Reactions to John Havel’s article in The Hustle

Reactions to John Havel’s article in The Hustle

A round-up of reactions to John Havel’s article, including responses from author Anna Cleary, publisher Harlequin, and John Havel.

Yesterday, I posted my thoughts on John Havel’s article in The Hustle where he essentially demonstrates how easy it is to exploit Amazon’s processes and circumvent its controls to make money without too much effort. Unfortunately, he did this by plagiarising an author’s work, which was still under copyright and, it seems, without permission from the author or publisher. The book he used was Untamed Billionaire, Undressed Virgin by Anna Cleary. (You can buy a copy at Amazon, iTunes and Kobo, or borrow a copy from your library.)

There has been a strong response to this article in the reader communities I hang out in. Not surprisingly, authors have been some of the most vocal. I don’t think Havel really appreciated the effect his actions would have had on authors, and the reception it would receive from people who take plagiarism seriously. I’ve read the article a few times now, and while I appreciate its sense of Hey, it’s a bit of a lark! that tone really just hits a raw nerve in the romance community.

Casey Lucas’s response, By any other name, takes a closer look at why Havel’s piece was infuriating for romance readers. (Though as Vassiliki rightly pointed out, plagiarism affects all authors, not just romance authors.) Casey also addresses the racial insensitivity in Havel’s piece.

Meanwhile, Sandra Schwab and Rachel Bailey pointed out that in addition to plagiarising Cleary, Havel’s experiment might also have infringed on other people’s work when he copied reviews and used a fake photo for his fake author persona.

Over at The Digital Reader, Nate argues that not only was Havel’s plagiarism unnecessary, it didn’t even support his premise: ‘The Hustle put a week into promoting their pirated ebook, and the best they could do was hit #897 on the free best seller list.’

It’s unfortunate, because after reading through Havel’s piece without a rage lens (that took a while for me!), I recognise that he does raise important concerns about weaknesses in Amazon’s processes that fail to properly weed out blatantly plagiarised material. But there are many avenues Havel could have taken to get to the same findings, not the least of which is to obtain permission to use someone else’s work for his experiment, and I don’t believe that, in this case, the end justified the means.

Responses from Cleary, Harlequin and Havel

I contacted Anna ClearyHarlequin and The Hustle for a response to the article, and although I summarised Cleary’s response yesterday (purely so it would fit the post I had already written), I wanted to post the Q&As here, with minimal editing. Bear in mind that Cleary and Harlequin responded to me yesterday, and John Havel responded to me today, and there were several hours between each of the responses. I’m posting them in the order I received them, which is also the order that I sent out the questions. I received Havel’s response after I wrote the body of this post, and in general I have tried not to editorialise the answers I got from Cleary, Harlequin and Havel, so as to avoid any misinterpretation on my part. I will say that in terms of issuing a sincere apology, I think Havel does pretty well, and I appreciate his forthright answers.

Response from Anna Cleary

Q. Were you aware that John Havel was using your book, Untamed Billionaire, Undressed Virgin, to write an article for The Hustle?

I had no idea, Kat. It came as a complete shock.

Q. If not, how did you find out about the article, and what is your reaction to the story?

The first I knew of it was when my friend Amy Andrews phoned me early this morning from the airport. (She’s on her way to RW15 in New York.) She was so upset, at first I couldn’t work out what she was saying!

Q. Has John Havel or The Hustle contacted you since the article came out to apologise or explain their reasoning?

No. There’s been no attempt.

Q. And hopefully to try and turn this around for good instead of evil… Can you tell us a little bit about Untamed Billionaire, Undressed Virgin?

Oh Kat, I loved writing this book.! It’s a story about a quiet, intuitive young woman, one Sophy Woodruff, whose adoptive family have moved overseas while she remains in Sydney. At work one day she accidentally sees for the first time her biological father, a silver fox with powerful old- Sydney connections. Thrilled at the chance of a relationship with her original family, Sophy contacts the old boy. Mysteriously, soon after she makes this contact, an intriguing stranger, this tall, dark, annoyingly well-built guy with brooding eyes and the devil in his grin, moves into the office next door to hers and introduces himself as Connor O’Brien, lawyer. Thing is, Sophy doesn’t believe he’s a lawyer. But he’s a helluva good kisser!

