The Fine Line Between “Inspired By” and “Copycat” – Let’s Discuss!

Posted March 4, 2016 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Let's Discuss / 72 Comments


First off, I want to start by saying that this post is not about book blogger drama or anything bad that happened in the blogosphere. This is something that I’ve been thinking about based on one of my own posts. (I know this topic can be touchy for some people, so I thought I’d start with a little disclaimer.)

Last week, I put up a discussion post about Books that Intimidate Us, which was inspired by a post I’d seen on Paper Fury called Do You Procrastinate Reading Books You’re 99% Positive You’ll Love? When I read Cait’s post, she reminded me of yet another post I’d written awhile back about how I can’t seem to finish series – and I started to think about other types of books that I kind of want to read, but they scare me for some reason or another – books like the classics, for instance.

That was all fine and dandy. I wrote my post – and had lots of fun doing it. I was really happy with the way it turned out. I spent my requisite hours searching for gifs and hit Publish. The end.

Brand New Info

It wasn’t until a few hours later when I went back and reread the post that I started to have a sort of sinking feeling in my stomach. Did this post sound too much like a Cait post? I mean, it’s not like I had started offering people cake or threatening to rule the world or calling people pineapples or anything (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go read some of Cait’s discussions – it will all become very clear). But somehow the tone felt almost too Caitish to me. I actually think the thing that pushed it over the edge for me was that I had used a smaller font for my asides (something that Cait does all the time – and that I used to do once in a while, but I am technically challenged and literally forgot how to do it for awhile and had just re-figured it out again).

So, I went back and reread Cait’s post, and it made me feel even more uneasy – I knew that she had mentioned books with hype and books in series. I sent people to her post in the hype section and I had written a whole post about the series thing, so obviously I’d been thinking about that for a while. But then I noticed that she mentioned big books at the end of her post too (another one of my points) – I’d forgotten that was even in her post, but I’m sure it stuck subconsciously. I had a lot of points that Cait hadn’t made, and I was coming at the issue from a slightly different angle, but I couldn’t help but wonder … Was I being a copycat? (Or a copyCait?)


I decided the best thing to do was to tackle the issue head-on. I emailed Cait and told her about the similarities I’d seen and just plain apologized (this will serve as her public apology – you know, like I’m some sort of public official who needs to set the record straight). Because this is Cait we’re talking about, she very graciously accepted my apology and told me that, while she did see the likenesses in our posts, she saw the differences too. Cait deserves cake for her sweetness, there is no doubt in my mind (I wonder if I can find Australian cake delivery services?).

The whole thing got me thinking about how hard it is to walk that fine line between striving to emulate a blog you admire and outright copying it. You can find a million and three posts about how to make your blog more interesting and followable, but we don’t want to ALL be the same. What fun would that be? I’ve recently been making Pinterest-ready title images for my blog based on advice I’ve read – and I love them, but I do notice that maybe it adds to the fact that my blog looks a bit more like other blogs I follow. I think in this case, the positives outweigh the negatives, but I’m keeping it in mind … Then there’s bookish photography. I see it on other blogs and LOVE it! I’m not a great photographer myself, but I’ve tried my hand at it once or twice. The more I’ve thought about it, though, the less I want to put a lot of time and effort into it since it’s not “my thing.” That doesn’t mean I’ll never do it again, but unless inspiration truly hits me, it probably won’t be something I feature a lot of. And that’s good – why try hard to do something that’s already being done really well elsewhere?

So, how do we balance this? After all, practically every idea has been done somewhere. Let’s face it, I’ve probably read a hundred posts that have discussed some element of my Books that Intimidate Us post – I just tried to put my spin on the topic (and then feared I hadn’t done it well enough). Heck, I’ve probably read at least ten posts about this topic in the past, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write about it.


I decided to think about some guidelines. Things I want to make sure I do in the future to avoid the feeling of being a post pirate:

