I reviewed Rachel Hawkins’ Hex Hall yesterday and she tweeted this:
Honest is a word that I am used to hearing about my reviews (although the “brutally” did make me wince). Honesty is my aim. To be truthful, to represent my thoughts as a reader and share why I feel a specific way was always what I wanted for Persnickety Snark. The second I start softening reviews for the sake of friendship or interviewing an author whose work I don’t enjoy it is the end for me.
We don’t make money for our work on our blogs. We spend every night reading, reviewing, posing questions and tweeting excessively because we love YA. I love this community; it has provided me with cherished friends in all corners of the globe, given me some faith in my own writing and introduced me to some amazing stories. But when it comes down to it...my words are all I have to differentiate me from any other blogger.
Someone took that from me this week.
Correction...someone stole that from me this week.
Someone decided my review was good enough to claim as their own.
Someone thought that switching up sentence structure a little and using a thesaurus excessively was going to make my review theirs.
I am choosing to not go into any more detail than that as I have dealt with this issue privately and it will remain so. I don’t wish to become a complete hypocrite after my post last week extolling the ways to avoid blogger conflict. (Though I do recognise the irony in being plagiarised two days after I posted that discussion.) This is in no way meant to be a finger-pointing exercise but make people reconsider pursuing this action in the future. I don’t believe for a second that someone who plagiarises thinks that a) they will get caught or 2) consider the originator’s feelings ...or ownership.
I felt angry. So angry that I was shaking. They were my words, my thoughts, my reactions to the book and someone took them because they were too lazy to write a review of their own. Too lazy to write when they have time to contact publicists to get review copies in the first place.
I felt betrayed. Though I have heard of event stealing spiking of late, I haven’t really ever heard of content plagiarism. This is my community, my peers and my cherish bookworm buds. Why did one poor excuse of a reviewer do this to me? Why did they make me doubt my 99.99% wonderful book brethren?
I felt hurt.
Here’s the deal - whether subconsciously or not, paraphrasing someone else’s thoughts is plagiarism. Why? You are presenting someone else’s views as your own. This is an untruth. It is even worse in review blogging as we are provided review copies to give our own opinions on the books. Not only are you stealing thoughts, you are stealing product. You are accepting goods with no intention of meeting your part of the deal.
That’s why it is wrong.
It is also wrong to use subconsciously copying as an excuse. I have been on both sides of the classroom – student and teacher. Students from an early age are told to use “their own words” and are taught to do so. No one, of any blogging age, can use subconsciously “borrowing” as an excuse.
In fact, if you are subconsciously “borrowing” (I hate this term, I didn’t give you permission to take and I don’t get my words back so why use “borrowing”?) means you need to change the entire way you review. Actually...paraphrasing isn’t reviewing...it is cutting and pasting with a fancy synonym replacement function.
So how can you avoid the whole subconscious angle? Sarcasm aside, reading someone else’s review can sway your original thoughts. The simple solution – write your review before reading others. I know! How difficult does that sound?
The only positive in this whole debacle is that I knew instantly that the review was mine. I read it and it sounded exactly like me even though sentences had been upended and words substituted. Courtney Summers once wrote that I possessed “a voice” and I scoffed*. Now I think that could be true...or my plagiarist is really crap at what they do.
I don’t host contests. My followers are readers that like reading my reviews. They like my voice and my opinions and my honesty. So to have someone rip off the one thing I have going for me - that is me - was extremely hurtful.
I would like to discourage people from piggybacking on the work of others and instead devote their time to bettering their reviewing skills. Find your voice. Make your blog unique for your written content, not the splash and flash.
Find some integrity.
*Re-reading this guest post this week has been my saving grace.