Q. Do have any other comments you’d like to make about Havel’s piece?

There are no words. The man knows what he must do.

Response from Harlequin

Q. Was Harlequin aware that Untamed Billionaire, Undressed Virgin by Anna Cleary was being used by John Havel to write an article for The Hustle?

No, we were not aware and we are dismayed that John Havel has made such a use of our author’s work.

Q. Given that the article is pitched as an experiment to expose how an unethical person can game the Amazon system, do you have any comments on the approach that Havel took to write this story?

No.

Q. Do you have any other comments regarding the article?

It was plagiarism to use a copyrighted work. We will be contacting Mr. Havel to ensure the rights of our author, Anna Cleary, are protected. We take piracy very seriously and will also be contacting the piracy site that initially posted our author’s work illegally.

Response from John Havel

Q. What has the reaction been at The Hustle to readers’ and authors’ responses to John Havel’s article, Part 2: Confessions from the Scammy, Underground World of Kindle eBooks?

The reaction you’re most likely looking for is that people were pissed.  In reality, it was a mixed bag. Most of our audience understood the spirit of the post and looked past the copyright infringement to the larger issue — exploring the mysterious world of Kindle authorship. The vocal backlash, sparked primarily by the plagiarism, has largely been back and forth between those disgusted by the misconduct in this specific case and others who feel like we were disparaging towards legitimate authors. Neither of those points were our intention and I can’t apologize enough to anyone who was offended by our actions or writing. Most of the people who contacted us have been authors themselves so it seems like that’s where we hit the biggest nerve. In no way were we trying to talk badly about the romance novel industry or authors. The purpose was to illuminate the largely unknown practice of self-publishing and bring it to the forefront of discussion. If you think about it that way, I guess it was a success. Just threw in a little bit too much bro-speak…

Q. How did you mitigate the harm to authors and readers that might have been caused by Havel’s experiment?

To be honest, I’m not sure what harm we caused to authors or readers other than potentially writing something they didn’t like. The only people who are legitimately affected are Anna Cleary and, by proxy, her publisher. We’re now on good terms with Harlequin and are working with them and Ms. Cleary to publish a correction and apology on the post. We also removed the book from Amazon.

Have we disparaged the Amazon Kindle authors and readers? Possibly, but not any more than throwing out similar doubt to other articles discussing the prevalence of fake reviews, ghostwriting, and “bestselling” experts. That stuff, at least in our minds, is the real core issue here.

On a personal level, I’ve been responding to people who contact us with their thoughts but that’s about the extent of any harm mitigation apart from publishing a statement on the post (coming soon once we get approval from Harlequin).

Q. Have you contacted Anna Cleary, Harlequin, or the readers who downloaded the book by ‘Amber Ward’ to address some of the concerns raised since the article was published?

Yup, we’re in contact with a Harlequin representative who is working with both Ms. Cleary and the editor. The plan is to publish a correction/apology and remove any links to the website with the pirated full text. Unfortunately, there’s no way for us to contact the readers who downloaded the book as that’s controlled by Amazon. Hopefully they enjoy the story and, if they’re reading this, should direct compliments to Ms. Cleary.

Q. The original article has been significantly altered to remove references to Anna Cleary and ‘Untamed Billionaire, Undressed Virgin’, and comments for the article have been disabled. Would you explain the reasoning behind these editorial decisions?

This one’s easy. Removing the references and the comments on the article was a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that we were aware of but didn’t want to escalate. We weren’t expecting the type of response and immaturely ran upstairs to hide under our beds, hoping it would go away. Looking back it probably made it worse but since those decisions were made, we talked to our lawyers and Harlequin on the best course of action and refrained from making any additional changes. The current plan is to revert back to the original post (without links to the offending website) and add in the aforementioned apology pending its approval. As for the comments functionality, I think we can go without the name calling and personal threats so those will most likely stay disabled. There’s always Twitter for that stuff anyways.