  • Let some time pass – I think if I would have waited a few weeks to put up my Books that Intimidate Us post, it wouldn’t have felt so copycat. This is tricky because I have a hard time with inspiration – if I don’t write a post right away when I think of it, I often lose the muse and can’t write it at all. But I could have written it and then sat on it for a few weeks. Sure, I would’ve had to come up with another post as well, but it would have been worth it.
  • Credit the inspiration – This is key, and I did do this somewhat, but probably could’ve been even more obvious about it.
  • Reread the inspiration – I let almost a week go by between when I read Cait’s post and when I wrote mine. Not that long, but I also read at least twenty other discussions in between. My brain doesn’t hold onto stuff that well. If I had reread Cait’s post, I would have seen more of the similarities and made some changes!
  • Take blogging advice, but don’t try to incorporate it ALL – If we all start to all follow the same advice our blogs are all going to look pretty much the same, right? Luckily, there’s lots of good advice out there to pick and choose from!
  • Take an idea and put a different spin on it – I did this with my Bookish Backdrops. There are lots of posts out there that use book covers for fashion inspiration (I’m guessing there are one or two people out there that believe they started this trend and are upset that it became such a huge thing). I liked that idea, but decided to have some fun with it and come up with decor based on covers instead. I’ve loved the results!
  • Admit your mistakes – As soon as I started feeling “wrong” about the post, I emailed Cait and apologized. Unfortunately, not everyone will respond to an apology with complete forgiveness – I know that some bloggers get VERY upset about  their ideas being “stolen” and they might not respond the way you’d like them to. Still, all you can control is yourself, so you just have to do your best to be honest and apologetic and hope for the best. (Thanks for being understanding, Cait.)

I think I’ve learned some good lessons from this. I’m guessing I’ll still make mistakes (after all, I’m human – I make plenty of them!), but I’ll certainly be more aware and make sure to be more careful in the future. That’s all I can do, right?

Have you ever written a post and then worried that it was too similar to someone else’s post? Ever been frustrated when you had an idea that was emulated a little too closely? What did you do about it? I want to know!




72 responses to “The Fine Line Between “Inspired By” and “Copycat” – Let’s Discuss!

  1. I have felt the same on both ends of this type of situation. There was a post I wrote that I pored into and a couple days later an almost identical one appeared on a blog I follow very closely. It REALLY bothered me, and it was way too much to be “just coincidence.” I’ve also felt I have somewhat copy-catted other posts from time to time. I am really bad at crediting the inspiration because I forget where I saw it, so I do need to start making a concentrated effort on that end. I admire that you took initiative to contact Cait, who is fantastic (how did I only find out about her a few months ago?), and talk it out with her.

    • Oh, yes – sometimes I forget where I saw something and I really want to credit the person for the inspiration, but I just can’t! I even had one time where the person commented on my post and then I remembered it was them, so I added a credit for for them! I’ve felt nervous about having a post that was a little too similar to someone else’s before too, but this is the first time that I felt really uneasy about it – I don’t know why but the post just struck me as too close to Cait’s style even though there were definitely some detail differences. That style thing is so nebulous – it’s much harder to pin down!

  2. Yup, I’ve had the same in a few different situations. My biggest thing is credit, credit, credit. I think you did that here, and that’s really good. I think it also helps that it’s obvious it wasn’t intentional. There was one time when I read a post where the author had obviously read my review first, and I felt kinda like it might be an issue, but I didn’t say anything. I knew the blogger, so I knew it wasn’t intentional. There have been times when I feel like I myself have sort of used some of the same ideas, but I basically try to use my own judgment to figure out whether I’ve crossed the line. Usually, if I’m on the fence, I’ll credit.

    My biggest issue has been with Bookstagram, where people repost without even crediting. I find that hugely offensive and I’ve been pissed off with actual publishers for doing that…I don’t end up saying anything but seriously, you’re going to repost my picture without even tagging me so that you can get a bunch of likes? That, to me, is overstepping the lines.

    CREDIT. It’s important.

    Thanks for this post, Nicole. =)

    • Yes, I did credit her. In the end, I don’t know that I totally crossed the line, but it was too close for comfort for me and I felt the need to make sure Cait was okay with it. You never know – sometimes people get their feelings hurt and might not even mention it. I figured it was better just to make sure she was fine with it (and she was). And I definitely agree with you that giving credit where credit is due is the BEST thing you can do.

      And it would bug me if people reposted my stuff without crediting me too – seems odd that a publisher would do this!

  3. Honestly, I have the mind set that nothing really IS original, and that it’s hard to come up with a completely new topic or way of doing things as a book blogger. It’s great that you contacted Cait, because you felt your post ended up being too similar to hers, and she’s super nice and everything, but at the same time, I don’t feel like you HAD too. You didn’t sit down and make a post to be like her or take things she wrote word-for-word on PURPOSE. Sure, you want to be more aware of things and I like your idea of sitting on a post for a bit if you were inspired by another post, but again, I don’t think you should feel guilty. It’s the people that purposely steal things that should feel bad, but I suppose they don’t always.

    ShootingStarsMag recently posted: Set the Pace by Kim Karr Blog Tour
    • I think you’re right that, in my case, I maybe didn’t HAVE to contact Cait (since it wasn’t blatant copying), but I figured that if I felt uncomfortable about it, it made sense just clear the air – otherwise I would have been sitting around wondering if maybe she thought it was too close to her post and would be feeling slighted in some way, you know?

