On June 16, Kelly Instalove (aka @kelly_instalove) tweeted that Amazon Montlake was selling digital versions of much of Cassie Edwards' backlist, and that said titles were available for Kindle lending.
The sound of my jaw dropping was probably heard for miles around.
If you're not familiar, back in 2008, Candy, co-founder of this hot pink palace, lent three romances to a friend, one of which was a Cassie Edwards novel. Said friend noticed suspicious passages in the book, which led her to Google, which led her to finding wholesale plagiarism in that novel.
She documented their findings in one blog post, which turned into two, which turned into several, and several more, and ended up as a mighty mighty PDF document detailing over 100 instances of plagiarized source material in Edwards' books. Sometimes the sources were out of print memoirs of Native Americans; sometimes the sources were Defenders of Nature articles about black footed ferrets – the lines from which became dialogue. Post coital dialogue, in fact.
The writers who were plagiarized included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Frances Densmore, and Mari Sandoz – Dear Author profiled several of these writers in 2008.
Eventually, Signet returned the rights to Edwards' books, and after a few weeks of brouhaha, that was about it.
Five years later, enter Kelly's tweet.
Since 2008, we've seen so many changes in how romance is published, and what is published. There are best seller fanfics now, and writers and readers both are grappling with what derivative works, if any, they want to read or write.
Meanwhile, Amazon changed a lot, too. They went from being a retailer to a Very Big Retailer to a publisher – and now four of their romances are among those nominated for the RITA® award this year – an accomplishment about which I am told they are very excited.
All changes aside, plagiarism: still wrong. It still makes me twitchy, and really makes me mad. As I've said in other discussions, it's treason among writers.
So I bought Savage Beloved for Kindle and opened it up on my desktop alongside the documented passages in the PDF, hoping those passages would be gone or changed. All the passages were still there, exactly the same.
I reached out to Susan Stockman, PR specialist for Amazon Montlake, on 17 June and asked about Amazon's policy regarding plagiarism, and whether they were aware of the plagiarized passages in Edwards' books.
Ms. Stockman replied today, 18 June, with this statement:
Montlake Romance does not accept plagiarized works, and we take questions of plagiarism very seriously.
Last year, Amazon Publishing won a foreclosure proceeding and acquired contracts for over 1,000 titles from 150 authors from Dorchester Publishing. That included 58 books by Cassie Edwards. We are aware that nine of those 58 books were included in plagiarism accusations against the author.
We are conducting our own review of all 58 titles by Ms. Edwards – meanwhile, will be removing all of the titles currently available on our site as we continue to look into this matter.
As of this evening, the Kindle versions of Edwards' books are no longer availble. I'm glad they responded and did the right thing by taking the books down pending review.
I'm hoping that Amazon Montlake does not put any of Cassie Edwards' plagiarized titles back up for sale.