We know they’re out there, of course. People who want, not to write books, but to have written books. Latest lazy, greedy, dishonest twat to get caught out is one Cristiane Serruya who seems to have fucked up on an epic scale. She’s not the only one, of course: there’s a whole industry dedicated to teaching idiots this type of scamming as a way to get rich quick. It’s not difficult to find some desperate mug who will agree to cobble together chunks of existing genre novels with minimal changes, in exchange for, well, about a fiver, that you can publish under your own name (or pseudonym, or multiple pseudonyms) and wait for the money to roll in. There were also rumours that the last erotic romance author to do something spectacularly stupid didn’t actually write any of her own ‘books’.
Of course, some people, the sort of people who don’t actually much like reading fiction and think all genre fiction is worthless, don’t actually see why anyone’s complaining about the likes of #copypastecris. Surely, the snobs say disdainfully, all those cheap romance novels are the same anyway, how can you tell that one’s copied another? (It’s not all that surprising that romance and erotic romance are the genres that seem to attract the bulk of the scammers: romance has always been widely despised, just like anything that’s mainly marketed to and/or produced by women, while the endless stream of generic noir crime, formulaic horror or repetitive space operas written by men is subject to rather less sniffing and sneering.
It’s not entirely unreasonable to feel that a lot of popular fiction, particularly the self-published sort (though it’s true of traditionally published books, too) is a bit… derivative. Quite a few of the novels I read seem to be produced by graduates of the same creative writing class these days. But a lack of any original concept isn’t a barrier to writing a book. It isn’t even a barrier to writing a good book. If what you want to write is a love story of some kind, you and your potential readers know it has to include some people who fancy each other, some obstacles in the way of them acting on their desires, and finally a resolution. There’s a difference between deciding to spin your own take on Pride and Prejudice (do it in space? With a m/m couple at the centre of it! Rework it for Liverpool in the 1960s? Add zombies...) and chopping great lumps out of someone else’s work, without asking, and claiming you produced it yourself.
There’s also the fact that, high-profile scammers aside, there’s no guarantee you will actually make buckets of money by passing off other people’s work as your own, any more than you will make buckets of money by ‘writing cheap porn’ instead of sensitive literary fiction, because so many other lazy, greedy twats have had the same idea already. And most people who want to be writers actually want to be recognized for their own writing skill,