Finding and Fighting Plagiarism

Kirkus responds to an instance of plagiarism by a self-published writer.

B. Mitchell Cator plagiarized from the work of Sergio Troncoso, among others, in his recent novel.

The same day I’d read the Atlantic’s coverage of the problem of plagiarism within self-publishing, I got an email from Dave Clapper, founding editor of SmokeLong Quarterly, an online literary magazine. Clapper said that B. Mitchell Cator, author of All the Good that Remains, a novel that Kirkus Indie had starred, had plagiarized the work of more than a dozen authors, some of whom he’d published in SmokeLong. Clapper was appropriately distressed and provided evidence both alarming and incontrovertible.

In Cator’s novel, other authors’ stories—some verbatim, some changed just slightly—were folded into a larger narrative. An internet search yielded more evidence. We emailed Cator, and he confirmed that he’d used works that weren’t his. He apologized, didn’t offer a statement, and asked that we not quote from his email.

Of course Kirkus takes a strong stance against the appropriation of others’ work. In 2012, Kirkus Indie learned that a book we’d reviewed (and it so happens also starred) was plagiarized; the star was revoked, and we issued a statement about “The Book that Wasn’t.” We’ve done the same with All the Good that Remains. Whenever Kirkus discovers (reviewers sometimes catch plagiarized work before the review is published) or is made aware of plagiarism within books that we review, we will immediately alert readers.

Plagiarism hurts writers and publishing as a whole. It’s particularly damaging to self-publishing and the credibility of indie authors. So where do we go from here? Within indie publishing, we should continue to be vigilant and crowdsource information. It worked in this case: writers blogged about the issue and contacted authors and editors who were directly affected; readers were notified on Cator’s Amazon page.

As a community, in addition to outing plagiarists, we can also collectively mitigate the damage they do. Great Writers Steal, a blog that thoroughly covered Cator’s plagiarism, suggested giving some love and attention to the affected authors, and Kirkus Indie editors agree! Particularly since the authors’ work is strong enough to have earned a Kirkus Star.

When we talked with the reviewer of All the Good That Remains to help give credit where it was earned, the reviewer noted a favorite section of the novel, which appropriated the short story “Three Sisters.” Now we can properly attribute that work to author Maria Takolander. Here’s a list (provided by Ira Lightman via Clapper) of the other authors whose work was plagiarized and who have, as far as I’m concerned, collectively earned a Kirkus Star: Lou Beach, Ed Bull, Skip Hollandsworth, Torin Johnson, Sarah Leavitt, Ashlee Paxton-Turner, Nicolas Pizzolotto, Maria Takolander, Sergio Troncoso, Leigh Allison Wilson, Gerard Varni, and Rebekah Zemansky. Let’s give them all a read.

Karen Schechner is the senior Indie editor.



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