Don't be a copycat!


That’s not a writers beware. Work-for-hire isn’t hidden in a contract somewhere. It’s a COMPLETELY different contract, and she knew exactly what she was signing.

Work-for-hire is actually a very lucrative (and fairly common) way for experienced writers to have a steady income. Does it SUCK mightily to have the book become popular and you don’t share in the proceeds? Yep. But that’s how it works. It’s not your property – it’s a writing assignment for a company.


Sing it!


It’s also something to put in a query letter… say if you want to pursue representation by an agent for an original novel that you might be particularly confident has traditional publication potential…

Certainly saying you were the ghostwriter of a bestseller will make their ears perk up.

Unless there are confidentiality clauses that prevent that?


There usually are confidentiality clauses, but I can see how ghostwriting experience could help with queries.


It’s the same with a chemist who develops a formula for a product that becomes big. The patent is owned by the company that pays his salary, not him. So substitute copyright for patent and ghostwriter for chemist.

Keep in mind, if that chemist never develops anything big, he still gets paid.


To what I understand, LJ apparently was writing for hire which meant she doesn’t own the books, the publisher does. Her name only remains on it I suspect because its already established and its a name readers trust. Even if a new writer takes over it can interfere with sales that the original name had. Ms. Smith apparently was unaware of the difference between write for hire and when the book is actually yours meaning you own the copyright. This though should be a lesson indicating the kind of power big conglomerates can have and the things they will do if they have complete power to do so with impunity. Its nasty in terms of a relationship that last over 20 years but then again its business from their perspective and because the publisher owns it, they aren’t obligated to play nice.


I’m late to party my god but I am already blown away. Copying Nora then a gardening book that plagiarized from somewhere else. This hole is deep AF. I can’t believe a wattpad book god plagiarized. Some thing good should happen to the author of that wattpad book.


Oh, yeah, I know that. The letter she sent out to a whole mess of fans after she was fired indicated as much. Still sucks for her, especially considering the way that the series ended.


I had no idea she cheated them. Now this is news to me, no wonder why a longstanding relationship ended so abruptly.


This is what she claimed. Since she wrote for hire for YEARS, I don’t believe it for one nanosecond. She knew it, and once the series took off, she didn’t like the terms of her contract.

Work-for-hire is done by experienced writers, not naive beginners. The contracts are different. If she couldn’t tell the difference, she is a grade 1 MORON.

No one cheated anyone. The idea, the characters, and likely even the plots were not hers. They were given to her by the book packager. This is a VERY common practice. VERY. She knew what she was doing, and for midlist it didn’t matter. She just got pissed when the sales suddenly made royalties interesting.

(Replied before I got to the end of the thread! Sorry. :slight_smile:)


Me too no worries lol


That was a little different because LJ (while the creator of the characters and world) had a work-for-hire contract – something she didn’t understand when she signed and in that case it was the publisher, not her, that owned the intellectual property. That’s MUCH worse than the cover issues.


It’s her fault for not understanding what work-for-hire meant. I mean, it’s a crappy thing for the publisher to do, but she should have done her researched and realized what she had signed up for.


Yep, and it also matters if your name is on top of the title or vice versa.


I just don’t believe it for a second. She did work-for-hire for years – and she wasn’t a beginner when she started. She HAD to know the difference. She just didn’t like it when it became economically disadvantageous.

And did she create it? In those package deals, the company usually comes up with a concept and characters and hires a writer to bring their vision to life. And that gives me even less sympathy for her.


As I understand it, it was her first writing “gig” and she invented the world and the characters. They offered her a work-for-hire contract and signed it without knowing what that meant. Now, that may be an urban legend, and totally not true. But that’s how I remember it going.


Dug this up from the time when she was fired…

It probably sounds completely impossible to say that I am fired from writing my own books. But the truth is that they’re not mine, even though I write every word. When I was called by an agent and asked to write the vampire trilogy, that agent wasn’t from a publisher, but from what is now Alloy Entertainment, Ltd. And they are a book packager. A book packager sells books, already made with covers and all, to publishers, like HarperCollins—my publisher for The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle. And both these series were written “for hire” which means that the book packager owns the books the author produces. Although I didn’t even understand what “for hire” meant back in 1990, when I agreed to write books for them, I found out eventually, to my horror and dismay. It means that even though I have written the entire series, I don’t own anything about The Vampire Diaries. And from now on, the books will be written by an anonymous ghostwriter, just as Stefan’s Diaries are. It will say “Created by L. J. Smith” on the cover, but I am not allowed even to change a word in the ghostwriter’s book.

Here is the post I got it from.


So a book packager called a completely new writer out of the blue? I don’t believe it at all. They don’t hire off the street. They go to agents and hire published writers with a concept they want written.

According to Wikipedia, she had had two novels pubbed by Macmillan before this. Is she so incredibly stupid that she didn’t see the contracts were different?

And, yeah, she was sooo horrified that she wrote, what, 16 novels for them – in multiple series. Apparently she’s a very slow learner.

Or, her letter to fans and her blog post are bullshit marketing spin meant to put her in a good light after she got herself fired from her lucrative-but-not-lucrative-enough gig.

Sorry, I just can’t buy the innocence of LJ Smith.


You may be right. I’m just going by what she said.


Yeah, I know. I just think there are some holes in her story.

Just speculating, but she may NOT have realized that they could – and WOULD – replace her and keep using her name. She mentions fighting for what she wanted – which again, implies they were controlling the stories – and she might have just pushed it too far. She might have even pulled a “If I can’t do this, I’ll quit”… and had them shrug and fire her.