Everyone wants to go viral – but what if someone else gets all the credit?

colin bowles, the beginners guide to fatherhood

Kindle version

You may recall that a few weeks ago I reported how the Daily Mail UK, ABC in New York Nine news in Australia and a big Australian online magazine called called Mamamia went viral with a 14 Step Guide to parenting, which was then claimed as an original work by Jelica Greganovic, a blogger in Serbia.

As it was word for word from a book called THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO FATHERHOOD that I wrote twenty years ago, and to which I won back the rights so I could republish it myself on Kindle late last year –  AND AS I MADE ZERO SALES OUT OF THIS VIRAL STORM – you can imagine I was a little perturbed.

I wrote the the blogger who claimed my work as her own. (Apparently she even included it in one of her books!) Here’s part of the email I received in response to my complaint.

“I am a wife and a mother of three children and in the process of writing the stories I have without really noticing turned my husband and my three kids into the central characters of my stories built on humor and wit. Knowing that, it may be easier to understand how I came up with the same idea for a story as you did already twenty years ago. I am afraid that what happened was one of rare coincidences which I actually knew were not unheard-of in arts and science – they were even recognized as a challenge in the intellectual property law. I never thought I would end up living one of those, though.”

So there’s the explanation!! Amazing. ESP!!!

Colin Bowles, The Beginners Guide to Fatherhood

the original 1992 cover

So I tried it for myself and it’s brilliant. Just this week I have written this great story about a young female FBI trainee who exchanges personal information with an imprisoned psychopathic genius to catch a serial killer who is killing young women for their skins. I’m thinking of calling it Silence of the Rams. Sound like something you heard of before? Pah. Co-incidence.

I also scribbled off this great novel about a scientist who clones dinosaurs on a remote island to create a giant amusement park – then they have to fight for their lives when the dinosaurs get loose. I’m stuck for a title though. How do you like PALEOZOIC PARK?

I’m sure Thomas Harris and Michael Crichton won’t mind the similarities, we’re both writers after all, and we draw upon the same creative unconscious.

The fact that the ideas are exactly the same is just co-incidence.

By the way THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO FATHERHOOD was written as a consequence of an enormously popular column I wrote in the early nineties when my girls were little. But this was the days before the internet. If you reproduced someone else’s work then it was called breach of copyright and it was illegal.

If you feel as perturbed by this as I do, I’d really appreciate it if you’d go over to THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO FATHERHOOD and press the “LIKE” button. Thank you.

And you never know. One day I may even make one sale out of all this.

Yours in shock and disbelief.


colin bowles, the beginners guide to fatherhoodTHE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO FATHERHOOD.



Thanks again to Tim Lince who has a great online magazine that watches out for this sort of thing and alerted me to this in the first place.

About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
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  1. Hey Colin,

    As a stay-at-home Dad, I write a monthly blog series “You Know You’re A Parent When…” which sounds like your column from way back when, but it doesn’t mean I would ever steal one of your “adventures” and call it my own.

    I can’t believe the balls on this “lady.”

    Hope you somehow are able to claim any profits that she makes from your book.

    Good Luck….

    • Oh God, feel free to use it if you’re ever stuck! All I ever wanted from anyone was an attribution and a link back to the book it came from. Never seemed like much to ask. And I can understand why a parent might put Buttpaste on their toothbrush (too tired to think or see properly) but why would a kid do it? (And my girls didn’t like triangle-shaped sandwiches either. had to be square, crusts off. Weird.)

  2. Colin, if your work is copied ‘word for word’ without the slightest alteration for a substantial section of writing, (well beyond a sentence or two) then that is a clear breach of copyright, no question. A copyright lawyer would have a field day. It is very difficult, almost impossible to copyright an idea – no doubt about that. But if a writer uses EXACTLY the same wording as yours then the case is quite clear cut.

    • Trish De says:

      The word for word ones are most disturbing in the light of the bloggers claims of co-incidences. For instance Colins No. 5…

      “5. Before you finally decide to go ahead, find a couple who already have children and berate them about their methods of discipline, their lack of patience, their appallingly low tolerance levels and the way they have allowed their children to run riot. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child’s sleeping habits, toilet training and overall behavior.

      Enjoy yourself. It will be the last time in your life you’ll have all the answers.”

      The bloggers Test 2…
      “Test 2: Knowledge

      Find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels and how they have allowed their children to run wild.

      Suggest ways in which they might improve their child’s sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behaviour.

      Enjoy it. It will be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.”

      At the very least, the changes she did make to Colins words were senseless. For instance your No. 6…

      “6. Dressing children, especially small children, is not as easy as it appears form a distance. To become really expert, buy an octopus and a string bag. Attempt to put the octopus in the string bag so that none of the arms hang out. Time limit: all morning.”

      Her version…

      “Test 4: Dressing Small Children
      1. Buy a live octopus and a string bag.
      2. Attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that no arms hangout.
      Time Allowed: 5 minutes.”

      The whole point of such a humourous analogy is how long this task stretches to. 5 minutes is less time than it takes to put your own dress or pants on!!

      I’m enraged on your behalf, Colin. I googled the bloggers name and found that Balkan Books Australia sells her book “Od reči do reči”. I wonder if that is the book where she included her “lifted” blog post and is it a coincidence or a private joke that the title translates to English as “Word for Word”??


      • Thanks Trish. It’s extraordinary, isn’t it? My agents lawyers are looking into it now. I’m also chasing the online magazines that reproduced it. That editors will run pieces without attribution in 2012 still staggers me. I’ll keep you posted.

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