Q. Would you have done the piece differently? (If so, what would you have changed?)

Would we have done the piece differently? Yes and no. The obvious change would be to use a different body of work that wasn’t under copyright. That should go without saying. I’d also probably change the tone of the piece itself. The editor and I decided on an irreverent voice to go along with the cavalier nature of this “underworld” we portrayed. In retrospect it mainly comes off as douchey (can I say that?) and overly sarcastic rather than our hope which was to add some tongue and cheek. Should’ve used a pen name too…

The part we wouldn’t change is pushing the issue. Talking to our insider was an eye-opening moment and everyone we mentioned it to had no clue this was happening. How often do you question the legitimacy of what you read?  Before, when there were a relatively small number of publishers, people put faith in their brand integrity. Now that the rules have changed it’s more about taking things on face value and the temptation for manipulation made us nervous.

Q. Do you have any other comments regarding the article or the reactions to it?

I sincerely apologize to Ms. Cleary and Harlequin for the copyright infringement. There’s no excuse for that beyond extreme oversight and we’ll do everything we can to make sure a similar mistake doesn’t happen again.

Beyond that, I’m honestly torn on the intense reactions. Maybe people just hate me, my name, or the writing style we used. That’s at least straightforward and easily understandable. From where I’m sitting, however, it seems like people felt we began to question the integrity of amateur authors who follow their passion of writing. This was not our intention and, if any of your readers fall in this camp, I apologize.

I have nothing but respect for passionate writers who open themselves up for criticism. More people should follow their dreams and we can all benefit from added perspective. Our issue was not with the sport or the players but rather the rules of the game. Amazon’s surface-level goal is to give all authors the opportunity to publish their work to a fair marketplace. A noble goal, no doubt, but in reality they’re trying to undercut traditional publishing houses and increase readership so they make more money (a point illustrated here and in Brad Stone’s book The Everything Store). Would you get into an Uber with a totally random person driving? No, we trust them because they’ve been vetted before given permission to drive. The wild-west mentality of Kindle eBooks opens up a market for swindlers and illegitimate authors (like me, I guess) to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. Maybe it’s not a problem but for some reason it rubbed me the wrong way.

This was probably a bit more long winded than you expected when you requested our comments but I hope this makes sense. There was never any sort of malicious intent and, while mistakes were made, we want to be as transparent and cooperative as possible. I apologize to those who have been offended or wronged but stand by the initial curiosity inspired by the first part of the series.

36 comments

  1. Kaetrin says:

    “I sincerely apologize to Ms. Cleary and Harlequin for the copyright infringement. There’s no excuse for that beyond extreme oversight and we’ll do everything we can to make sure a similar mistake doesn’t happen again.”

    As apologies go, I don’t mind it.

  2. Helen says:

    I certainly hope that the book is thrown very hard at this man what a disgusting thing to do to an author who works so hard I am off to buy this book :)

    Have Fun
    Helen

  3. “Most of our audience understood the spirit of the post and looked past the copyright infringement to the larger issue — exploring the mysterious world of Kindle authorship.”

    And the people who were bothered by the copyright infringement were too stupid to understand the “spirit” of the post? Uh-oh. It seems to me John Havel has a bit of a foot-in-mouth problem. While his apology in the answer to your last question is very straightforward and while he admits that his article “comes off as douchey”, he doesn’t seem to realize how truly insulting and problematic large passages of his article are (the jungle fever bit, anybody?).

    What he also doesn’t seem to realize is that he could have conducted his experiment without trampling all over people’s feet and without committing copyright infringement. As somebody mentioned on Twitter yesterday, if he had approached indie authors, somebody might have actually let him use their book.

  4. An author you know...and I ghostwrite says:

    I don’t want to throw oil on the fire, but in regards to ghostwriting…sadly, that’s a fact. I’m a published writer that you know, Kat. We’ve emailed and chatted on twitter.

    And I’ve now (ghost)written 12 novellas for somebody who publishes them on Amazon under another name and they make bank. I’m not the only one. Look at sites like elance & upwork and search ‘romance ghostwriter’. I’m lucky in that I’m paid well, although my books (no longer mine) bring in the guy who pays me a hell of a lot more than I get paid.

