Writer’s Journal: Doing your due diligence

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!


Jane Austen Fan Fiction has kind of exploded in the last couple of years, as far as published stories go. This is great for the genre, as readers have been clamoring for books and before, few were publishing with any regularity. Now, even non-forum readers are having their JAFF needs fulfilled, and that’s beautiful.

Unfortunately, one of the things that comes along with more authors and books in the genre is a lack of due diligence on the part of newer authors. More than once in the last few months has the cover style of one author been copied by another—to the point that you have to look very carefully at the books to make sure who you’re buying. Or, the title of a book or a bundle of books (even, in at least one case, the title of an unpublished forum story) being used by a new author for their book. It’s shocking to someone like me, who is a traditionalist to a large extent, to see this happening. It feels very much like disrespect to those who came before.

Now, I know that titles are not copyrightable. I get that. And, if the new author I am thinking of had chosen a title that was used decades ago or in a different genre, then I’d be fine with it. However, some of the titles that have been reused are less than five years old. A simple Google search of the desired title, or an Amazon search of it, will tell you within minutes if that title has been used before and under what circumstances. I like to do both searches.

Sometimes, I will also run a title past some friends, both writer and non-writer friends. Once, a beta reader reminded me that my proposed title was already in use on a forum. I changed it. Another time, I had named Darcy’s Deal something else … Darcy’s Bargain or something. I found out from Regina Jeffers that she was getting ready to publish a book with the same title. So, I changed it. It was not that hard, and it was respectful to someone who has been in the genre far longer than I have.

That’s what I feel is missing in each of the situations I described above. Respect. Every author needs to respect the others. We are not each other’s enemy. We are colleagues, not adversaries. “Coopetition” is a term I have heard a few times in my tenure as an indie-published JAFF author. Yes, we are competitors, but we should also be cooperating. Sharing ideas and what worked or didn’t work for us. I don’t get that feeling from many others, though. Often, it feels like high school all over again. It’s exhausting. A rising tide lifts all boats, people. Don’t just slap a cover or a title on it and leave it at that, hoping for the best.

It’s been pointed out to me that imitation is the purest form of flattery (or some such thing), and while that is true, and it’s nice to be imitated—makes me feel like I have arrived, if you will—imitation does not mean outright “borrowing” things. It means taking them and putting your own spin on them. So you like that cover style … change the color scheme, use birds instead of flowers, find a different font. You like my title? Wonderful! How can you change it to make it your own?

Be respectful of those who came before you, folks. Do your due diligence if you wish to retain the goodwill of your peers.

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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