  4. There is nothing new under the sun – so it depends on how you tackle it since you are inserting some of yourself and your opinions in these posts. Sure, a lot of these overlap, but they are common and I bet if I wrote this post? I would have the same bullet items. I really like your suggestion to write it and sit on it for a while, maybe going back and editing later when the post that inspired the idea isn’t fresh in your mind.

    • Yeah, I think if I’d just waited to post it for another week or two it wouldn’t have felt so much like “Cait’s post Part 2” and I could have revisited it with fresh ideas in my head. Lesson learned. (But, yes – nothing new under the sun is definitely true – especially when it comes to these types of posts).

  5. I also worry that I will look like a copycat at times. I tend to not read reviews until after I publish mine for just this reason. But every once in a while I stumble on a great review on another site, read it, then later go and write mine. Then I wonder if it is too close, was my graphic similar to theirs, was my main theme the same as theirs? It tends to make me anxious as a newer (just under a year) blogger/reviewer as I don’t want anyone to think I am copying them.

    I struggle with this with layouts as well. I will see a widget, or site feature and really like it and then wonder how it would look on my site. But then I stop as I wouldn’t want anyone to think my site was too similar to another. It makes it hard sometimes to update and write new content, as I have seen when a suspicion of copying has been made publicly, and even if unfounded, the site and blogger will never be the same, as people can get vicious.

    • Yes, I’ve seen some people get really bent out of shape over the copying issue, so it’s hard not to worry about it at least a little. There are some design elements that are popular and you shouldn’t feel bad about using them – if it’s something very unique, though, you should probably steer clear – or come up with an alternative that’s sufficiently different. 🙂

  6. Well that was gracious of her!

    See I think I balance on the other end of this – that some individuals take it TOO personal. And immediately think they are being copied, which in turn, creates tension when seeing inspirational posts.

    Make sense? (It doesn’t when I reread it but it DOES in my head)

    Therefore, I try to wait sometime if I am inspired by something. BUT. I think since you both had the same views and you put your twist on it, it was OKAY. You linked to her post and even said she inspired you. Still, for me it’s better of err on the side of caution. I even emailed someone to do Freebie Friday even though 1001 other blogs do it, but she is well known for it. and I remember we kind of ran into this between us with the monthly recaps. It was just coincidence we BOTH went live with it the same week.

    • YES! I think that thing with the monthly recaps was the first time I felt like I had stepped on toes and it made me maybe more sensitive to it going forward. Even though that was a complete accident, I felt bad because I value our friendship (even if it is mostly virtual) and I didn’t want to screw that up. Same with Cait – what if she had seen the post and felt slighted and just decided to stop coming by? I feel like I only have so many “deeper” connections with other bloggers and I’d hate to lose one just because I didn’t take the time to send a quick sorry!

  7. OMGGG, NICOLE. *HUGS YOU* I still honestly don’t think it was too sameish, although I absolutely appreciate your awareness of the potential. BUT YOU ARE FINE, HONEST. <3 And I do agree that there is nothing new! And we're all going to discuss the same topics eventually. The "put your own spin on it" is definitely the key. Although sometimes it's really hard, right?! Also just recently I posted a discussion about character's appearances and whether we like description and a follower told me of another blogger who'd posted a similar discussion earlier in the week. I hadn’t read that blog so I HAD NO IDEA. But I still felt awful :O But then…I mean, it’s kind of impossible to be fully original, especially when we blog about such a narrow niche of books. *nods*

    (But I do see people calling their followers “pineapples” though, and that kinda bugs me because I did sort of trademark that. ?? But I’ll get over it. hehe.)

    But anyway. ABSOLUTELY NO BAD FEELINGS. <3 You are a spectacular blogger and I love reading your discussions and reviews and everything. KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING. *gives you cake*

    • Wow, I don’t know how I got cake out of this deal, but apparently I have to mess up more often because I have a serious sweet tooth. 🙂

      Thanks for being so nice about it, Cait. I DO think I definitely put my own spin on the post, but I figured that if the parallels were enough to make me uncomfortable, I should just contact you and say sorry so I didn’t have to sit and fret about it. And I also think that it’s actually kind of good that it got me thinking about how to make sure I don’t get too close for comfort again. Some food for thought, right? (And if that food is cake … wait, I digress).

      I actually remember seeing someone else calling their followers pineapples and thinking, “Wait, that’s a Cait thing!” But I guess even seemingly completely random things can pop up in more than one place. I remember reading a post one time where someone had thought that another person had stolen a feature idea from them because the ideas were similar and the names were nearly identical – but it turned out that the second person had come up with the name because it was the name of her hometown – a valid and completely unrelated reason that was misinterpreted (she’d never heard of the original feature). Unfortunately, feelings ended up being hurt all around.

