputation as a writer using other authors’ words

    In 1983, she wrote a book called SAVAGE BELOVED.  In fact, it was the first book in the famous “Savage” series.  I’m only halfway through the book but I’ve located four sections of copied material from non-fiction references that were still copyrighted.  That’s right—not public domain.  I’d be happy to share the info with you or anyone else who asks. 

    Candy and Sarah have not attacked Cassie Edwards.  They’ve brought to light the fact that Ms. Edwards acted unethically.  If her (Edwards’s) reputation is destroyed, then it is her own fault because she got caught stealing.

    Are you thinking, that SBTB, is entitled to atr the whim of a few blog entries, to destroy CE’s entire lifetime of hard work?

    Hard work?  Creating a book using your own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs is hard work.  It is NOT hard work to “borrow” from reference materials to use as dialogue or narrative throughout your novel. 

    I think SBTB could have dealt with the issue of copying sources, but also do it more thoughtfully and privately.

    Why privately?  So that the media wouldn’t be aware of the situation?  The only person who would benefit from that is Cassie Edwards and she’s the individual in the wrong here.  NOT Sarah and Candy.

    Also, a word of unsolicited advice. When accusing others of attacking an individual, you may want to choose your words and tone a little more wisely.  May add more weight to your argument.

  29. 29
    Sandy D. says:

    So, we have an author, CE – who has spent years of her life, building her reputation as a writer, and building up her income from writing – and in a mere FOUR DAYS, the two females at SBTB has LOUDLY and PUBLICLY attacked CE’s works, and are destroying her reputation.

    So, Lucy S., we have an author, CE – who spent years of her life STEALING from anthropologists, biologists, and other authors – building up her income and reputation.

    The fact that it has taken only four days to uncover this theft is immaterial. Do you have any idea how long those anthropologists worked, under what kind of conditions? They didn’t get that information from Google, or from someone else’s library book. They lived amongst their informants for years, in many cases. They changed their lives, they changed the lives of their informants with their intrusiveness, and then these anthropologists wrote all of that information on what they observed by hand, and then they typed it up (or their wives or graduate students did) and then it got published and probably earned them a pittance of what CE earned with her use of the same information.

    Are you so reckless? that you don’t care how publicly destructive you are, toward a writer, CE, who has worked for years!

    Are you so reckless that you would support a writer that has stolen YEARS of work that other (much less appreciated) authors sweated, cried, and bled to produce?

  30. 30
    Angelle says:

    I want to add something to the discussion.

    I know that Penguin is the only one to say publicly that CE did nothing wrong, but they’re not the only publisher CE wrote for. 

    Although other CE publishers didn’t say anything, that doesn’t mean they plan to do something about the situation.

    If you want something done about the situation—truly want something done—you should write to other publishers who published CE’s “guilty” works as well.  Otherwise, other publishers may merrily sign and/or continue to reprint her backlist, therefore letting her earn income on books with stolen passages.

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