Introducing Nora A Roberts, Poacher, With Response from Nora Roberts, Real Author

Copy Cats AheadIn the ever-so-zippy development of the digital publishing marketplace, there's a few levels of trickery from those attempting to make a quick dollar (or euro, or pound, or whatever). There's people selling copies of public domain books for profit, which is pretty skeevy. There's people who sell cut-and-paste substitutions of other authors' books, which is a lot skeevy.

And then there's this example, which I think might be the reigning champion of skeevy behavior. Also chutzpah.

Meet Nora Roberts. You know her.

Now, meet “Nora A. Roberts.

According to mediabistro, she's a bestselling self-published author on Barnes & Noble.

Many a romance author tweeted about the idiocy and chutzpah of whomever is behind Nora A. Roberts in the past 24 hours, but the WTFery grows apace. At the home page for the “publisher” which is allegedly comprised of “renegade authors,” Southern Pied Media, there are several more books, including some by “James A Patterson,” and a book titled “Nora Roberts: Firecracker,” which features a main character named… wait for it… Nora Roberts.

My first reaction: “You have got to be kidding me.” Are people going to fall for the middle initial? Of course. And apparently readers have, judging from the bestseller placement, and early reviews that state that the reader isn't so sure this is a “Nora Roberts” book.

Yesterday, the title and author name of “Spellbound Cafe” at BN.com was changed to Lora Roberts. That would be marginally (a very thin margin) better except that Lora Roberts is also a self-published writer of mysteries.

Great. Now there's three authors having their names misused to further sales.

This type of trickery is so galling, because it preys on readers who don't know the difference or who are reading author names on a tiny screen, perhaps, using another person's name and reputation as collateral.

But what really tops the WTFery is the entry published today on the “Southern Pied Media” site, which leaves no doubt as to their intentions:

When we decided to circumvent our publishers in order to keep the prices low and the readers happy, of course, we had to come up with pen names!
We decided to choose names similar to authors in our genre.

One of us choose James A Patterson

One of us choose Nora A Roberts.

We thought it would get peoples attention, but that readers would be intelligent enough to realize that Nora A Roberts is not the Nora Roberts – as there is no “Best Selling” author titled anywhere on the book nor a list of Nora's books as you'd usually find in a Nora Roberts book.

Well! What a commotion we caused.

Our first reviews were wonderful (thank you).

Then the one star reviews drifted in “This is not a Nora Roberts book!”

I sincerely doubt they read the book, because anyone who has, is directed to this website.

While we did choose names similar to our James and Nora – our intention was to draw people into reading the description of the book, realizing it was not the splendid Nora Roberts, but a genre similar at a very affordable price point – in the hopes the description and price were tantalizing enough for a reader to buy.

We decided to make it less confusing, and changed the name from Nora A Roberts to Lora Roberts – but this just created more of a stir!

We've pulled the other 2 books we had published under the name Nora A Roberts and we'll meet this weekend to decide how to approach this situation.

If you have any thoughts regarding this – please send us an email to southernpied@gmail.com

If you read SpellBound Cafe and truly liked it, please consider leaving a review to let people know it's not the authors name that matters – it's the entertaining story that's most important. At least, I always thought so!

Of course, now we come to find out that there is another author named Lora Roberts – so there could possibly be another change!
Hold to your hats, ladies, we're in for a shi* storm!

I need more pie!

Let's break that down for a moment: they chose pen names using one letter additions to extremely successful authors' names and they thought “it would get people's attention but that readers would be intelligent enough to realize that Nora A Roberts is not Nora Roberts” based on the content inside the book. But oh, darn, looks like readers are dumb.

The whole entry carries the gleeful subtext of “We're trying to trick readers, whee!”

They claim the books have been removed, but as of this writing, three titles by “Nora A Roberts” or “Lora Roberts” are still available on Amazon and BN, in addition to the Nora Roberts: Firecracker title by “G. G. Raleigh.”

Have a look at the “Customers Also Bought:”

 

I'm guessing that's exactly the result they were looking for.

I tend to get REALLY pissed when people insult the intelligence of romance readers, and that's what I think this person (or persons) is doing: presuming readers are stupid, ignorant, or blithe enough to purchase anything with “Nora + Roberts” on the cover, thereby earning this author a quick buck. And likely it's working for the time being.

The following is Nora Roberts' statement regarding Southern Pied's question:

Southern Pied Media asks What's In A Name when explaining why they decided to create pen names that tag onto established writers. As in Nora A. Roberts.
 
I'll state what's in my name. Over three decades of hard work, of writing, of building an audience, of experience. All mine. And absolutely no one has the right to use my name–with an added middle initial–to try to cash in on that.
 
If, as they state in the blog, it's all about how good the book is, then don't market the book, try to sell the book, by using a slight variation on an established author's name. It's insulting to all parties, which includes readers.
 
What they did, and may be continuing to do as far as I know with other established names, is deceptive and offensive. It's also pretty damn pathetic.
 
Nora Roberts

Agreed.

What recourse to readers have? You can email customerservice@BN.com, and you can contact Amazon.com customer care through their site, explaining why you find this publisher to be deceitful and what you think of their “business practices.” 