      Anyway, you know that I will always be a devoted Paper Fury pineapple and the last thing I’d want to do is hurt my chances of getting cake by failing to acknowledge your rule (or your dragons – though those are really hard to ignore anyway). So, I’m glad we have this understanding. 🙂

  8. Great post! And yeah pretty much every topic out there has already been written about, so it’s hard to not inadvertently copy someone else, at least to some extent. The big thing is to not do it intentionally and if it does come to your attention that you may have gotten a bit too close to someone elses post, then be willing to gracefully apologize like you did 🙂

    Sara recently posted: Quick Note!
  9. I see a lot of people doing all the same things and I always wonder where those ideas actually started from??? But I don’t think it’s a big deal as long as everyone is putting their own spin on it. When phrases, and colors of banners, and layout, and distinct tone start being TOO similar, that’s where I start scratching my head. I get inspired by people all the time (because let’s be honest, people in the book world are super creative and awesome), but I ALWAYS credit and link-back.

    I came across a website that had a name INSANELY similar to mine and even though I didn’t say anything- I was definitely a little butt-hurt about someone combining pink and polka dots and books together for a blog title… I mean, A. google before you commit to a title, and B. REALLY? I find it hard to believe someone else would think to put those 3 things together. I don’t think it exists anymore, but it was really hard for me not to feel a little like they were ripping me off.

    This post was super interesting and I love hearing other people’s perspectives about stuff like this. It IS hard to come up with fresh topics…. there really are only so many angles you can go at with books, ya know??

    Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books recently posted: New YA Book Releases For The Week Of 2/28
    • I agree with you that it’s fine to be inspired by other bloggers. It happens all the time around here – This was the first time that I felt uncomfortable about it. I know it seems weird, but I literally think the fact that I combined the topic with those tiny asides is what pushed it into the territory of “copying” for me – it just felt too much like Cait’s post to me, if that makes sense.

      It’s hard because you never know what someone else might get upset about and what might strike them as copying. For you, the title thing stood out to you. Who knows, that person may have had a journal with pink polka dots sitting next to them when they named their blog – but you wouldn’t know that, and it’s hard not to at least suspect that they saw your blog and liked the name. When I named my blog, I came up with the name and then searched for it. There weren’t any other blogs with that name, but there were some similarish ones. I just did a quick search now and found one called Fiction Addiction Fix that’s been around since 2011, and I was shocked to see that the font used for the title is even similar to mine – if they ran across my blog, they might think I was copying them!

      • I totally agree that there’s possibility that that person likes polka dots and books and pink and had NO idea my blog existed. That’s why I never said anything to the person(s). It just felt slightly weird bc pink polka dots and books aren’t obvious choices to go together. It was very cool of you to reach out to Cait and notice the formatting similarities. I think formatting can make a big difference in some cases.

        Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books recently posted: New YA Book Releases For The Week Of 2/28
  10. “copyCait” AHAHAH I love than pun omg <3
    But yeah this post is so relevant – I've felt like maybeee I'm copying someone sometimes with discussion ideas? But I think your tip about letting time pass by is really awesome, because that way, you can come up with completely new ideas – your mind is like a blank slate!
    Great post, Nicole! 🙂

    Geraldine @ Corralling Books recently posted: The Fate Of Ten By Pittacus Lore | Ten Out of Ten Book
    • Yeah, we’re all inspired by each other occasionally with discussion ideas – You read something, and then you think, “Yeah, that makes me think of this …” That’s great! I think most bloggers love to see that they’ve inspired someone else – it extends the discussion, right? I think waiting just a little while before you post it (and making sure you have your own spin on the topic) will make all the difference!

  11. That’s such a tough situation when that happens, because it is so easy to take inspiration from something and then end up being too close to it without realising until you go back and reread your inspiration. You definitely handled it well though by apologising when it isn’t like you purposefully copied anyway, and it was very gracious of Cait to be so nice about it 🙂
    Personally I’ve had problems with copycat posts from both sides of it. I once wrote a blog post that I was really proud of and posted it and then went to post it in the Discussion Challenge post and realised that someone else had done a post about the exact same thing literally on the same day (or maybe the day before?) as me. The blogger even commented on my post and was like ‘it’s so weird that we have wrote about the same thing so close together’ and I was just like ‘oh no, is she accusing me of copying?’ when it was purely coincidental. These things happen, there’s only so many original ideas.
    I did also notice though once that a new blogger who commented a lot on my posts had done three consecutive posts that matched (word by word the titles and everything!) the last three posts I had done. She had written her own posts but done the exact same ideas as me, which did annoy me. I didn’t say anything (I’m not one for confrontation, and at the end of the day, it wasn’t like she had copied and pasted my posts), but personally I feel like she did cross the line from ‘inspired by’ to ‘copycat’.
    Sorry for the ramble! 🙂