    Ironically enough, my books under my name don’t sell all that well. I’ve had pubs decide recent not to renew contracts or change formats to cheaper ones. Readers love my work once they read me, but I just don’t get read. The books I ghostwrite sell like wildfire. It’s not my ideal way to tell stories, but I need a paycheck.

    But it’s becoming a common practice. I know several others who do it. If some of those (gold rushers) are putting out books regularly and close together and the voices seem different from book to book? It may be ghostwritten.

  5. azteclady says:

    “The reaction you’re most likely looking for is that people were pissed. In reality, it was a mixed bag. Most of our audience understood the spirit of the post”
    “bro-speak”
    “To be honest, I’m not sure what harm we caused to authors or readers other than potentially writing something they didn’t like. The only people who are legitimately affected are Anna Cleary and, by proxy, her publisher.”

    Really.

    John Havel doesn’t know what harm he caused, and only Ms Cleary and her publisher are affected, so the rest of us who are reacting are…what? What exactly are the implications here? That we are blind or stupid or something along those lines, because we focus on the utter disregard for intellectual property, the casual racism, the misogyny, etc, instead of what The Hustle wants us to focus on?

    But, to indulge John Havel and his cohorts, lets discuss this: “Amazon’s surface-level goal is to give all authors the opportunity to publish their work to a fair marketplace. A noble goal, no doubt, but in reality they’re trying to undercut traditional publishing houses and increase readership so they make more money”

    Newsflash, genius: amazon is a company. Companies who want to remain viable need to make money.

    Does that mean that consumers and observers shouldn’t point out problematic practices? No, it doesn’t mean that. But justifying douchebaggery to the nth degree by saying, “this company wants to make more money!” comes across as pretty damned stupid.

  6. Sheryl says:

    Sounds like Havel and his boss boys are quaking in their shoes.

    Havel didn’t think before ripping off a HQN author and now they’re getting the official emails from the lawyers and suddenly the little boys are pissing themselves, wondering what they’d done wrong.

    Gee, I dunno… stealing a book, insulting the author AND the publisher, (who has money to burn taking these kids down), insulting romance authors and readers with stereotypes… and they can’t figure out what all the fuss is about?

    Hopefully this sinks whatever career Havel was hoping to have. If he can’t figure out what copyright infringement means he’s got no right to be calling himself a journalist and no site should be picking up his articles.

    Idiots. All of them.

  7. In addition to all of that, how about The Hustle also acknowledges that just because something is “free” doesn’t mean it’s legal or in the “public domain,” and they use this instance to EDUCATE people that file piracy is ILLEGAL, WRONG, and it HURTS AUTHORS. It’s hard enough for us to make a living at this without jerks like this guy telling people, “Hey, you, too, can game the system and get away with something illegal!” Asshats. Grrrr.

  8. NetM says:

    Havel is clearly someone who has no business in this industry. Copyright is a very basic thing. Plagiarism is covered in every college class. If you graduate from college and are still dumb enough to steal someone’s work, please spare the world and don’t write long diatribes on the internet. It just makes Havel look bad and this will follow him for the rest of his ‘career’. Idiot.

    I wish HQN would sue him. I wish the FBI would make an example of him a la Napster. You don’t get to do this. Not even for a joke.

    Further, ranking #1 in a subcategory during a free run is NOT going to translate into a $150k year income. Ranking like that is rather simple to do and it doesn’t necessarily correlate with sales at all. So it was all a waste of time anyway.

    I’ll say it again, what an IDIOT. Get off the internet before you hurt yourself, Havel.

  9. While I appreciate the fact that John Havel wanted to point out an issue that Amazon has as it pertains to plagiarism, don’t forget that Amazon DID catch it the first time. In addition to the blatant plagiarism and disrespect toward the author and publisher, the racial ‘jungle fever’ comment, the thing that bothers me most about his article is his final comment: “Call me a skeptic now, but until Amazon fixes the process and standards, I won’t be buying any self-published books (other than for entertainment purposes, of course). My life’s too short to waste reading content from busch-league “experts” so New York Times and Reddit, you have my attention. That said, stay tuned for Amber Ward’s highly anticipated next novel. Critics are already raving.”

