The Siren and the Plagiarism: An Amazon Loophole for Promotion

There’s a great deal of “If you liked…” recommendations for romance readers. And most of the time those recommendations are much appreciated – especially when they come from the online community, which is hellaciously well-read.

But thanks to Amazon, we have a new category: If You Didn’t Like This, How About Plagiarism Instead?

Leslie Kelly noticed that because her book Slow Hands is one of the free Harlequins being offered as part of their 60th Anniversary, it is frequently in the top ten downloads for Kindle. Nice, right?

Well, not entirely. There’s one review that lists an alternate title that’s better – something called Sirens (Enchanted Song) by Geo Tin..

Conveniently, since the reviewer linked to the book, every time the reviews for Slow Hands are loaded, that book is also on the page in a sidebar titled “Items Mentioned in These Reviews.”

Well, now, that’s a nifty feature… except that Sirens is allegedly a plagiarized version of Catherine Creel’s Wildsong, published by Ivy Books, a division of Random House, in September 1996.

On 24 July, 2009, Creel filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Amazon, Lulu, iUniverse, and a host of others, including the author of the book, one Tino Georgiou, aka K.G. Glaub.

Want to read more? Enterprising web-savvy folks make that easy for the curious. Inside another book by Georgiou, a website URL is mentioned – and someone who’s mighty peeved at the continued plagiarism and the author’s success at marketing the book using the Amazon “also mentioned” sidebar has put up an entire website detailing the long and bizarre history of this particular book, complete with accusations that Amazon is somehow connected to this individual:

Does Tino work for Amazon?
It is also likely that he either works for Amazon or has a close contact there. His ease of having reviews utterly vaped (which Amazon customer service claim is impossible) and his multiple identities and the mere fact that Amazon still allow his books on site are some of the more obvious indicators.

Also, he seems to have hacked the internal filters on the discussion forums, such that if you try and post his name fully, “Georgiou”, the Amazon system reports: “Your message will not be posted. Please see our Guidelines regarding objectionable content”

Currently “Sirens” is still for sale at Amazon, under multiple title listings like S is for Sirens while other versions are not currently available.

There are several community threads on the topic,

The majority of this person’s promotion, however, appears from posting reviews for popular books, and then recommending the book so it appears in the sidebar any time a shopper looks at the reviews.

Books like Only Pleasure by Lora Leigh (Oops, forgot the link there, spamreviewer!); Deception by Sharon Cullen; Nora Roberts’ Black Hills (now THAT is some chutzpah); His Lady Mistress by Elizabeth Rolls; Loving a Lost Lord by Mary Jo Putney; and Finger Lickin’ Fifteen by Janet Evanovich.

Unlike some other reviewers on Amazon, the reviewer actually appears to have read the books, but each one ends with a link to his own title – a title that according to the comparisons listed in this discussion bear a smacking amount of similarity to Creel’s “Wildsong.” Plus, seems this person has making the fake-review-link rounds for years now. The “ZOMG this book is WOW” squeefest even made its way to the RT forums.

Amazon and the other vendors named in Creel’s suit aren’t going to stop selling Geo Tin’s book until they’re told to do so, and I’m curious how the suit turns out. Have you ever noticed the “Also mentioned” feature on the Amazon reviews page? Have you ever shopped there and clicked on a book listed in that panel? If you’ve ever reviewed a book, would you recommend another book in the text? A whole posse of folks could all round-robin circle-jerk each other’s books in a placement extravaganza. Except, ew. That would be even more meaningless than Amazon reviews are already.

 

 

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Ranty McRant

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  1. 1
    Lorelie says:

    A handful of the links aren’t working.

  2. 2

    I haven’t read any of the books mentioned, but the word that jumps out to me is “allegedly” about the plagarism.  That bothers because there’s (to me) at least a 50/50 shot that perhaps there is no plagarism and a good book is being slandered.  Because of that chance, I don’t care for “allegedly” things…I want the proven facts first, but thats just me.

  3. 3
    Lorelie says:

    So, what, we’re not supposed to mention the possibility until….when?  The “author” has been convicted?  (And how bloody rarely does that happen?)

    At the very least it’s sleazy marketing.  At the worst, it’s a crime.