    Laura recently posted: Three Books On My TBR List
    • Yes, coincidental same-topic discussions definitely crop up a lot. I’ve actually posted in the comments before, “Hey, I just happened to write a post just like this,” but I’ve never meant that I thought they were copying – just pointing out a coincidence because I think it’s funny. I’m sure that’s what the other person was doing too.

      Now, that other situation would be tough. It would be hard not to feel like someone was crossing a line if they kept using your discussion ideas. I’m like you – I’d have a hard time confronting the issue – but I wonder if it was a case of a newbie blogger who literally just hadn’t thought about the fact that this wasn’t okay? Sometimes I think mentioning it in a friendly way is actually helpful (I know, easier said than done). Hopefully they’ve figured it out now. 🙂

  12. Books are such a narrow topic that we’re bound to discuss a lot of the same things, and some of our posts will be similar because we have similar opinions. When I do an “inspired by” post, I credit the original and try to add something new to the conversation. Also, I think I’m so incompetent at blogging that my posts are never anywhere near as good as the original. 🙂

    Aj @ Read All The Things! recently posted: FF Friday: To All The Horror Books I’ve Loved Before
  13. I think this goes both ways. I don’t see anything wrong with using inspiration from others as long as it’s not the exact same thing – e.g. plagiarized content.

    I’m also big on crediting. But sometimes, it’s not possible. For example, you think of an amazing discussion topic, write up a post without knowing that someone else has done it before, and you don’t even follow this blog, etc. – in this case, I don’t think you did something wrong. Right? I mean, how can you copy something that you haven’t read? And in fact, if you google a topic that you want to write about, thinking it’s original, think again! Someone out there probably has written it before! So what I’m saying is that, sure it’s GREAT and RIGHT to credit, but that doesn’t mean that if you don’t credit, you’re bad and you steal…

    Now when does inspired from content become too iffy to do? I’ll give you one example. I absolutely love Jamie’s (Perpetual Page Turner) feature “If We Had Coffee” but creating a feature like that for myself on my blog would be TOO COPYCATISH honestly. So, I’m not doing something like that.

    What I’m trying to say is that the internet is sooo vast. There is bound to be similar content, similar syles, similar features. I think the key thing is to add your spin of things to it, make it more YOU without copying, etc. If you want to ask permission first from who you think is the original creator, do so. But I don’t think it’s even necessary.

    • You bring up a good point here, Zeee. You’re absolutely right that just because you talk about something that someone else has, it doesn’t mean you’re copying. You certainly shouldn’t have to research every idea you have and make sure it hasn’t been written about already (I can almost guarantee it has). In this case, it felt too close to a post I had read, though – I was just afraid that maybe it had gotten too close to that imaginary line in the sand, and I felt bad about it.

      I also agree with you that you don’t have to ask someone’s permission – unless you’re going to do a feature that is very unique to their blog (like your example of the coffee thing – that would be a case where you’d want to ask if it was okay and then make it VERY clear where the idea came from if they said yes).

  14. Having an appreciation of the occasions when it’s possible to veer too close to the edge of acceptability is a good step. unfortunately it seems that not everyone even understands that copying is unacceptable.

    Your recommendations make good sense and should help keep you and us honest

  15. Oh man this topic is such a good one. I always try and link back to posts that inspire me. Sometimes there are posts that are similar out there that maybe I didn’t reference but not on purpose. Sometimes my brain just forgets by the time I write my post. It is really a hard thing to balance sometimes. I think it was awesome you reached out to Cait though. It takes a lot to own to something – even if you didn’t really do anything wrong. Really great post!!

    Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog recently posted: My TBR List March 2016 ~Series Starters
    • Yeah, sometimes that happens with me too – I read a bunch of posts, but don’t plan to specifically reference them, and then awhile later an idea percolates and I end up writing a post but can’t pinpoint the specific influences. In this case, even though there were some definite differences between the posts, I figured I should just contact Cait since I was feeling uneasy about it. It couldn’t hurt, right?

  16. Hm, this is a really good point. I often make a note on my “blog post ideas” list if I see a discussion topic I like – but I always include the source so I remember it later and I link back to the post. Of course, if my discussion completely deviates from the topic and becomes something else, I don’t feel the need to cite the source as strongly.