    He may have wanted to have a tongue-in-cheek ‘tone’ to his article but he failed miserably. What does he consider ‘entertainment purposes’? To sit back and laugh at an indie author? To make fun of someone who is legitimately trying to do their best? He comes off as an elitist prig.

    Amazon IS a company. Companies want to make money. As an indie author with a 6 figure income, I am eternally grateful to Amazon and it’s KDP program. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today — a full time, USA Today Best Selling Author and I didn’t have to ‘game the flipping system to do it. I didn’t have to plagiarize anyone and I sure as hell didn’t have to cheat. I would say that at least 95% of indie authors work the same way I do. It is only a handful of cheaters who try to game the system. With that said, Amazon does its best to catch the cheaters/plagiarizers.

    If I were Ms. Cleary, I would not, under any circumstance, accept his apology. I’d have my lawyers so far up this guys rectum they could see his tonsils.

    I agree with Sheryl: this guy has no right calling himself a journalist.

    Suzan

  10. Sam says:

    It just makes Havel look bad and this will follow him for the rest of his ‘career’. Idiot.

    I wish HQN would sue him. I wish the FBI would make an example of him a la Napster. You don’t get to do this. Not even for a joke.

    You do realize that the guy who started Napster also helped cofoudner Facebook, right?

    I realize this seems like a big deal to this community, but don’t blow this up in your head to be larger in your heads. Yes, there was a mistake, but we are on good terms with Harlequinn. There will be no suing, no throwing the book at us, no nothing.

  11. Sam says:

    I agree with Sheryl: this guy has no right calling himself a journalist.

    Fair point…I agree. Thankfully, he doesn’t call himself a journalist. You won’t find the term “journalist” anywhere on our site.

  12. Sam says:

    Havel didn’t think before ripping off a HQN author and now they’re getting the official emails from the lawyers and suddenly the little boys are pissing themselves, wondering what they’d done wrong.

    There was zero pissing, other than normal amounts, but it wasn’t in our pants. We had a great talk with the publisher and are on great terms with them.

  13. I appreciate Mr Havel’s comprehensive apology and I sincerely hope he’s learned a lesson here.

    Although I will not resile from calling him a thief. Thankfully he has been caught and is making amends.

    One might have got away with gonzo reporting in the pre-Internet era, but today – especially with social media, reaction to flippant smart-arsery is swift, unrelenting and often brutal.

    It takes a special skill to write in a ‘rock and roll’, PJ O’Rourke-esque fashion and not come across as a pillock, and Mr Havel is yet to master it.

    That is another lesson I hope he has learned: Words have power, they can be used to built up or tear down, they can be used to instruct or destruct.

    Mr Havel misused his platform and his armory.

    He hurt Anna Cleary and Harlequin materially and hurt the feelings of the romance writing community by disparaging it as low-hanging fruit to demonstrate his ‘cleverness’.

    Perhaps time and experience will mature him.

  14. Kat says:

    Hi, Sam. I appreciate you dropping by to let us know that you’ve been in touch with Harlequin and are on good terms with them. I just wanted to remind you that this is primarily a reader blog, so many of the comments here will be of readers (and some authors) with very passionate views on plagiarism and copyright infringement, not to mention other problematic statements in John’s article. It really is a big deal in our community, and especially to those who know Anna Cleary personally, and I urge you to be mindful of tone so that there are no further misunderstandings. Thanks.

  15. Alex says:

    I live in San Francisco and Sam’s tone is typical of the Silicon Valley Bro attitude. Smug, obnoxious, and misogynistic, so it’s not surprising Sam/The Hustle doesn’t understand why this is a big deal to romance readers and authors and his “stop being hysterical” type of response to Suzann.

    Sean Parker did not co-found Facebook. He came after they were up and running and served as their first president and bros love him.

  16. azteclady says:

    Alex, you forgot “entitled”–as in, Sam/The Hustle, John Havel and their friend are smug, obnoxious, misogynistic, entitled asshats who are right now exchanging high fives because they got away with plagiarizing and infringing copyright. After all, or so Sam is sure to tell us, they “had a great talk and are in great terms with the publisher.”

