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Who Really Wrote That Ebook?

The publishing world has never been more fun, and opportunities for new authors have never been better than they are now. It is possible to be published literally overnight - and have hundreds if not thousands of readers within days, if you play your joint venture cards right - even if you are a completely unknown author.

For so many of us, this is the realization of a lifelong dream - of being a published author - without having to wait years to see our work in print, and without enduring those notorious rejection letters from big-name publishing houses. This has encouraged thousands of would-be authors to come forward and make their writing dreams come true.

But there's a little quirk in all this joy - something very few are willing to talk about, and with good reason: it could mean an unpleasant change in the bank balance of many so-called authors if the word got out. In fact, some people will be really upset with me for writing about this - but in the online marketing world, it's hardly a secret.

Ghostwriting of books has become more and more common in the quest for merchants to provide what consumers want most: information. While ghostwriting is a time-honored, accepted practice, its scope varies widely. At one end, it could be a mere editorial polishing of someone's original ideas and research. On the other extreme, it can be a complete book written for a fee by a writer who bid for the job. In that case, the writer provides all the ideas and research but agrees to remain unnamed. The buyer of the writer's work may go on to make thousands from this book as its "author." That's how the arrangement works.

I've found that ghostwriting is fairly easy to spot these days. Only an original author will have that passionate, authentic voice in his or her writing and on his website. Reading ghostwritten books is a lot like eating only carbohydrates - they don't stick with you very long! Anyone who has true passion for his subject will probably want to write his own book, rather than be a ghostwriter. Think about it - if you had a talent for writing, would you want to put your best work under someone else's name - and make a fraction of what they earn from your brain-bending work?

As an online writer, my business reputation is at stake every time I recommend a book and stand behind the author's guarantee. However, these days everyone wants a piece of the Internet pie, and some are even willing to cheat in order to get theirs - by stealing others' work.

It's so easy to hide on the Internet. Domain names can be made private, and when a website has no contact information whatsoever, a person has to wonder why. In the urgency and desperation to make a buck, some people step over the line. They see an e-book, buy it, and sometimes in a matter of only a few days, these people put up their own online "version," flagrantly plagiarized!

Tigress Luv's books on relationships have been online for many years now (http://www.liftedhearts.com). She is known for her unique style which "cuts to the chase" while still being warm and humorous. However, others have attempted to "reword" her books and sell them online. "My loyal readers have been wonderful about contacting me when they've spotted a 'carbon copy' of one of my books. The online community can often be a very close-knit group in many respects," says Tigress.

The extent of this problem goes well beyond the publishing world. In schools and even colleges, students are notorious for applying the "cut and paste" research model to their term papers - and actually thinking that this is acceptable. High school teachers can vouch for the fact that this is a huge problem among students. Today's youngsters have been raised on the internet, and this push-button access to information comes with its problems. However, "copy-lifting" has spread far beyond the halls of high schools.

As a writer, I have heard many stories from other internet authors about plagiarism. It happens in many forms, and has become so commonplace that a simple Google search with a line of words (taken from an author's work) in quotation marks can reveal some shocking and unsettling results in which others are taking credit for words they did not write. And certainly no one wants to buy - or sell - a plagiarized work.

Like you, all my time has to be focused on building my business. I don't have time to investigate authors or companies to see if there have been complaints. Many times I have wanted to buy a book online that was only available from the author's website, rather than from a secure, well-known company like Clickbank. However, I didn't know if I'd be wasting my money if the book was worthless - and I didn't know if I could count on a refund if I felt that the situation merited that. A refund is a last resort - but one that we need to be sure we can count on, if in our judgment we have received "damaged goods."

Recently, quite by accident, I stumbled on an organization that has helped solve this problem for me - and for my customers as well.

The organization started when a Canadian business man saw a need for internet consumers to know the legitimate websites from the unscrupulous, just as the Better Business Bureau has done for years in the offline world. Jerry Martin felt there was a need for an organization that was affordable for website owners and available to members internationally, so in 1998 he formed the Better Internet Bureau, registered it as a non-profit British Columbia organization, and applied for a trademark on the name.

The website is http://www.better-internet-bureau.org. Its purpose is to monitor Internet sites for any content that could be harmful. The BIB seal is displayed on websites which have applied for membership and have been approved. The content must meet the BIB guidelines and be suitable for family viewing. The BIB is one of several organizations online with a mission to make the internet as scam-free as possible - not an easy task, but one that must be pursued.

It's just too easy these days to rip someone off when it comes to an article or even a book. Recycling is great, but not when it comes to authorship. I'm grateful to the Better Internet Bureau and others for their efforts to make the Internet a safer and wiser place to be.

Do we really need "watchdog" organizations like the Better Internet Bureau? The answer is a hearty "yes!" It saves us time, and puts trespassers of intellectual property on notice that such behavior will not be tolerated. The Internet is so big, it's hard for a faulty, questionable product to get the bad reputation that it deserves. A good watchdog organization is a gathering place where scams and non-existent customer service can be reported and noted by thousands of people.

Online authors must accept the same standards that have been in effect for centuries, even before it was so easy to "cut and paste." You cannot fool attentive readers, online or off. Readers demand, expect, and deserve quality and honesty in what authors present to them. The best written work will stand the test of time, and will prevail in the marketplace as well.

Sarah Tanner is a writer who also recommends ebooks written by her favorite online authors. Lately, she's getting overwhelmed with all the hype and money-making promises online! Are you? Sign up for free ebooks on relationships with Sarah's unique emails. Visit http://www.marriageandwealth.com and http://www.howtohavecharm.com


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