And, much as I'm surprised to be suggesting this as a method of recourse, there's always the reviews. Perhaps this is a valid opportunity to One Star Bomb the crap out of the books that are still available, including:

I struggled with the idea of suggestiong the One Star Bomb method. If you have a suggestion of how readers can better respond to this sort of predatory and utterly skeevy behavior, please do let me know. I'm still trying to figure out who the people are behind “Southern Pied,” but my hope is they'll take the books down and go elsewhere, and soon. 

ETA 14 June 2012, 8:15 am ET: Well, someone did something, and I'm going to give you all the credit, k? All of the above titles except for All the President's Friends at BN.com are gone. Maybe they took them down, maybe Amazon and BN removed them, maybe the International WTFairy struck quickly, but whatever the cause, I've never been so happy to see 404 errors. The Southern Pied site is scrubbed of the content displaying and linking to books for sale, and the June 13 entry I reprinted above is gone, too (I do have screencaps, though). (You know, for decorating). Seems that this name poacher is down for now – but I'm betting this won't be the last time we see name poaching as a “digital strategy.” 

Some folks asked in the comments about what to do if your legal name is similar to an already-established author. Tough call. There are a LOT of authors now. My feeling, and this is purely my own opinion unfetted by things like actual experience working in a publishing publicity or marketing house, is that it's sort of like when someone wants to be an actor, and they have the legal name of someone who is already famous. Say, “Michael Douglas.” There's already a Michael Douglas (son of Kirk Douglas, whose real name was Issur Danielovitch).

So if you're named Michael Douglas and you want to be an actor, you become Michael Keaton instead – by, ironically, using Diane Keaton's last name (whose real name is Diane Hall). Part of all this is due to Screen Actor's Guild rules, and there are no similar rules for authors that I'm aware of. But, bottom line, to avoid confusion, if your legal name is similar to an established author's name, you should go by “Michael Keaton” when you publish. Got that? 

Categorized:

Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Sandy James says:

    I left a review stating my disappointment in this “Nora A Roberts.” Seriously frosts my behind. Funny thing was, people voted that the reviews weren’t helpful. Go figure…

  2. 2
    SB Sarah says:

    You mean folks voted that your reviews regarding the name poaching weren’t helpful? Ha. I have a dollar bet that the people downvoting are the people behind the A in the middle.

  3. 3

    Wow. When I chose my Pen Name I checked to make sure that there was no one using it.
    Unfortunately, since I published someone else has published using the same name. At least it is isn’t someone well known.

  4. 4

    Okay.  I’m having a… WHAT. THE. HELL. moment.  Seriously.  WHAT. THE. HELL.  Why would somebody be THAT stupid?  And yes, pathethic.

    And seriously, guys? People are supposed to get that it isn’t NORA ROBERTS (THE ONE AND ONLY) AFTER they’ve bought your book… right?

    Skeezy.

  5. 5
    The Real Steven King says:

    I was discussing this with my friends JK Rowlinng and Stephanie Meyer and we don’t see what the problem is. Grow up people. Sheesh.

    Love,
    Steven King

  6. 6
    Jill Sorenson says:

    I know what the A’s stand for.

  7. 7
    SonomaLass says:

    I complained to Amazon on Monday, when I found that the name Nora A Roberts was linked to La Nora’s Amazon author page. Then I downloaded a sample of The Wedding Jynx.  It’s bad; stupid names, poor punctuation, and weird tense changes. I’m willing to be that it is a search-and-replace, sloppily changed version of something written by another author (probably made much worse by the theft), but I don’t recognize it. Anybody read a book about a couple of friends who occasionally score free champagne by the guy pretending to propose to the gal in nice restaurants? Only this time he does it in front of the host of a TV reality wedding show? I’m curious where they ripped off this premise, because this kind of skeevy doesn’t sound to me like someone actually trying to sell their own books.

  8. 8
    Sandy James says:

    That’s exactly what I mean, and I’ll admit to the same thought as to who it was. :)

  9. 9
    Liz Everly says:

    Jackassery taken to a whole new level.

  10. 10
    Jody Wallace says:

    While this sucks the ethics crap-bag and is without a doubt skeevy, I don’t think it’s reigning champion of skeeve. Stealing another author’s entire book and republishing it is worse, what with the plagiarism and all. I think even the unskeevy Nora would agree.

  11. 11
    Kim says:

    Since the site is using Blogger, would it do any good to file an abuse report with Blogger and say that the website is violating its terms of service? Impersonation is listed as one possible violation:

    http://support.google.com/blog…

  12. 12
    kaitnolan says:

    Honestly, I think the one star bomb is appropriate in this case.  It’s wrong when readers are protesting decisions of the publishers (like price, etc.), but in this case the authors ARE the publishers and they’re blatantly trying to traffic on someone else’s hard work. 

  13. 13
    Library Addict says:

    I told Laura about the same name when I saw it the other day. I emailed Amazon, but got only a canned response.