    This is precisely why Harlequin should have spanked them.

  17. Nicola Prentis says:

    That article is the best publicity Anna Cleary could ever have got. I bet she’s celebrating! Amazon are at fault, the journalist did a good job because he highlighted an issue with self publishing platforms, got discussion going and inadvertently benefitted the author.

  18. Kat says:

    Nicola, I have been in contact with Anna Cleary, and I can tell you that she is most definitely not celebrating. If you think plagiarism inadvertently benefits authors or readers in any way, I don’t think you understand publishing or the harm that plagiarism causes authors. I would also point out that most journalists abide by a code of ethics, and that I very much doubt Havel’s piece would have met such standards. (Though I note, given Sam’s comment above, The Hustle is not claiming that this was a journalistic piece.)

  19. Nicola Prentis says:

    You’re missing my point. Plagiarism in general is bad.In this case, that article is THE best publicity she could get. For free. I’ll bet her sales rocket, seriously.
    He was exposing a system and not telling people to plagiarize. there’s a big difference between doing it blstantly in order to write an article and quietly making a living off repackaging other people’s books.

  20. Nicola Prentis says:

    You’re missing my point. Plagiarism in general is bad.In this case, that article is THE best publicity she could get. For free. I’ll bet her sales rocket, seriously.
    He was exposing a system and not telling people to plagiarize. there’s a big difference between doing it blstantly in order to write an article and quietly making a living off repackaging other people’s books.
    I’m an author, if he’d used my book, I’d have got all that publicity. that doesn’t mean I wish people in general plagiarize me. It was a great article. And I’ve just read Jon Ronson’s So you’ve been publicly shamed and I hope that John Havel is spared a lynching

  21. azteclady says:

    Ms Prentiss,

    We are missing your point?

    Then again, considering that you think John Havel’s drivel was a “great article,” I am not all that surprised you are missing all the other points made here and elsewhere.

  22. Nicola Prentis says:

    Nothing that’s been said here is new. Plagiarism is bad, yes, we know. So does John Havel – that’s why he doesn’t plagiarize his articles presumably. It is so clear what he was trying to do and none of what he himself did to write one article hurts authors. But general plagiarism does, Amazon’s insufficient policies against it do, piracy does. And, the wrong person is being blamed for that. John Havel just wrote a really interesting piece, the one before it also showed how the system can be gamed. That people think the solution to those problems is for one journalist to take the blame is madness.

  23. azteclady says:

    Nicola Prentis wrote (in part):

    That people think the solution to those problems is for one journalist to take the blame is madness.

    Oh yes, it would be madness–if that were what people were saying.

  24. Nicola Prentis says:

    “This is precisely why Harlequin should have spanked them.”

    “If I were Ms. Cleary, I would not, under any circumstance, accept his apology. I’d have my lawyers so far up this guys rectum they could see his tonsils. ”

    “I wish HQN would sue him. I wish the FBI would make an example of him ”

    “John Havel doesn’t know what harm he caused, and only Ms Cleary and her publisher are affected”

    And on and on and on!

  25. azteclady says:

    And, from those snippets, you extrapolate that we–those of us commenting whom you are quoting–think that the problems with amazon and plagiarism would be solved by ‘blaming’ a plagiarist?

    Let me spell it out for you, Ms Prentis: no, the problems with amazon’s self publishing (and other self-publishing platforms, and other digital outlets), would not be ‘solved’ by blaming John Havel for his own, willful, deliberate (if ignorant and stupid) actions.

    Letting him and his pals over at The Hustle crow about they are now in ‘great terms’ with Harlequin, on the other hand, just tells people watching from the sidelines that there are even fewer consequences to doing illegal things than they previously thought.

    After all, they are quite likely thinking, all they need to do, after ripping off an actual author’s work, is pocket the money, then issue a half-assed apology when caught, and there will be people like Nicola Prentiss, who professes to be an author herself, thinking there was “no harm done.”

  26. Sam says:

    After all, they are quite likely thinking, all they need to do, after ripping off an actual author’s work, is pocket the money, then issue a half-assed apology when caught, and there will be people like Nicola Prentiss, who professes to be an author herself, thinking there was “no harm done.”

