Book Nerd Problems #21: When Epic Reads Steals Your Book Nerd Problems

Posted June 6, 2014 by Debby in Uncategorized

This is a periodic discussion feature here at Snuggly Oranges about the many problems one can run into as a book nerd.

#21. When Epic Reads Steals Your Book Nerd Problems

So. Some of you might know right away what I’m here to rant about. Others may have clicked, shocked and worried, at the title. “Stealing” may have been an exaggeration, but the sentiment is not. I feel like this series of successful discussion posts has been stolen from me by Epic Reads, who have recently launched a series of quirky videos entitled, you guessed it, “Book Nerd Problems”.


I first saw them announce this a couple weeks ago, but the videos didn’t start until last week. And I thought for a while that I could let it go, but when the promo tweets for the series started coming in and people were reacting to it, enthralled and in love with it, my rage soared to new levels. I finally couldn’t take it anymore when I saw the following promo tweet:

2014-06-05 09_26_38-Twitter _ EpicReads_ Book nerds have 99 problems ...

Hm. Let’s review my original banner for my series of discussion posts and its tagline:

Yeah. That just happened.

I understood that this could be a coincidence..

Seriously, this is not the most original title on the planet, but understand that I have been doing this since February 2013. It’s been off and on and scatterbrained because, yes, I have a real life and these posts take time, but more than being there first with this title, this is a point of pride of my blog. This is, aside from certain hugely snarky reviews, probably the biggest reason why people started following my blog. These posts put me on the map for a lot of people. Of all my posts, they get the most comments, pageviews, and referrals from other blogs.

So yeah, it really HURT to see this term that I’ve been championing for over a year suddenly be taken and no longer be “mine” – for the extent that it was (obviously I do not own a copyright on it). Immediately my heart sank, imagining all the people who would find my future discussion posts (if I could even get the urge to write them anymore after this – not only does it feel like my originality is shot, but also now there’s this sense of having “competition”, needing to race to get to a new topic first, and then presenting the most original/funny content) and then would comment, “Ew, why did you steal this from Epic Reads?” “Gosh, what a rip off.”


So, I contacted Epic Reads privately to voice my concerns. Here is their non-response.

Hi Debby,

I’m so happy to hear you’re a fan of Epic Reads!
I am decidedly not. I said, “I greatly respect everything that you do (and as a marketer, see the sense in all your projects).” This does not a fan make, nor will I support them anymore after this.

We weren’t familiar with your blog before your email today so it’s totally a coincidence when it comes to the Book Nerd Problems name, but it’s great to hear you’re one of the many also contributing to the “problems” we face as book lovers.
Can you hear the condescension? Because I sure can. (Also: they follow me on Twitter, and have been following me since before I even started the discussion series.)

As for your concern about your readers thinking you borrowed the idea from us, I highly doubt anyone will. Your readers have been with you for a long time now and know when you started it and new readers will easily be able to see that you’ve been doing this for some time thanks to the way you’ve titled those posts. You’re up to 20! Very impressive.
Right. Right. Because this is not at all a David vs Goliath situation. You’re not at all going to overshadow me or anything. Yeah, my posts are numbered, so for this post, people might understand – I was here first. What about in 6 months from now? What about in a year from now?!

Thanks again for being a fan and for contributing to the awesomeness that is the YA book community.
Thanks for capitalizing on my idea and not even saying sorry once. Also for ignoring my point about Googling the feature name beforehand. Thanks for in the future stealing my Google search rankings – oh wait, you just did already, overnight. That’s just freaking awesome. Even for accidental plagiarism, you could apologize, sound like you care for a second, make genuine comments, or ANYTHING.

I am done with Epic Reads.

More than accidentally stealing this feature name, this disingenuous response makes me absolutely and completely done with Epic Reads. I still see the business sense in what they’re doing – honestly, as a marketer hoping to work in publishing with BIG IDEAS, I totally get it. But as a reader and a blogger, I don’t want to be confronted with this behavior anymore. They were fun at first, as they seemed to genuinely just want to foster a love of reading, but after almost two years, it’s marketing at its finest and most blatant.

