Can an author plagiarize their own work & will we continue to pay?

Plagiarism is defined as “to use the words or ideas of another person as if they were your own words or ideas.”  Technically can an author plagiarize themselves?

Since starting this blog two years ago I have increased my monthly reading from 2 or 3 new books a month to over a dozen a month so that I can keep up on the new releases for my favorite authors and series and still take time to read books from authors who are new to me.  Not only have I increased my amount of reading but I often take notes so that I can write up my reviews.  The one thing I have frequently noticed is that some authors copy their own work.

Now I have mentioned before that it is hard to criticize an author, even a bad one, because they can do something that I can’t.  They write a story.  They flesh out characters, write dialog, and create plots.  Even the worst stories I have read accomplish this feat.  Some days it is all I can do to write coherent sentences to complete my blog.  But—I don’t charge you $5, $10, or more to read my blog.  If I did, you would certainly have the right to criticize my content and tell me I suck.

Although I have never taken any formal writing classes, I do remember being taught to have an outline and a formula, and I have come to notice that some authors do take that too much to heart and who can blame them.  They continue to publish books and continue to get paid for them.  Some authors produce series or trilogies and provide us with the same basic plotlines in those trilogies over and over again.  The only thing that will change is the background and the names of the characters.   If you read enough from any one author, sadly you will see the same repeated characters like they roll an author dice—will my heroine be “perky” “snarky” “damaged”, will my hero be “rich” “friendly” “broodish” “damaged.”

In saying this, I am not declaring that they are bad stories.  Taken in and of themselves, they are wonderful stories.  But if all I can think about when I read a story is “Didn’t I read this story already?”  then the author has failed in their purpose of keeping me enthralled with their novel.

I am even including some talented writers in this problem.  I have been a long time Stephen King fan.  He was one of the first authors that I would wait impatiently for the next book.  But when I read Under the Dome, all I could focus on were the familiarity in his hero to other stories, as well as his antagonist who in most stories is either possessed by a demon, suffering a brain tumor (like in Under the Dome) or some other ailment which turns his malignant personality into an obsessive need to destroy the hero and/or the people in the town.

There was a time if I was asked if I would continue to buy a book from an author who repeats their work, I would have said, “Yes, I love their storytelling.”  But I am starting to realize that there are many new and wonderful authors out there that will tell me a new story and will add something new to the mix of the standard romance tropes.

So the question I ask you, is there an author that you are no longer happy with, and will you continue to pay good money for their repeated storytelling?

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About Lucy Dosch

I am working mother of two beautiful girls with an obsession for reading. I now carry my Nook everywhere I go and I am ready to read at any given time, whether waiting in line at car pick up, waiting for dinner to cook, or once the kids are finally settled for the night.

Posted on January 24, 2014, in Book Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I know of an author just like that. I’ve recently read one of her new releases and a lot of the same dialog is the same as some of her previous books.

    I have found this happening a lot. This author also puts out several books out every year and recently has signed some huge book contracts for lots of money. It’s disheartening. I try to hang in there thinking the next book might be different, but I’m not sure that’s the truth anymore.

  2. You know, I don’t think I ever really thought about it before but you are right. I have found a lot of new authors this past year and like you have increased my monthly reading a ton, I do try to change up what/who I am reading so maybe because of this it hasn’t really jumped out at me as a problem even though I do have my go to authors that when a new book is released I want to read right away. I would stop buying someone’s books if it just became more of the same and too frequently. Some authors are smart and release only 1 or 2 books a year and maybe that makes it less noticeable. Great post … definitely gave me something to think about.

  3. Authors who fall into a formula story patter, famous or not need to try to introduce new elements to give readers new stories. That may be a tough thing to do when you have 300 books in print!

    • I agree that an author who has a significant amount of books published will eventually repeat themselves. If you happen to read an old story and a new story back to back, it might seem repetitive. What I am talking about is the authors that either repeat an outline story after story or repeat the basic outline for a series or trilogy. J.K. Rowling can’t make her next series about a girl who has magical powers and goes to an island with her two best friends to learn magic and must fight a powerful yet evil wizard and expect people to buy it.

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