So far, so entertaining for those of us not directly involved. But this struck me:
The Listener asked Penguin whether the usual editing checks were done on the novel before it was published. . .Penguin hasn’t answered that one, but I think I can. Of course they bloody were.
The thing is, “the usual editing checks” in book publishing are quite different from those in magazine journalism. When editing a novel (I have been a book editor on and off for 26 years) I do a lot of fact-checking as well as sorting out spelling, grammar, structure, pace, all that stuff. But I don’t look for passages that might have been purloined from another writer. You don’t look for them because you trust the writer, as does the publisher. I don’t think the relationship would work if it was as suspicious as the one between a reporter and a news editor is, or should be.
What’s more, the author has signed a contract specifically declaring that the manuscript is free from plagiarism. In my last Penguin contract, Clause 7 begins:
The Proprietor [i.e. the author] hereby warrants to the Publishers and their licensees that [. . .] the Work or any alteration is original work and is in no way whatever an infringement of any existing copyright [. . .]In the next paragraph:
If it is the Publisher’s belief on reasonable grounds that the Work does infringe any existing copyright [. . . ] the Proprietor shall return to the Publishers any royalty advances paid to that date and reimburse the Publishers for any costs incurred in preparing the Work for publication.I advise on contracts for members of the NZ Society of Authors so apart from my own with Penguin, Random House, Tandem, Godwit and Cape Catley I have copies of contracts with David Bateman, HarperCollins, Scholastic and several other publishers. Every single one has a clause like Penguin’s Clause 7: every author guarantees that the manuscript is all their own work.
That’s why it is unreasonable to expect that the editor (or, gossip has it, editors) of The Trowenna Sea should have picked up Ihimaera’s borrowings. Jolisa Gracewood did a great job uncovering the 34 – and who knows, there may be more – but she does have the advantage of a background in comparative literature and also (here I am speculating) as an academic she probably has access to Turnitin, the program universities use to “detect potential plagiarism by comparing student work against 3 massive, continuously updated databases of content”. And she wasn’t under extreme deadline pressure, as this novel’s editor was.
My sympathies are entirely with the publisher here. I have no inside information, but from what I know of the process they were committed to getting the book out before Christmas: they had booked the printer (you simply can’t be late or you go to the back of the queue); organised the marketing and publicity campaigns, including paying for advertising in the Christmas catalogues; entered it in the 2010 NZ Post Book Awards (the successor to the Montanas); and all the rest of it. For a big book by a well-known author, there are a host of expensive things to organise well in advance – and they all depend on the publication date being set in stone and the author delivering the work on time. Handing in even just a part of a manuscript on the day it is due at the printer is an appalling way to treat your publisher.
Jolisa Gracewood provides a chronology of the story so far here at Busytown, and also a long consideration of the issues raised followed by a LUQ, or list of Lingering Unanswered Questions.