I have unfollowed all of their social media channels. I have muted their hashtags “#TeaTime”, “#ARCParty”, “#BookCheer”, etc. (though I did that for a long time already because dear god do I not need the flood of spammy Tweets Wednesday nights). The thing is, watching this for so long, it starts to lose its meaning. You can only rave about and profess undying love for so many books before it becomes old and obvious.

The point of this post:

Obviously I needed to vent my frustration here a little bit. Also, I needed to set the record straight. In case of comments on future posts where people do insinuate that I stole this from Epic Reads, I will be directing you to this post instead. The thing that frustrates me is that Epic Reads profits so much from all that we bloggers contribute to the YA book community. But when something like this happens, they just easily get to hide behind their corporate entity and brush off us “small time bloggers” – without even the fakest of fake apologies.

You know what would happen if it was a blogger doing this? “Plagiarism!” would be called out the wazoo – even if it was also accidental. And most bloggers? They would own up, at least give credit or recognition, probably apologize for confusion, if not change the name itself. Yet another reason why bloggers are my people – and not corporate entities.

Let me make it as clear as day:
  • I am not affiliated with Epic Reads.
  • I am not a fan of Epic Reads.
  • I do not watch their videos.
  • My ideas are entirely my own, and do not try to tell me otherwise.
  • You are free to keep following them if you wish – boycotting them is my own, personal decision.

Lessons of the Day

If you are about to start a new feature, do a Google search for your desired feature name. Honestly, had Epic Reads done this, they would have found my blog. To be fair, there are other things that pop up in a similar trend, most created after my series, – a blog post by Barnes & Noble, Epic Reads’s own previous Buzzfeed article, random Pinterest pages, a Tumblr blog “Problems of a Book Nerd” – but that doesn’t bother me too much as a FEATURE would. Would finding my blog have stopped them? I doubt it, because they’re a big corporate entity who can do whatever they want, but it would have been respectful if they tried to search at least once. They could have chosen any other name on the planet, or checked with me first, or given me any kind of recognition or acknowledgement. I put that in my email to them as well and it was ignored.

(Oh, oh, but apparently Harper is just co-opting whatever they please online and on social media nowadays, without googling to see if it already exists.)

And if your plagiarism truly was an accident and you had the same idea organically, apologize. It can be the fakest of fake apologies and you don’t have to mean it for a second, but it’s just generally the NICE thing to do. You may think I’m being overly dramatic, but please understand that my biggest issue here is in this frustratingly disingenuous response that clearly shows me they don’t even care at all.

And with that..




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40 responses to “Book Nerd Problems #21: When Epic Reads Steals Your Book Nerd Problems

  1. Oh my gosh, thank you for this post-I just posted a new feature this morning, with a name I threw together, but I just did a google search and several other bloggers use the same name for features. I just changed my feature name-whew, crisis averted 🙂

    I don’t have a clue what Epic Reads is (I’m so out of the loop over here, ugh lol). But, their response was definitely irksome. So sorry you’re having to deal with this!

    • Ha, you’re welcome! I’m sure it’s something not a lot of bloggers think about beforehand. I will also be taking more care in naming features in the future, because now I know how horrible this can feel.

      Thanks <3

  2. Like I normally try not to swear but fuck. Like even I’m finding this super annoying. I don’t even know what to say because it really really sucks shit. Even if we will always be with you, it’s just really horrible when something you’ve worked on for so long is just not yours anymore.

    • Yeah, my fear is that in the future, because of their size and influence, they will inadvertently start owning the term “Book Nerd Problems”. Like, if people hear it, the first thing they think of will be Epic Reads. (Makes sense that that would be their goal anyway, as that’s usually part of the marketing strategy.) So I do fear that on future discussion posts there will be people giving me grief. *sigh* but also I don’t really care. I’ve now told my story, and I was doing this before them. I just wish they would have handled their response more tactfully.

