There has been a huge controversy in the book once more and, of course, it took place on Twitter. I have been watching it from the outskirts since I don’t scroll through twitter anymore. (My Instagram and blog both post directly to my twitter and I occasionally will tweet but I am not a fan of this particular social media. I think it’s rather toxic). However, as someone super involved in the book community, especially the YA community, it’s impossible for me to not see these things and I have a lot of thoughts.
Here’s a little background. Tomi Adeyemi is a new author to the young adult scene. Her debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone, came out earlier this year and has been extremely successful. It has been on the NYT bestseller list for 38 weeks, has been optioned for six figures, and was chosen as Jimmy Fallon’s summer book club. To say that she is popular is an understatement. Her line at YALLWest this year was insane.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Adeyemi’s book. Maybe waiting about six months after release to read it was the reason – the hype was BUILT and it just didn’t excite me like I had expected. I liked it, but definitely didn’t love it. There could be a million reasons and I’ve discussed this book a lot. I won’t go into that much now because that’s not important. But I did want to say that I’ve read her book.
I’ve never read a Nora Roberts book, as far as I remember. It’s possible that I read one as a young teen, before YA was a thing and I just stole my mom’s books to read. But despite having no memory of ever reading one of her books, I absolutely know who she is. It’s impossible to not see her names on books. She’s been writing since the early 80s (a good 12 years before Tomi was born – she’s 25, born in 1993) and has written over 100 books. You don’t just see that name in a bookstore – you see that name in grocery stores, Target, Walmart, and so forth.
Just a few days ago, I was scrolling through Instagram and stumbled upon Tomi’s post, a screen shot of this tweet:
I was immediately confused. I’m thinking – did I miss a story? Did Nora steal her title? Seems pretty unlikely…
I immediately looked up Nora’s book and found that it was publishing very soon, December 4th, to be precise.
That’s when I got annoyed. Irritated. A little pissed off.
There are several things wrong with this situation.
1. You cannot copyright a title. You can’t claim ownership to a title like that. I put “of blood and bone” into GoodReads and Tomi’s is the first, Nora’s is third. I counted 15 similar titles before I stopped counting. Anyone in the book world, anyone, whether you’re a reader, whether you’re in the business side of writing, whether you’re published or not, should know that it is nearly impossible to be 100% unique. Your book title will never be 100% unique. Your story will never be 100% unique. My novel is called The Awakened and there a million novels with similar titles. Claiming that someone stole your title to profit off of that is just completely incorrect.
2. Tomi doesn’t have a lot of experience in the publishing industry, this is fair. Even so, one book would you teach you a bit about that. Often times, a book takes a year or two to go from idea to written novel to published novel. Their books were published nine months apart. Nora’s book was already in progress when CoBaB came out. In fact, I believe there was a post or something online that pointed out that she’d announced the title before Tomi’s book was even published, before anyone knew about the kind of success that it would reach. Nora’s book is also a sequel so it’s possible that the title was decided ages ago. Either way, it seems very unlikely that a book published only nine months after would even be able to copy the first one. It’s just not how publishing works.
3. This is Nora Roberts we are talking about! This is in no way disrespectful to Tomi but she has in no way close to the success and popularity and celebrity that Nora does, period. Again, Nora has 30 years and dozens of books under her belt. Tomi has less than a year. Tomi is also a young adult fantasy writer and we know that, outside of the YA community, those authors do not get much attention, not what they deserve. Yes, Tomi’s book was on Jimmy Fallon and has achieved an enormous amount of success but…at the end of the day, can you compare this to the widespread success that Nora has experienced? When you think about it – I personally believe that Nora would have no reason to plagiarize Tomi and, frankly, she doesn’t need to! She’s Nora Roberts! Selling books is kind of her thing… Again, no disrespect to Tomi or YA as a whole – you guys know YA has a huge chunk of my heart – but why would an insanely successful author like Nora steal from a debut young adult author?