    I think it’s good that we get inspired by each other and it’s inevitable that topics will repeat themselves on the blogs. But like you said – if you give credit, if you include your own opinion, that’s perfectly fine. And I like reading different people’s perspectives on one issue!

  17. I think this is a fine line indeed and your tips to deal with it are great. I have written a few posts that were inspired by a post or topic that I saw somewhere else, my strategy is usually to give credit and/or mention how I found/ thought of the topic and just write the post that I want. Even if you write about the same topic or a similar topic it’s still a different post often and it’s hard to define when you just got inspired or are being a copycat. And to be honest I don’t know where that line lies.

    And like another commentator mentioned, there is nothing really new or original out there, just how we tackle it and give our own take on the topic. I think waiting for a bit before publishing the post is a good idea and that way you might even bring a fresh burst of traffic to the inspiration post you linked to.

    When I first considered doing recipe posts I was terrified of being called a copycat, but in the recipe and food blogger community it’s normal to use other people their recipes, the only rules are to rewrite it in your own words and give credit back.

    Great post and it’s such a difficult topic. I think it’s awesome you had the courage to e-mail Cait about it when you felt uneasy. I think that’s the best course of action when something like that happens, be honest about it.

    Lola recently posted: My To-Be Read List #19: poll
  18. You are too right in that it has all been done before — truly, nothing is new! But I think everyone has their own voice so that two blog discussion about the same topic may be completely different and just as valid! I read both posts and gained insight from each of them — that being said, I appreciate your approach re: apologizing and I love this post for its own points!!

    Eva @ All Books Considered recently posted: Review: In Real Life by Jessica Love
  19. Great post Nicole! This is always so hard I feel like. It’s why I don’t really do that many discussion posts either. I feel like the topics have been covered and I don’t want to be accused of copying so that’s why I struggle to come up with things that are new and unique.

    I think some of the commenters above are right though. As long as you put your own spin on it, I think you’re good. And if you feel nervous, crediting always helps.

    Jessica@Lovin' Los Libros recently posted: Weekly Wrap-Up: February 29-March 4th
    • I think it’s okay to discuss things that have been discussed before. This was just one of those cases where I worried that the post was too close for comfort – I think the tone and formatting contributed to that a lot. I don’t even know if Cait would have looked askance at it, but since I got nervous about it, I just figured it was best to contact her.

  20. First let me just applaud you for having the courage to come out with this post. (And as for being inspired by Cait, I do it ALL THE TIME (of course with permission/credit). Cait’s nicknamed me Miss Barnacle.) This is especially close to my heart because I’m also a writer and I often wonder where a certain turn of phrase came into my mind. And also I always, always, always credit the original idea (as far as I’m able), but sometimes it’s difficult to determine if *permission* is needed. If I know that person somewhat then I’ll definitely ask, but what if it’s creating fanart for a novel or the like?

    Thank you for dropping by The Devil Orders Takeout!

    Alyssa @ The Devil Orders Takeout recently posted: What Makes a FANTASTIC Sequel? | A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
    • Yes, it can sometimes be really hard to figure out where the lines are – they definitely get blurry sometimes. I figured, since I was questioning it, it was better to just confront the issue head-on. Thanks for your insights, Miss Barnacle. 🙂

  21. I have a hard time with this. I can think of a few bloggers in particular who often write posts that are clever, non-review topics and wish I’d come up with them. So far, I’ve not let myself really be inspired by these posts because I’m afraid of accidentally ending up copying too much. I think I’m probably limiting myself unnecessarily by doing this. As long as I have something new to add and I reference my inspiration, I think I could make my blog better without being too much of a copycat. I do really like your idea of sitting on a post for a while and re-reading the inspiring post before posting yours to make sure you don’t feel your post is too similar. If I just noted down general ideas from posts so I could use them as inspiration later, it might make it easier to be sure I took a really novel perspective on a topic.

    Katie @ Doing Dewey recently posted: Nonfiction Friday
    • Yes, if you either don’t write the post right away (like, you let a couple of weeks go by) OR you write it right away and compare it to the original to make sure you’re not taking too many liberties, you should be fine. Everybody has their own perspectives, even on topics that have been done A LOT.

  22. This is one of the reasons, I think, I’ve strayed away from doing tons of discussion posts. I’m worried someone already said it and will accuse me of copying their ideas. I haven’t been blogging long and I can’t read all the things, y’know. 🙂

    Cait is a great blogger and I love following her. I’m glad to hear that she was understanding of the situation!