  3. It is usually always a question of big guy against the small guy… I’m sorry to hear your (valid) concerns were dismissed and unaddressed in their response.
    Us bloggers always try to create unique content for our blogs, be it the way we review, since we all have our unique voices, or unique features, as this one of yours was. But we cannot really do anything when it comes to the big firms or corporations, unfortunately.

    • Exactly. I don’t expect them to change their minds or do anything – I didn’t even really expect that when I emailed them. What I kind of did expect was a more PR-based respectful and tactful response, instead of the condescension I got. 🙁 Bad for their branding, but I couldn’t keep that quiet.

  4. The problem with business run fan blogs or whatever, is that after a while they get an “Ego” and therefore think “highly” of themselves, and over all…obnoxious. I follow EpicReads but I’ve recently become pissed off with their competitions and the fact NONE of them are international. For god’s sake, it isn’t hard to do an international comp if you’re connected with a book publisher! Anyway, I digress. I completely understand your point – blatantly taking another person’s idea, whether consciously or not, is wrong. And they really should have apologised for the mistake, or in some way credited your blog for it. That email they sent you back sounds way waaay patronising and it just goes to show that these people need to let the air out of their ears before they fly off into outerspace. Ya feel me? lol *hugs*

    • Actually it’s not super easy for companies/publishers to do international giveaways.

      1. It’s the same reason they can’t give review copies internationally (sometimes). There are rights/territory issues.

      2. There are A TON of legal things behind doing a giveaway. It’s bad enough to just do it in the United States, but the every country has different laws and regulations, so doing an international giveaway would require legal fees to research all of the laws and ensure the giveaway complies with them. See:

  5. It sucks that it had to come to this but I think you did a fantastic job of writing up your side of the story. It’s clear that they had to of come across your discussion posts at one time or another and their response is truly appalling. I know it had to have been hard writing this up but it had to be said.

    • Thank you Bonnie! I dunno if they had seen my blog or not, but even if they hadn’t, it’s kind of sad that they didn’t even do a Google search to see what’s out there. Not that they were obligated to do that, but being so close to bloggers, it would have been respectful. The response… I just can’t read it again. Every time I do, I just have a flash of rage. So condescending. 🙁

  6. As soon as I saw their tweets I was like, “Debby does this!”, and although even the banner seemed suspiciously similar to yours (orange+white combo), I didn’t think too much of it because like you said, I’ve seen some variation of the name in many places.

    But if they’re making it a feature, and really, judging by the fact that they obviously knew about you beforehand (hello, I’m sure Epic Reads doesn’t follow just any random person), then it’s a real shame. The least they could’ve done was apologise :/

    • Anonymous

      Well for one, I can tell you that EpicReads doesn’t even follow all of the HarperTeen authors so…

    • Aww, thanks Fahima. Yeah, they follow me on Twitter, but I don’t know how closely they actually read their feed – or if they even do at all. So they might not even have consciously noticed me. It is a possibility.

      That’s how I feel too. If this had happened to me – someone sent me the email I sent them – I would at least have said, “Oh I’m so sorry, we didn’t know you were doing this.” Instead they tell me I’m one of the many contributors to the community. =/ Wow.

  7. Thank you for sharing this Debby. Anyone that has had their hard work “borrowed” knows it is gut wrenching and discouraging. I commend you for speaking out and being brave to post this. I am shocked by how similar their feature is to yours. The tag line and color are just…*shakes head* I am so sorry this happened to you. Their response is shameful. I’m happy you brought this to my attention.

    • Ha, yeah, people started mentioning the colors of their banner and.. wow. That part didn’t even occur to me yet. *hugs* thanks for your support, also on Twitter!

  8. Well done you Debby for putting this out there! I’m so so sorry that Epic Reads have done this to you! I personally don’t watch anything they do or visit their site at all, and to be honest, I can’t even remember if I follow them, but after this, I definitely won’t be! Whenever I’ve made a feature, I’ve always checked whether there is a feature out there already, and even if it follows a similar suit from other features of other bloggers, I make sure to mention that at the start so as it can be seen that I have created something form inspiration of somebody else’s feature, not copied it. I for one love your Book Nerd Problems series and I love how honest you’ve always been, snarky and put all of your emotions, thoughts and opinions in to it, and for such a corporate business, it’s rude, cruel and plain obnoxious and unacceptable that they’ve done this. In my eyes, Epic Reads who? and I will continue to follow you, read your posts and reviews and enjoy the content you provide me with which is both honest and fair for all.