    The main problem I see is that when you clicked on the author name “Nora A Roberts” all of the real Nora’s books came up. And the one review I saw said something along the lines of “another great book by Nora” (so obviously that reader/reviewer didn’t get the distinction of the middle initial).

    This type of thing just irks me. But I’m not sure the 1-star thing is the way to go. Sinking to that level just strikes me as wrong, though I have no better suggestions.

  14. 14

    Great post and kudos to the real Nora for her response. Their whole logic behind it is awful, this was a scam to make money and nothing more.

  15. 15
    Mikaela Lind says:

    One word: Fail. On so many levels.  ( I would love to find out the return ratio when readers who have bought the Kindle version realise it isn’t Nora Roberts or James Patterson.)

  16. 16
    infinitieh says:

    How about tagging the books with “plagiarist” or “name poacher” or the like?

  17. 17
    Melanie says:

    I think ‘Skeezy’ sums it up perfectly. I hope the people behind the name are outed and we can all avoid anything they write in the future too.

  18. 18
    Rebyj says:

    Like Library Addict said, if you click on the Nora A Roberts name on Amazon it links you to the real Nora Roberts author list of books. Also on the Wedding Jynx cover the A in the author’s name is on a white part of the dress and barely shows up! If I hadn’t been looking for it I’d have assumed it just read Nora Roberts.

  19. 19
    Sveta says:

    That’s despicable, what the people on southernpied are doing. Write well and sell your own books. Don’t use author’s name unless you have their permission or are willing to give them all your profits.

    http://sveta-randomblog.blogsp…

    And do it because you enjoy it, not because it will make quick money. That’s an insult to people who struggle to get to that place.

  20. 20

    Wait a minute. Can the actions of Southern Pied Media not be considered infringement? They’re admitting to intentionally trading on names of well-known and well-regarded authors. Isn’t there some legal recourse here? (though frankly, I think having the true, real Nora Roberts come out against is scarier than a courtroom. Nora’s fans are legion.)
    And what’s a Southern Pied anyway???

  21. 21
    Tori says:

    Could any of this be more asinine? When you pick a pen name, it’s to hide your identity…not STEAL the identity of a more famous person. When I first saw all this yesterday, all I could think was this is a sure way to tell a reader that you don’t believe in your own books.

  22. 22
    Sgurvis says:

    I’ve been waiting for a very long time for a Sandra Gurvis poser to emerge.  Of course these Southern Pied whatchamcallits should be tarred and feathered!  But still…what a compliment (imitation is the best form of flattery, my mom used to say).

  23. 23
    DelDryden says:

    Spellbound cafe isn’t on the BN site now – it’ll show up in the result list if you just search by title but the actual book page is down. But I just noticed that the link for the book page seems to feature YET ANOTHER spelling…perhaps a third, fruitless attempt at damage mitigation by the skeezeballs?

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/

  24. 24

    Plagiarist wouldn’t work, since she’s not actually plagiarizing.  “name poacher” though?  Yep.

  25. 25
    Sandy James says:

    I used my real name, but I did go with my nickname instead of my legal name because the fabulous Samantha James published a book or two under “Sandra.” I didn’t want to poach or make people assume I was her even if I AM Sandra James. Besides, the only one who calls me Sandra is my mother when she’s mad at me. ;)

  26. 26
    Rbelle says:

    Those women are a disgrace to the south.  That is absolutely a terrible thing to do—dishonest, untrustworthy, and against every etiquette rule I have ever encountered.

    Bless their hearts, I hope the peaches in their peach pie are rotten.

  27. 27
    Jennifer Armintrout says:

    The 1-star bomb thing isn’t a good idea. Someone tried to 1-star bomb me earlier this year, and ended up 1-starring Jennifer L. Armentrout. I would hate to think that in 1-star bombing confusion, actual Nora Roberts books would be 1-starred.

    1-star is a verb now.

  28. 28
    TK says:

    I feel bad for Nora Roberts, but I’m having trouble summoning a tear for James Patterson.  Has he actually written any of the recent novels with his name printed in big shiny letters across the front?  I got the impression from his interviews that he essentially just hired writers to write his books to a set formula and then slapped his best-selling name across it (and actually admits cheerily that he doesn’t write any more).  So no, the books by ‘James A. Patterson’ aren’t written by James Patterson, but it rather sounds as if none of the books published in the last few years with ‘James Patterson’ written across the covers were written by him either.

  29. 29
    Alice0651 says:

    What is the matter with people!!  This sucks on so many levels.  But throwing the real Nora books into the mix, just to hook readers is lower than a snake in wagon rut.  If you don’t have the smarts or discipline to write a book with your own or an unused pen-name, then pack it in.  You’re obviously no good at it!

  30. 30
    Jeanette says:

    I think its quite obvious what they were attempting to do. Why? Look at HOW their covers are aligned. When you click on the first one (Wedding Jynx) Nora A Roberts is in white, and the A blends in with the wedding dress.

    There is NO WAY a reader who is looking through books on their phone would see that. No way, period. If this was a cover from a publisher, I would say this was just a poor choice on color choices. But for this? It’s intentional, it’s sneaky, and it’s awful.

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