Book Beat: More Poetic Plagiarism, U.K. Publishing’s Code of Conduct, and A Phone Call Dispute

Book Beat: More Poetic Plagiarism, U.K. Publishing’s Code of Conduct, and A Phone Call Dispute
Book Beat: the latest news in publishing for the week of December 9, 2018, which includes more plagiarism claims and the U.K.'s publishing code of conduct!

Hello lovely readers! This is your Bookmarked editor Paige, here to share all the latest publishing news in this week's Book Beat. Admittedly, it was a little difficult finding news that wasn't a Top Books of 2018 list. The holiday season is upon us, so the news cycle has started to slow down. Between that

Hello lovely readers! This is your Bookmarked editor Paige, here to share all the latest publishing news in this week’s Book Beat. Admittedly, it was a little difficult finding news that wasn’t a Top Books of 2018 list. The holiday season is upon us, so the news cycle has started to slow down. Between that and the cold weather, it’s almost enough to make one long for the turbulence of those hot summer days.

But fear not; there is still plenty of news to warm our hearts this December. Check out all the latest and greatest news in the publishing industry below!

Poetry Plagiarism Part Two

‘Tis the season of plagiarism, particularly in the poetry world for some strange season. As if last week’s Pushcart Prize debacle wasn’t enough, Wasp Queen author Claudia Cortese just revealed on social media that her work has been plagiarized by poet Lisa Low. Cortese discovered Low had copied several of her poems from 2013 and published them in Quarterly West in 2017. Upon reaching out to Low about the matter, Low admitted that she was “actively studying” Cortese’s poems to become a better poet. However, as Cortese’s extensive research shows, Low seems to have copied and published near-identical versions of Cortese’s poems over the years.

While Quarterly West initially did not respond to these accusations, Cortese’s public outreach has inspired them to investigate the situation. Meanwhile, Low has not publicly acknowledged these accusations or apologized to Cortese about how heavily her “studying” borrows from Cortese’s work. Considering the highly personal stories and childhood traumas Cortese shared in her poetry, this situation is incredibly disrespectful and concerning. But at least Cortese and Rachel McKibbens before her are standing up for their work against these outrageous plagiarism incidents.

U.K. Publishing Commits to Professional Behavior Guidelines

Like most industries these days, the publishing industry has been grappling with how to make its environment safe for its professionals. While the exact method of achieving this goal is still up for debate, the U.K. has taken an important first step in stamping out sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, and intimidation in its section of the industry.

The U.K.’s Association of Authors’ Agents, the Booksellers Association, the Publishers Association, and the Society of Authors have jointly created and agreed to a code of conduct called the “Commitment to Professional Behaviour in Bookselling and Publishing.” This code of conduct has four rules:

1) “We in the books industry support creative expression and freedom of speech. However, our creative realm is also a professional one and we expect high standards of behavior from everyone we encounter in the course of our work, including colleagues and customers.”

2) “We will protect the passion, imagination, and creativity of everyone in the books industry. We will celebrate and promote diversity and inclusion so that all voices can be heard.”

3) “We will recognise our influence and make a commitment to work together to prevent abuse of power, creating a work environment free of discrimination, harassment including sexual harassment, bullying, and intimidation.”

4) “We will ensure that everyone in our industry is treated with dignity and respect so that individuals are supported and able to speak out.”

Together, this collective of U.K. publishing industry agents, publishers, booksellers and authors hope “to set out the high professional standards that [they] should expect from one another” through open conversation and social policy. It’s encouraging to see this widespread support for change; action and explicit, enforceable industry policy is the next necessary step.

Author/Agent Phone Call Legal Dispute Dismissed

Australian Author Kate Morton

Australian Author Kate Morton

Legal battles are a curious thing in the publishing world. Often, they’re about as frivolous as similarly titled erotica — people misusing the law out of pettiness, spite, and a lack of knowledge about how the industry works. Yet there are times when lawsuits arise that have serious ramifications for this tiny industry. This week, an important case of that magnitude finally closed between internationally bestselling Australian author Kate Morton and her former literary agent Selwa Anthony.

Morton and Anthony began working together around 2002, and in 2015 Morton fired Anthony as her literary agent. Following this dismissal, Anthony filed a lawsuit against Morton claiming that she was entitled to a 15% commission on all royalties earned from Morton’s first six published books for the life of each work. The basis of her claim came from an oral agency agreement she made with Morton during a March 2002 phone call.

Morton disputed Anthony’s claim in a counter suit, stating that she never agreed to a commission agreement as Anthony described. Instead, Morton claimed that the commission agreement was limited to the period of her professional relationship with Anthony. It was not expected to be retained following Anthony’s dismissal, or for the life of the books.

Ultimately, the judge ruled in Morton’s favor. The judge was not satisfied with the legality of an alleged word-of-mouth agreement between Anthony and Morton. She also did not believe an expansive commission agreement such as Anthony described legitimately existed so early in this business relationship, given Morton was at the start of her career and had yet to write her first book. Finally, even if an expansive agreement was agreed upon later in the relationship, the judge determined it would not entitle Anthony to any commission following the end of her relationship with Morton. As a result, the judge dismissed Anthony’s case and partly upheld Morton’s suit, ordering Anthony to pay Morton $514,558 plus interest.

Moral of the story? Insist that any contracts or agreements you make are in writing, at every stage of your career, no matter how friendly you are with your publishing team at the time. The last thing you want is to be dragged to court over a decades-old conversation once you become famous.

Out This Week

For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt

Pandemic by Robin Cook

The Day the Sun Died by Yan Lianke, translated by Carlos Rojas

Cover for The Day the Sun Died

Happy Thursday!

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