    • Exactly! If something’s already out there, you can at least give a mention to it when you start the feature (and it’s nice to check with them first if they are okay with it and feel like the format is different enough). I have this list of feature ideas that I continually add on to, but sometimes before I even start I see someone else just thought of it as well. So then I cross it off the list. It’s just so hard to have any kind of uniqueness.

      Aww, thank you so much for your support <3 I will try to keep my inspiration going.

  9. This line: “but it’s great to hear you’re one of the many also contributing to the “problems” we face as book lovers” really bothers me. You’re contributing?? Like you’re just adding on to something of theirs, even though you’ve been doing it. They do sound condescending. “You’re up to 20! Very impressive.” Ugh. That is super lame of them. I follow them on twitter but blah, I might end up unfollowing them. They definitely have to rely on book lovers and bloggers, so just brushing it off is sad.

    NOT that it makes it okay at all, but I really do think most people will understand you did it first if you point out the first one started way back and you’ve already addressed it! There might be some people that get confused, but I think most people will support you!

    • Yeah, that line bothers me the most as well. Not just the contributing part but being “one of the many”. Way to make me one of a faceless crowd that doesn’t stand out or matter. =/

      Exactly, if anything I just wanted to have this post be here for future reference. If people give me grief – I was doing this long before Epic Reads. Thanks for your support! <3

  10. I’m disgusted for you. We’ve already talked about this but I am glad you are getting support from bloggers and I am glad you decided to post this. Even if only a few people become aware of what they did, It’s worth it. And If anyone gives you any shit, I have your back. <3

    • Thanks, Kara. <3 It's so great to get support from you and the other commenters. My blog traffic was almost tripled yesterday, so I think people have noticed o_o

  11. The moment I saw that title, I thought ‘but.. wait.. that’s from Debby!’ Those parts of their respond are just maddening.. They make themselves sound so superior. I’m so sorry this is happening, but know that we all support you! It is good you posted this.

    • That’s actually their response in its entirety – I just split it up to put in my commentary. But yeah, they sound super condescending. Thanks for your support <3

  12. I didn’t know that they had this feature but now I do and wow I would’ve been beyond pissed if I was in your situation! I’ve encountered a situation kind of similar to yours before where I thought of a new idea but then I did not release that idea yet because my laptop was broken = no photoshop = no header for the feature. I waited but then one book blogger thought of the same idea as I did and she released it on her blog. At first I was like “oh noooo but but but I thought of that first” but then I just decided to let go because she didn’t know that I thought of that idea as well and I don’t want others thinking I was plagiarizing which I’d never do… so yeah my situation was different but what I’m trying to say is that I totally understand you because you have this really cool idea and you see someone else have it on their blog. >:| Anyways, something about EpicReads’ response to your email just bugs the heck out of me. It sounds so scripted and not right. UGH. Just remember YOU’RE AWESOME and you rock for thinking of the Book Nerd Problems feature. <3

    • It’s definitely tough to race to put a new feature on the map 🙁 Perhaps in your case though, if your formats are different enough and you think of a different name, you could still do it. I would recommend just emailing the person and asking them. Offer to mention in the first post of the feature that they do something similar but that you discussed it and decided it was okay. There are ways to make it work, and I think most bloggers understand how tough it can be to come up with a truly unique idea.

      Thank you so much for your support <3 I think what bothered me the most was when they made me out to be "one of many contributing to the community". Even if it's true, it has a major condescending tone, and as a company, that's never how you should sound to a consumer.

  13. Hi Debbie,

    I’ve known you for some time, and while I haven’t previously read any of your Book Nerd Problems posts, you’ve obviously put a lot of thought into your discussions and I can totally understand why you’d be upset if you thought someone was copying your original idea–and that you wouldn’t want anyone to think you were copying anyone else’s. While titles, short phrases, and ideas can’t legally be copyrighted, establishing a unique identity and voice in the blogosphere can be really difficult, and finding/keeping readers is often dependent on how you stand out within the community.