  4. 4

    Like I said, I personally prefer proof over assumptions.  I don’t know any of these books, I haven’t read them to see if there is any plagarism going on.  But if there is some proof, some quotes or something to prove it great then whoever found them put it out there and lets see it.

  5. 5
    Lori(K) says:

    I haven’t read any of the books mentioned, but the word that jumps out to me is “allegedly” about the plagarism.  That bothers because there’s (to me) at least a 50/50 shot that perhaps there is no plagarism and a good book is being slandered.  Because of that chance, I don’t care for “allegedly” things…I want the proven facts first, but thats just me.

    I understand the impulse to be fair to everyone, but the fact that something may or may not be true does not mean that the odds are 50/50. Truth is not randomly assigned.

    The word “allegedly” has to be used in describing the situation because there’s a pending legal case that hasn’t been resolved. That doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to make any sort of judgment about the situation.

    In this case multiple readers have read both books and confirmed that the only differences are changes in character names and locations.  The author has also behaved in ways that are pretty clearly designed to hide his identity. I don’t think fairness requires us to avoid discussing that.

  6. 6
    Kalen Hughes says:

    @ Elizabeth Jules Mason (AKA ‘MsMoonlight’): Have you actually looked at the blow by blows? I have, and it’s pretty much word for word. So, while the word ““allegedly” is being used here, it’s the same ““allegedly” that was clearly detailed on this very site for Cassie Edwards’ works.

    I emailed Sarah about this “author” awhile back when I saw that the only review for Mary Jo Putney’s latest book was a low stared rant that pointed you to Sirens as a much better book. If you follow the link you find tons and tons of glowing 5-star reviews and the then a couple of 1-stars that complain about being ripped off and mislead. This led me to google the author and then it became all too clear that some kind of really bizarre ruse is taking place here . . .

  7. 7
    Leslie Kelly says:

    Sarah, I don’t know if somebody at Amazon finally woke up or if you just have some awesome powers, but there have been some BIG changes already!

    First, Sirens is no longer for sale on Amazon in any format, though it was yesterday.

    The S for Sirens page (put up with the same cover, same author, about 2 weeks ago, when the bad reviews started to outweigh the good ones on the original “Sirens” page) is gone altogether. The other pages are still there, and most of the negative reviews are on them. But almost all the glowing, 5 star ones are GONE. There were so many of them—dozens—with connected comments containing heated arguments between people who’ve been following this story & the book’s defender(s). Poof. Vanished.

    The Slow Hands page still contains the review recommending the other book, but it’s no longer “linked” and it no longer shows up in the box about “other products mentioned in these reviews.”

    I have to say, this has been one of the strangest stories I’ve ever stumbled across in this business. I was just curious at first, randomly following links, but when I started reading the threads on the message boards, the comments in the reviews, and went back to the original scandal on the UK site from a year ago, then the website devoted to this so-strange-it-sounds-fictional con game…I think I lost two days of writing just trying to follow it all!

    If you have a few hours, read all the threads and definitely check out the http://www.kgglaub.com/ site. We can all agree to keep using that word allegedly…but I suspect Ms. Creel is going to be hugely successful in her lawsuit.

  8. 8

    Innnteresting … 

    I don’t have anything new and interesting to say about the plagiarism angle (not so much feeling creative today), but to answer SB Sarah’s Q: I’ve never clicked on the ‘also mentioned’ sidebar. I have, however, found new authors (both good and bad) through the ‘people who bought this book also bought…’ recommendations. Sort of like letting the other shoppers vote with their $$, I guess.

  9. 9
    SB Sarah says:

    I agree, Jessica – I’ve also paid attention to what people “also bought” when shopping online. I wish other sites had that, especially ebook sites like eHarlequin.

    I emailed Sarah about this “author” awhile back when I saw that the only review for Mary Jo Putney’s latest book was a low stared rant that pointed you to Sirens as a much better book.

    When I looked at the pages after Kalen contacted me, the sale pages were listing the book as “no longer available” – so I thought the issue was being resolved. But since then, so many more reviews linking to that book were added to popular genre fiction novels.

    And @Leslie Kelly I don’t know if I had a lick of anything to do with it, but I’m glad the loophole to advertise a book at the expense of another appears to be closing. Lawsuits take forever and another year to move through the legal system, but it will be interesting to see what happens with this one.

