Artist copying a sketch

Who is Responsible for Plagiarism?

In literary news we often see scandals of plagiarism:

As a topic that has been brought up to each and every one of us in school as morally unsound and academically criminal, why do we then so often see this issue in the publishing world—one that is centered around creativity, originality, and authenticity. Who, in a field that is so ripe for plagiaristic opportunities, is responsible for catching this act before that piece of writing is published—or republished, rather. Is it the author’s duty not to copy/paste or is it the publisher’s duty to make sure they are checking that the writing has not been recreated without credit before publishing it?

Like most ethical questions, it’s a large gray area, but I think the clearest answer is both. All parties involved are responsible for making sure plagiarized work gets stopped in its tracks. The author needs to make sure they are not stealing content and if borrowing from a source, must then cite that source properly in order for it to be clear to their readers where this information or work originally comes from. They need to make sure they are not taking credit for someone else’s work. This is the first opportunity to stop plagiarism. The next opportunity is with the editors and publishers. Though a level of trust would ideally be involved between authors and editors that the work being presented is the author’s own, it is always important to check the content that is being put out for the sake of all involved: the editors, the publishers, the writers, and the original creator of the content. It’s part of the publisher’s job to make sure what they are putting out does not infringe upon other creators and their hard work. In this way, there should be many moments in which a piece of work is being checked for plagiarism so that it doesn’t slip through the cracks. However, just as we have seen in the sources above, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes plagiarized work slips through the cracks. So, how can we do a better job of preventing this?

To help stop plagiarism, the first thing to do is understand what it is. Plagiarism is taking someone else’s words or ideas and passing them off as your own (Merriam-Webster). This can look like a word-for-word recreation or paraphrasing. Even though it has been reworded, if the message is the same, the idea has been stolen. Once you have cited your source though, you are no longer plagiarizing. All it takes is one quick line with the original creator’s name, even a small parenthetical or the added use of quotation marks, to communicate to your readers the origins of this idea and to clarify that you are not taking credit for it.

For publishers, fact-checking is a fundamental part of the job and there’s even the option to hire a fact-checker who specializes in just that. There are also plagiarism checkers available such as with Grammarly,, or more refined options to help speed up the process by using algorithms and databases. We have lots of technology to help us, especially with the internet being so expansive, and it can feel like finding an exceptionally small needle in a very large and ever expanding haystack.

Lastly, a good rule to help better understand when you no longer need to worry about plagiarizing is the common rule that if the information can be found in three or more sources, then we can consider it common knowledge. However, when in doubt, it is always safer to cite your source just to be careful. An extra added line on where you got your knowledge never hurts.

Plagiarism won’t completely stop unfortunately. However, we can hold others accountable when they plagiarize, educate them so they know how not to do it to begin with, and be sure to always double check the work before presenting it as our own.

aerial view of a busy bookstore

Catalogs: A Useful Tool Selling Book Rights

International book fairs are the comic con of the book publishing industry. This might be an overexaggeration; however, these fairs are how agents and publishers market their books to other industry professionals to spread the word about their backlist and frontlist titles. (Frontlist titles are the up-and-coming books of a publisher, and backlist titles are books that have already been published.) Promoting these books at conventions can be accomplished in many ways. The most useful of these methods that we use during these networking events are called book catalogs.

Catalogs are large documents (either print or digital) that have all the information an agent, publisher, or book buyer would need to learn about the titles you are looking to market or sell. These documents can be a standard, informational paper; however, most publishers will have elaborate designs to capture buyers’ attention. Catalogs have many uses, and not all these uses are exclusively for book fairs. Publishers use catalogs to present their frontlist and backlist titles to booksellers and buyers around the country so they may pick and choose what titles they want to sell.

Now, you must be asking yourself what goes into these catalogs. Throughout the industry, there is a set standard of elements that need to be in the document. Let’s go through some of the elements that should be included.

Obviously, the first thing a catalog should have is the book’s title to ensure ease and accessibility. They might even include a table of contents or section markers to ensure the catalog is easy to navigate. This is especially helpful if the publisher works with multiple genres.

Hook and Description

All catalogs have detailed book descriptions and hooks. This book description is a little different from what you would normally see on the back of a book or even when online shopping. When writing a book description for a catalog, you have to explain why a publisher or agent should be interested in your title. This is the section where publishers add any praise or awards the book has received.

ISBN, Page Count, etc.

Having things like the ISBN, page count, and word count in a catalog will provide agents and publishers with the important information they need to see if the particular title they are interested in is a good fit for the presses they represent.

Rights Sold

Catalogs that are used by rights agents have a section that clearly states what rights have already been sold for each title. For example: if the Spanish rights for Love, Dance & Egg Rolls have been sold, the Ooligan Press catalog would state that in the rights section to make sure no agents or buyers make inquiries for rights that have already been sold.

Our goal here at Ooligan Press is to have our catalogs in these book fairs every year to spread the word about our engaging titles. That is why our rights coordinator and agent Sylvia Hayse, from Sylvia Hayse Literary Agency, has started to circulate our catalogs at these types of events. By having our catalog in these book fairs, we have the power to connect with publishers abroad.

Catalogs are often openly available to view by consumers. As a bookseller or even a reader, it might be interesting to poke around and see what goes into the business of book publishing.

You should all take a look!