4. I personally think there’s a lot of disrespect and ignorance and ego on the part of Tomi Adeyemi. Ignorance in Nora Roberts as a person, in how the publishing industry works and in thinking that anyone has a right to claim a title in publishing. Ego with the idea that with one successful book that everyone, including authors that have been published longer than you’ve been alive, is out to steal or take advantage of your success and fame. Disrespect in…you tweeted for the world to see, you got your young impressionable fans worked up and you didn’t take the adult, mature way to handle it. You didn’t talk to your agent, publicist, assistant, publisher, you didn’t talk to Nora directly. You blasted her on the internet without any basis of fact and it was so disrespectful, and toward a fellow author.
Tomi eventually tweeted this out:
Here’s the thing – I don’t take this as admitting her mistake. I don’t even take this as an apology. She says she apologized to Nora but…I don’t know. There’s just a lot about it that I don’t like it. I didn’t particularly like her book but I liked what I knew of her as a person. I didn’t think she was condemnable because I didn’t like her book. Maybe it was built up to me. Maybe the plot was too similar to another book I was reading at the time. Maybe it just wasn’t my taste. That didn’t mean I was going to write her off. I had every plan of reading the sequel. Sometimes a second book can seriously redeem the first book. Maybe I’d read a different series. I’ve liked one series by an author and disliked another.
I probably won’t read another Tomi Adeyemi book again. This post is not created as a post to condemn, talk crap or be disrespectful to Tomi in anyway. But I hate disrespect in the book community. I hate big egos. I hate when people get so self important that they act with ego first and other people, like other authors or fans, get stepped on in the process. I’ve cut authors off for disrespect towards me as a fan and disrespect towards me as an (indie) author. I don’t support that kind of behavior. Being a writer is hard enough. Being a YA writer is hard enough. Being a woman writer is hard enough. We shouldn’t make it harder on each other. This is a community that is supposed to support each other and I don’t agree at all with the way Tomi has acted in this situation.
At the time I’m writing this, she’s posted two tweets about the situation, both of them above. They are both still there on her twitter feed; she has not even shown the respect to delete the accusing tweet, which is slanderous and harmful to Nora every moment it’s up, and I find her apology incredibly lacking. The rest of her social media have been posts unrelated to the incident – it seems that she’s moved on or is pretending nothing ever happened. But it’s hard to take that seriously when that original tweet is still there, just a short scroll below. It’s also hard to believe that she’s sorry when her apology is lacking and her fans are on a rampage, attacking Nora at every turn, and she’s pretending that nothing has happened and has not reached out to her fans to stop the attacks and slander.
Nora has responded in a fairly lengthy blog post, which you can read here. I have a lot of respect with how she wrote about it and how she’s handling it. I don’t know that I would have handled a situation like this with as much grace as she has, but to be fair, I have a temper (I’m half Mexican and half Irish, what do you expect…). She showcases her incredibly ability to express herself with words, perfectly conveying in a respectful and calm matter her disappointment and anger towards Tomi and the way she accused her, and the actions (or lack there of) that Tomi has taken since then. It’s hard not be more irritated that this incident even took place when you read Nora’s post.
Again, my post was not written in an intent to convince you to not like Tomi. I think it’s to each their own, and surely she’s not a bad person. I think she is confused, a little ignorant and needs to step back, learn from and own up to her mistakes, to respect others and maybe tone down the ego a little bit. I’m not turning into a Nora Roberts fan overnight but I think that Tomi has lost a fan in me. The situation was childish and immature and so so unnecessary. I think I could’ve given her the benefit of the doubt if she’d truly apologized and taken down the original tweet, but she didn’t. And so I can’t condone that, not personally, and I will be skipping out on the sequel and any other book that Tomi is publishing in the future.
Lastly, I’ll say this – even though YA has grown exponentially in the past decade, even though there are so many books and its popularity has risen, YA still does not get the respect it deserves and it’s hard to say it ever will. I will say that a debut YA author attacking a seasoned best selling author is probably not the best PR move for the community and that causes me even more disappointment.