I got a text this morning from an author friend asking if I’d seen all the big drama in the publishing world today yet, and I said no, and then she proceeded to tell me that some debut author accused Nora Roberts of plagiarizing her title and cover. That author is Tomi Adeyemi, and you know what? After being way too distracted by this all day I can say with some confidence that not only did Adeyemi wrongly and unprofessionally accuse Roberts, she’s also trash on fire because her original tweet is still up, inflaming her uninformed fans.
The tweet that started it all:
I’m a professional artist myself (not an author) and plagiarism gets me riled up. To be falsely accused of plagiarism would make me livid. I can’t even imagine Nora Roberts’ private reaction to this. If it were me, I’d throw a table.
And this is definitely a bullshit accusation. Let me consolidate the receipts:
- Nora Roberts’ book Year One: Of Blood And Bone began marketing months before Tomi Adeyemi’s Children Of Blood And Bone was released. Source.
- Nora Roberts’ book is book two in a series. Although book titles do sometimes change, usually a series is sold to a publisher as a set of titles, so chances are that title was set waaayyyy before publication and marketing. In other words, even further before Tomi Adeyemi’s book. Roberts’ book was written, titled, and slated for release well in advance of its actual release. This is something that only happens with prolific, successful authors. Here’s a Facebook post on Nora Roberts’ author page from January 2018 (two months before Adeyemi’s book was released) where she mentions her title. She wouldn’t have mentioned it if it weren’t already a sure thing, approved and complete.
- Nora Roberts is a fucking Don of an author. She is in the top fifteen most successful authors globally. Her success goes way beyond her genres (romance, fantasy, and sci fi). I’ve never read a Nora Roberts book, but I’ve definitely heard her name. She’s been published since before Tomi Adeyemi was born. By contrast, this is Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel. Source. Source.
- The title phrase “of blood and bone” is not particularly original, and that’s fine! (Book titles are rarely truly original.) But if Adeyemi is going to come after Nora Roberts, why doesn’t she expect the many authors who came before her with very similar titles to do the same to her? Check out those publication dates!
Adeyemi posted a non-apology on Twitter:
Is it just me, or is this apology half-assed? (It’s not just me.)
Many people are misunderstanding this apology and I think that’s intentional on Adeyemi’s part. Why the fuck would Nora Roberts have to ‘explain’ anything? Who the fuck cares what Adeyemi believes about their titles?! This is written to be ambiguous. This is not Adeyemi taking full responsibility for starting a needless and, at this point, libelous shitstorm.
A few quotes from Nora Roberts’ response, on her blog (she doesn’t have a Twitter account):
By accusing me, in public, of attempting to ‘shamelessly profit’ off of her creativity, she incited her readers into attacking me–on her feed, then on my pages, then on the internet in general. She did nothing to stop this. I have been accused of theft, of trying to use this first time writer–whose book has been well received–for my own profit. To ride her coattails as I have no originality. This after more than thirty years in the business, more than two hundred books.
Could you have dug a little deeper to check facts? Could you have contacted the person in question and had a conversation? In this case–writer to writer–could you have spoken to your publisher, your agent, about the fact that a title can’t be stolen in the first place?
Could you have, perhaps, checked the timeline? If your book came out a few months before the other book (and if you know SQUAT about publishing) you’d certainly realize it was written, titled and in production when yours hit the stands. So how could a damn title be ‘stolen’?
This foolish and false statement has damaged my reputation. Vicious and ugly accusations and names have been tossed at me when I did nothing but write and title a book.
While this writer issued a kind of retraction after I reached out to her, it didn’t stop some of her readers from calling me a liar, and worse. We reached out again, asking her to put out the fire.
We’ve had no response, not from her, not from her agent.
Shame on them.
Here’s a link to the blog post in full, it’s worth reading and sets the stage for a libel lawsuit, for what that’s worth:
Adeyemi wrote (what I assume is, I haven’t read it or Nora Roberts’ book) a good book that many people love. She’s seen a lot of quick success, especially online, where she’s loved by the young people she writes for and progressive audiences who are excited to see a new star amongst #ownvoices. Unfortunately, she’s chosen to pursue media coverage by the most trashy methods imaginable. She’s incited her fans—which, while less than Nora Roberts’ fans, are still in the hundreds of thousands—to go after another author for, what? Attention?
Was Adeyemi really so arrogant as to think another author successful enough to own a damn town based on one of her book series was trying to catch some of her success? Did she think her maybe movie deal and an appearance on Jimmy Fallon made her unimpeachable?
Here’s a small collection of tweets calling Adeyemi on her bullshit because they make me feel better:
If it wasn’t obvious, I’m putting this all out on the internet to shame Adeyemi as much as possible. I hope she sees consequences—libel suit!—for her bad actions and non-apology.
Despite how it may seem, I’m not a Nora Roberts fan. I’ve never read any of her books, or Adeyemi’s (though I did have Adeyemi’s on my to be read list). I just hate this kind of shit so, so much. I hate internet mob behavior, I hate plagiarism and take accusations of plagiarism extremely seriously, and maybe more than anything else I hate willful ignorance. I hate that a bunch of people are currently—still—talking shit about an author and there’s no amount of truth that will change their minds.
Edited to add: on the subject of Adeyemi’s misguided fans....
Just had a friend send me these screenshots. For those not in the know, Beverly Jenkins is a pretty big deal:
Oh, the humanity.
Edit, Day #2
It’s been a day and I’m less mad now, so I want to say first that it’s extremely unlikely Nora Roberts would sue another writer, let alone a young one like Tomi Adeyemi. And second, I think great, young talent should generally be nurtured, and God knows we need more women POC authors. That’s part of my anger: Tomi had it all and she had to go and be petty and indulge in objectively terrible behavior.
As I wrote in a comment yesterday, she should screenshot her original tweet and delete it and publish a formal retraction. Her half-assed apology is no good but this could all be fixed.
Tomi, in the unlikely event you ever read this, ball’s in your court. You made this mess and you can clean it up.