    • Hopefully that wouldn’t be an issue – I’ve written LOTS of discussion posts and never been accused of copying, even though I’m sure I’ve written plenty of posts that were a similar theme to other bloggers’ discussions. But in this case, I just felt like the post was too close to Cait’s style for my comfort, so I figured I’d just contact her and say I was sorry. Cait is super sweet and didn’t bat an eye about it. 🙂

      • As long as you pick an edition with actual page listed and mark your start/end dates in GoodReads, it will automatically track the number of pages read in a year! I picked 20k because I got close one year and thought that would just be 2 or 3 more books and I’ve just kept it up since then.

  23. Jen

    I love the guidelines you made! Because this is such a hard topic, since there are so many discussions out there on the web that are so similar. We have a list of topics that we want to use someday! We usually come across them during our group texts when we are talking about books and characters. But I’m sure they have been done somewhere across the web already, so hence my hesitation. So when we do step into discussion posts, we’ll definitely keep your list in mind! Thank you for this post and hugs!

  24. I think that the credit part really IS key. I know I would never mind if someone got inspiration from me- quite the opposite really- as long as they just said something. A little nod that it was from someone else. I really feel like the problem is that even if it is unintentional, which I assume it often is, when we forget to credit, it probably looks like “well, that dirty so and so stole my idea and didn’t even give me credit!”- by which I mean, the inspirer thinks that the inspired is being pretty shady.

    I worry a LOT about this- to the point of not only googling ideas, but asking people if they’d ever heard of them elsewhere. Granted, there are things that WILL be repeated, and as long as it’s our own personal spin and discussion, then it’s not a big deal. I just would never ever want to make someone feel bad, even if it was purely accidental/coincidental.

    Have I ever had this happen to me? Yeah. Several times. Maybe more than several. There was only one time that I asked someone about it though, because it was so blatant that I couldn’t let it go. Usually I just brush it off, and move on. Nothing I can do about it if it’s not actual plagiarism. If it’s a feature, it can be more than moving on, because I don’t want to continue to use it after it’s been ummm “repurposed” by someone. Sometimes I have changed the features, so that they aren’t lumped in with those that were “lifted” haha. Which, yeah, is a little bit of a pain, but whatever, not the worst thing in the world either.

    So yeah. I mean, it’s good that you said something to Cait, I am sure that she appreciates it. Because if it were me, I feel like that would make all the difference in the world, you know? I’d never be mad at someone for like, making an honest mistake. Ever. But I would definitely have the warm fuzzies if they were like “hey, I am really sorry about that”, and we could have a chuckle and move on.

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: The 100 Episode 3×07 “Thirteen”
    • I’ve never really stressed about this before, but maybe I was just being naive? I don’t know – this is the first time where a post stuck out to me as really close to someone else’s style, and it really got me thinking.

      When I started my bookish backdrops, I did try Googling it to see if anyone else had already done it (since the whole point was that I was trying to put a new spin on an old idea). I didn’t find anything, but I’m betting someone out there has done it. The best we can do is try, right?

      Sorry that you’ve had people blatantly take your ideas before, though – that would be really frustrating!

      Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: The Others Series by Anne Bishop - Series (so far) Review
  25. Crediting really is the key, as well as being honest to where the inspiration came from. Thank you for the tips and the reminders! I for one didn’t really notice the similarity between your post and Cait’s, though it is about the same topic. I just felt like there are lots of discussions nowadays that seem similar but when you read them you can tell they were written by different people with the same opinion 🙂 Great post Nicole!

    • You’re right that the topic is done a lot. For some reason, I felt like this post was a little too close to Cait’s style (and since she had just posted on a very similar topic, it really felt too close for comfort). It amazed me how much the little detail of making the asides smaller made it look like her style to me. Maybe I was just being oversensitive, but I figured I’d rather be safe than sorry.

  26. This is a great discussion post about a discussion post! Lol. It almost feels a little Inception-like. I think your guidelines are spot-on for creating posts and showing credit. I don’t think I can add anything there. But I do believe that when you become a part of a community like this, it’s very hard not to spin and re-use ideas over and over. This is why I read such a wide variety of blogs, as it gives me a good idea of what ELSE is out there. But I’m not a book blogger and I rarely do discussion posts because of the small amount of traffic I get, it’ll just be crickets in the comments. Lol.

    S. J. Pajonas recently posted: Sunday Update – March 6, 2016
  27. I have had this happen. A few years ago, I started a round up. I had emailed the original person who quit it like 2 years earlier and she was fine with it. The SAME week another blogger started something similar. She freaked out and tried to call me a copycat. I tried to be calm and just told her to lets just both run things and see how it goes. Mine lasted years and hers fizzled out. In retrospect, I should have let her have it since I quit doing them and so many bloggers are missing the feature. Anyways, does that have anything to with what you were saying?
    Oh yea…
    I mean it sucks when you feel like you did something wrong or too similar on your blog. I have read a lot of “inspired by” posts that were spin offs of other bloggers topics. I didn’t think about it when I read your post at all. It is big of you to admit all that anyways. Maybe it will inspire someone else to keep it original.
    Great topic!