    We made $9. We didn’t do what we did for the money. In fact, Anna most likely had a bump in her sales. And John’s apology was not even kind of half ass. He was very upset Anna was upset and took more than a few hours to write that out.

    You need to realize that we did this to help “real” writers. Part 1 of the series talked about how sleazy these tactics are. Part 2 was done to show how sleazy it can be, hence the over the top douchey tone.

    Holler,

    Sam

  27. Nicola Prentis says:

    Why do you think they’re on good terms? Because harlequin get what their point was, and are happy for the bump in sales on this one, isolated occasion. Anyway, Sam said it. I’m not going to repeat myself.

  28. Kat says:

    Nicola — Havel’s experiment could have avoided plagiarism by changing the method he used to obtain the material for the fake book. It would not have affected his results. Given that I doubt you have actually contacted anyone at Harlequin (but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), I’ll just disagree with your opinions on Harlequin’s position and leave it at that.

    Sam — I understand that you’re trying to defend the spirit of the article, but frankly, I find plagiarism in this case fairly indefensible. That the fake book only earned $9 doesn’t make up for the fact that readers now have a plagiarised — and one might argue bastardised — copy of Anna Cleary’s work (unless Amazon pulled those too? That wasn’t clear from the article). The damage caused was not just monetary. No one likes being stolen from, even if it’s just a few bucks, and even if the thief was doing it to show, for example, how trouser pockets are badly designed. Until someone can prove (not guess) that there has in fact been a bump in sales for Anna’s book, and that the benefit from those sales at least equals if not exceeds the anxiety that John’s piece caused her and her publishers, then I feel like the bump-in-sales argument is, at best, a strawman. I really do appreciate John’s apology. As far as these things go, it was thorough and, at least to me, felt sincere. Other readers don’t agree, obviously, and many of them are here — in a space for readers — to vent their displeasure. This is what you’re seeing in the comments.

  29. Alex says:

    From Havel’s LinkedIn profile, he is not a journalist by education or trade. I don’t know if he claims to be a journalist, but a blogger self-anointing him/herself to be a journalist doesn’t pass the muster and his “article” is proof.

    If Rolling Stone isn’t immune to shoddy writing well, what can we expect from outfits like The Hustle? Not much.

    Journalists fact-check, seek comments from all parties they are writing about, etc. Had Havel just picked up the phone or emailed the author or publisher this all would have been avoided. But that takes too much work. And from reading his post, we know how Havel feels about work.

    Beyond the shoddy writing and criminal activity, Havel’s post and his stunt prove that it’s not as easy to cheat Amazon as he claims or his “anonymous source” claims (which is probably BS, I mean really, after all this, why would we believe anything Havel claims or writes?).

    Even if part one of Havel’s post is true, Amazon released KU 2.0 to address it and they have pretty much killed that golden goose to these types of Internet marketers publishing their scamphlets. But Havel doesn’t fact-check so I doubt he even knows what KU 2.0 means.

    Anyway, Amazon busted him cold on the plagiarism, but he lied anyway, and then the community busted him cold. How long was his plagiarized book up before he panicked and yanked it? — A few days at most?

    No one is going to be making 150K per year doing what Havel did. So not sure what type of big hole he thinks he found to be gamed. He was busted all around, and should thank his lucky stars he didn’t get sued or fired for his stunt.

    When magazines such as Rolling Stones, get caught publishing incorrect/fake articles, they at least have the decency of pulling the offending article from their publication (digital and print), but not The Hustle.

    And I guess, if you don’t care about ethics, why would they? The Hustle is getting a lot more mileage and publicity from this, so I’m sure the bros are tickled pink over all the hoopla their stunt generated (which is why this my last comment on the Hustle and their dreck).

  30. Wendy Clements says:

    From Sam:
    “You need to realize that we did this to help “real” writers.”

    So now there’s a need to determine the “real” writers from the “fake” ones?

    I think that’s a pretty subjective decision.

    • Kat says:

      Seriously, Sam. What is with the continued use of douchey tone? I thought we were past this. I’ll post another update linking to Eden’s piece.

What do you think?