  10. 10
    SonomaLass says:

    Anything that’s a possible victory over plagiarism OR shameless pandering is good day’s work. 

    I use the “also bought” recommendation feature sometimes, although I never just click and buy—I always search for the book & reviews elsewhere, since I long ago concluded that Amazon reviews were worthless.

  11. 11
    Kalen Hughes says:

    “When I looked at the pages after Kalen contacted me, the sale pages were listing the book as “no longer available” – so I thought the issue was being resolved.”

    The ability of this book/author to be resuscitated on Amazon does sort of feed into the thought that he’s either connected to someone there or that he’s got some kind of super insight into how to manipulate the site. The thing gets shut down, but like the killer in a horror movie, it gets right back up as soon as you turn your back . . .

  12. 12
    DS says:

    I’ve been watching this for a while.  At one time I thought it might be an internet hoax perpetrated by a number of people in concert, mainly because of the amount of effort put into it—I find it hard to believe he sold enough copies to make it worthwhile as a serious bit of fraud.  It just seems so pointless. 

    I also thought the issue was dead until I saw the 8/9/09 Amazon review of T. Lonely on Finger Licking 15 with a link (now dead) to Sirens.

  13. 13
    Mark says:

    I have read both “The Fates” (which was subsequently released as “Sirens”) and “Wildsong” by Catherine Creel. There is no doubt it is the same book, with just the names and locations changed. Everything else is identical.

    Another plagiarised book (almost certainly by the same plagiarist) is Clarence Cage’s, “Ashes Divide”, which is a word-for-word copy of Nicholas Nicastro’s “Empire of Ashes”, again with names and locations changed.

    Even the cover art of these book is stolen work!

  14. 14
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Another plagiarised book (almost certainly by the same plagiarist) is Clarence Cage’s, “Ashes Divide”, which is a word-for-word copy of Nicholas Nicastro’s “Empire of Ashes”, again with names and locations changed.

    *shakes head*

    Really makes me wonder why this person goes to all this trouble. I mean, just what is the goal here? They can’t be making enough $ for this to be worth it, can they?

  15. 15
    Kalen Hughes says:

    This all made me think of what our old friend Lanaia Lee is up too . . . and sure as shit, she’s finished “her” novel and is now selling Of Atlantis (aka David Gemmell’s Dark Prince). The mind boggles.

  16. 16
    Alison says:

    I noticed this ‘person’ (I won’t call them author) a while ago, as I regularly read reviews of books I’m interested in on Amazon.

    The book was regularly being mentioned by reviewers as a recommendation.  I reported it to Amazon as spamming amongst other things, they told me they were aware of it, and monitoring the situation.  It’s very odd indeed…

  17. 17
    library addict says:

    I look at the “customers also bought” books, but don’t buy.  However that’s mainly because I don’t usually buy books on Amazon.  I will say I have discovered new authors this way. 

    I remember back in 2002-ish when Amazon used to have their “Great Deal/Buy This Book”* that the Amazon website had a few of Nora’s books paired with one of Janet Dailey’s.  This was when she started publishing again with Kensington after she’d admitted the plagiarism.  Talk about adding insult to injury. 

    * I can’t remember the exact wording they used but it was back before they had the whole row of “customers also bought” like they do now.

  18. 18
    library addict says:

    Just so it’s clear for those unfamiliar the “she” I mean is Dailey, who plagiarized from Nora and them blamed it on stress.  Oh and she called it “my essentially random and non-pervasive acts of copying” rather than plagiarism :rolleyes:

  19. 19
    Jamie says:

    I visited the website, and this is just jaw-dropping. Between the ridiculous self promotion and the plagiarism, this kind of fills me with unstoppable rage. I had a school assignment plagiarized by a classmate last year, and I felt dirty, betrayed, and used. And it was just a fairly short assignment that wasn’t a lot of work, not exactly a creative endeavor that I had poured my heart and soul into. I can’t even imagine how terrible it must feel to have your world, characters, and everything else you made up stolen by someone. This jerkass goes on the lousy rotten scum-sucking plagiarist along with Janet Dailey, Cassandra Claire, and Cassie Edwards. All four of them should be ashamed of themselves and barred from publishing again!
    Confirmation word: section77- their should be a 77-section code detailing horrible punishments for plagiarists!