    Karen Blue recently posted: Review: STORM SIREN by Mary Weber
  28. Honestly, I read both yours and Cait’s posts and I never even noticed the similarity! There really isn’t anything new anymore so it’s unavoidable for us to share topics and even points within those topics. I think giving time between the topic you read and your own would have likely helped but I’ve encountered instances where I’d never even read a review or post and ended up with similar thoughts! You handled this like a real pro though Nicole and luckily, Cait took it all in stride 🙂

    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted: Let's Discuss...(5)
  29. It’s so difficult with blog posts because, as you said, it seems every possibly topic that there is to write about has been done. And sometimes, even if everything in the post is completely my writing and opinion and I don’t even remember what the other posts I’ve read said about it, simply writing about the same topic makes me feel like someone is going to think I’m copying them. But if we all only wrote about topics no one has ever discussed… there’d be no more posts lol.

    But honestly I didn’t even notice similarities between your post and Cait’s post, so don’t sweat it. I guess as long as we all stick to writing our own opinions in our own words and our own way of doing things, it’ll be ok. But waiting a week or two or even more if you’re posting about a similar topic is always a good idea I think, even if just so people don’t get tired of reading and commenting about it.

    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Traits that Make Me Love a Character
  30. Nicole, I admire your bravery and honesty to own up to something that might be a grey area to many. And it’s really cool of you to have emailed Cait to check with her what she thought of the whole issue.

    I think your guidelines are really useful and something bloggers should definitely consider adhering to. It irks me so much especially when I see someone introducing a new blog feature and just days later someone else does practically the same. I’ve seen it a few times and it baffles me whenever copycats deny copying, claim inspiration or worse — insist that anyone could’ve come up with the idea, even though in those cases, clearly they were more than inspired by another blogger.

    As for the two posts you referred to, yours and Cait’s, I’m really curious now, so will be sure to read them too. I hope others will too and maybe have a better idea of instances when it’s too close to call. When that happens, the very least that should be done is credit but you obviously went way beyond that. Once again, kudos to you! 🙂

    Joséphine @ Word Revel recently posted: I Got a DSLR — Now What?
  31. I always ask for permission to use other peoples images, and I actually find it such a positive experience. People really appreciate the courtesy and it s another way of connecting with other s who work I admire.

  32. This post is so worthy of being a discussion you wouldn’t believe it. And it’s such a hard subject to tackle as well. I know what you mean about feeling inspired but trying not to copy. It’s not easy at all! I tend to take the time as you mention – leaving it to pass – to make sure I don’t copy. I have plenty of titles for blog posts because they have been inspired from elsewhere but I leave them to ferment so I forget the main points that the other person has mentioned so I know I will be coming with my own unique voice to add to the mix.

  33. Great Discussion! I think there is a fine line, but I’m also a firm believer that people who are copying KNOW they are copying in most instances. (In my experience, very few people plagiarism accidentally or through ignorance of what plagiarism is, no matter what they claim when caught.) I think your sudden concern that maybe you were bordering on plagiarism is a good sign that you probably weren’t. As you said, there are only so many ideas in the blogosphere. I think it’s reasonable to expect bloggers will post on some of the same topics. If you’re inspired by a certain discussion post, definitely link to it, though. If nothing else, it’s a friendly thing to do and sends your readers to another post on the same topic that they might enjoy.

  34. I think if you were inspired by something, then you have to credit, if not you’re just a douche. But if you genuinely just thought it up on your own, then oh well. It’s not like you can look up everything just to see if someone else may have done it first.

    I started doing a Things That Make Me Happy on my other blog last month and I thought it was original (at least the title anyway) and last week I found another blog who has done like 27 of those features every week for months. I really had no clue anyone else was doing it…oops.

    I do think it’s annoying how everyone thinks that everyone is copying each other lately, it’s hard to lay claim to ideas and pinpoint who had them first. And people can’t take ownership of ideas unless they trademark them.

    When I started putting together book looks a few years ago, I din’t realize people had been doing it for years on tumblr and I don’t care if other people do it, I actually think its cool if you inspire other people to do stuff, just give credit if you can.

    Nereyda @Nick & Nereyda's Infinite Booklist recently posted: How Salt to the Sea Broke Me Down

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