The spy who stole: Book publishing realities

In what could turn out to be a book-in-the-making on its own, a recently published UK spy novelist was found to have plagiarized most of his content from various sources, including several James Bond books. The book’s been recalled, the author’s career is in ruins and questions abound.

The author cites pressure and self-doubt as what drove him to do this. He said he couldn’t keep up with the changes the editors demanded. He openly confesses this on spy novelist Jeremy Duns’ blog, The Debrief.  Poor Mr. Duns also took a reputation hit since he offered to endorse the book (and hadn’t picked up on the plagiarism).

The hits to brand reputation are like ripples of water from a stone being thrown into a pond. The author, the endorsers, the publisher, the reviewers….

I  have many questions about this. But mostly, for the publishers. If editors and publishers are really doing the jobs they claim to do, if they are truly adding value to the bookselling process with their “quality control” (as they often cite) then how the hell did they miss this?

I’m not excusing the author’s disgusting behavior. He makes the rest of us  look bad. But if the last bastion of going the traditional publishing route is that you get a better quality product in the end (note: not what I believe anymore) and then something like this happens, what the heck do we need publishers for?

It used to be publishers helped to market, edit and improve books. Now new authors are required to come to the table with a “marketing platform” already in place into which they can sell. And I have friends who are going the traditional publishing route telling me these NY publishers are asking for them to commit to hiring a freelance editor, because their editors don’t have time to edit anymore. So publishers are not helping market the books and they are not helping to edit the books? I’m confused…..

As I’ve mentioned in a prior post, publishers can’t whine about the state of the industry anymore. When you are a middleman, you need to add value to the equation. I can totally see how big publishers help with credibility and open more doors for distribution. But the cold hard fact is that unless you are a celebrity or Stephen King, most publishers won’t help to market your book ify ou are an unknown. 

And now it appears they won’t even check to see if your content is original or not.

I’m not saying there is no value in traditional publishing. I know lots of people who’ve had great experiences. And I would love to sell my book to one of the big guys one day, just to have that amazing experience.

What I am saying is that there is a business lesson here for all os us: if you don’t add value to the process, sooner or later, that will come back to bite you. You need to constantly be looking at ways to benefit your customers and differentiate from the other options out there. Or risk becoming irrelevant in the process.

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