  20. 20
    Michelle says:

    It makes me mad when I see those plagiarists books reviewed in the Romantic Times book.  They should be ashamed of themselves.

  21. 21
    JoanneL says:

    It makes me mad when I see those plagiarists books reviewed in the Romantic Times book.  They should be ashamed of themselves.

    The link Sarah gave for RT was to a thread posted by a member—not to a review by RT. I don’t know if RT did review of the plagiarized book but somehow I doubt it.

  22. 22
    Melissandre says:

    Curse you, Kalen! (Yes, a tenfold curse!)

    I hadn’t heard about the Lanaia Lee issue, and followed your link.  That was two hours ago.  I’m sure I had more productive things to be doing, but I became engrossed.  What a soap opera!  The legal threats and faux Wiccan curses!  The poor innocent souls struck down by illness!  The errors in mechanics!  The incredulous prose!  I couldn’t stop reading!

    Seriously, though, why are people like these two jokers allowed on my Earth?  They don’t provide nearly enough amusement to make up for the waste of oxygen.  And how many trees have to die to create their plagiarized hackwork?

  23. 23
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Sorry, Melissandre. I had a front row seat to the whole fiasco when it happened and I thought it had surely been resolved . . . sadly no.

  24. 24
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    This is just bizarre.  It makes me wonder why these people don’t channel some of their seemingly inexhaustible energy into taking a few creative writing courses.

  25. 25
    DS says:

    Just in response to your question about linking another book into a review—I’ve used it any time I reference a prior book or a prior edition of the same book by the same author or a book by another author for comparison purposes.  Mainly though, I use it when reviewing non-book items. 

    Amazon has has trouble with people misusing these features from early on—the recommend another book feature was spammed as soon as it was live with some sort of christian themed book- I can’t remember the title, but I do wonder if maybe the same person wasn’t involved.  I remember Amazon took the tool down for a while to clean things up and make some changes. 

    spamblocker—bill28— a friend and I have been wondering if Hurricane Bill was named in honor of Vampire Bill from Sookie Stackhouse.

  26. 26
    Suze says:

    Lanaia Lee.  Wow.  That was the most astounding author bio I’ve ever read.  What a special, special person.  What an extraordinary life.  And gorsh, she must be awfully, awfully smart, since she rushed through her mother’s home-schooling so quickly.

    She found employment at vocational trades where she met my soul mate, David, also in a wheelchair from a motorcycle wreck he sustained in 1984.

    Who is this bitch, and why did she steal MY soul mate?  Oh, I see, she just forgot she was writing in third person.  Right.

    I’m boggled.

  27. 27
    anon says:

    This all made me think of what our old friend Lanaia Lee is up too…

    I checked out the Lanaia Lee bio.  “At eighteen, she married and divorced having three miscarriages.”  Really? Married, three miscarriages, AND divorced all within the span of one year?

    Kind of reminds me of a compulsive liar I worked with who craved attention to the point she made up stories about bad things that happened to her.  Usually while trying to top something that had happened to someone else. The only problem was she wasn’t smart enough to realize her stories didn’t hold water. And she wasn’t always consistent either.

    I’ve also read some of the postings on the kgglaub website.  Interesting that the Sirens “author” not only appears to have plagiarized “his” books, but also plagiarized “his” reviews. Sounds like another compulsive attention seeker, like those guys that create computer viruses. Only in his case he’s trying to see how often he can get away with unleashing a viral book on Amazon.

  28. 28
    anon says:

    Oops… I meant for the first sentence in the above post to be a quote, not bold. Didn’t mean to plagiarize ;-) just clicked the wrong button.

  29. 29
    Lostshadows says:

    This jerkass goes on the lousy rotten scum-sucking plagiarist along with Janet Dailey, Cassandra Claire, and Cassie Edwards.

    I suspect I’ll regret this but, who’s Cassandra Claire and what did she rip off?

  30. 30
    Leslie Kelly says:

    Well, so much for it being taken care of.

    “Customers that reviewed this book also mention” box is back up with a link to the “new” Kindle version of this book. Which wasn’t for sale yesterday…and now is again.

    Makes me wonder about the claim on the kgglaub site that this person has some kind of super powers on Amazon.

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