    Having said that, I am a little unclear on a couple of things, though? Epic Reads has the same title as your series, but it seems like their approach is totally different. I’ve also seen a ton of other book nerd problems-type posts, including Problems of a Book Nerd on Tumblr, 17 Problems Only Book Lovers Will Understand by HarperCollins on Buzzfeed, 19 Quirky Conundrums Only Book Lovers Understand, 99 Book Nerd Problems on BN Buzz, Book Nerd Problems Tumblr, GoodReads Book Nerds Problem thread in Avid Readers Group, and so on. Nerd Girl Problems does a lot of book things as well. A lot of them also date back to early 2013, and possibly farther back than that. These memes catch on because people like us respond to them so strongly, but as long as people put their own spin on things, it can be really hard to pinpoint appropriation.Your title is a jumping off point for the kinds of discussions a lot of bloggers do, and it’s such a catchy, fun one–but the resemblance between your series and Epic Reads’ doesn’t seem all that striking, at least to me.

    Full disclosure: I’m friendly with one of the girls who runs Epic Reads, but I haven’t talked to her about this. We also talk more about books in general than about HarperCollins business, and certainly I hold you in high esteem as well, so please know I’m looking on this from both sides.

    I’ve been in your shoes for sure, from well-documented instances of plagiarism to countless instances in which I’ve seen people adapt my language or format or ideas. Unless it’s blatantly obvious and damaging, however, I kind of have to acknowledge that there’s a certain amount of conscious/unconscious influence that we all take away when we read other people’s post. But it’s up to each blogger to decide whether the evidence is so specific to his or her own style or content that there’s a reason to get upset, so…I’m sorry that you were hurt by this. Knowing the other party, and seeing the very different styles and approaches to a similar topic that’s been widely used across the blogosphere, I can’t say that I would have drawn a parallel between the two series in question. But it’s not my judgment call, and I just hope that you’ll continue to do your discussions and that this experience won’t dampen your enthusiasm for what you do.

    • Hi Wendy,

      I am aware of the other “Book Nerd Problems” things that exist – which is why I also named them in my post. Most of them I don’t care too much about because they are one off posts. While our formats are different, the disappointment on my side comes because they are this huge entity with a huge following, and now having started this feature, almost undoubtedly when people say “Book Nerd Problems” they will think of Epic Reads. Which is why I almost do not feel comfortable posting discussions in the future. People will comment referencing them. Perhaps I’m a bit pessimistic, but I think this is pretty realistic. Due to their size and influence, they will inadvertently start “owning” the term.

      But again, as I said in my post, my issue is not so much with the name but with their response. They’re showing that they’re clearly just using the blogosphere as market research – and if they see that something works well, they can just co-opt it. Bloggers are just “one of many”. I don’t really appreciate that sentiment. Even if it is true, as a company, I would expect a better crafted, non-condescending response. A PR training would do them some good.

  14. I’m truly sorry to hear that, Debby. (Bleh, sorry for the misspelling of your name the first time! It’s late here.) Discussion posts always strike such a chord, and it’s sad that you aren’t comfortable continuing with the series.

    The thing is, as friendly or approachable as any of these community pages/people are for any of the publishers or agencies or even authors, I never forget that this is a business to them, and there is always a ton of market research that determines their content and policies, most of which the average person doesn’t even begin to think about. I come from a PR/marketing background, though, so I probably look on this stuff with both more cynicism and more appreciation for this type of grassroots marketing approach.

    But anyway, I’m sorry again. I don’t disagree that it’s hard to go up against someone/something with considerable more pull, and it’s a shame it’s come to this for your discussion series.

    • Heh, no worries. I get the name misspelling a lot. Yeah, I’m still cautiously optimistic that I’ll have the drive to keep going with the discussion posts, but I dunno. In any case by unfollowing them and muting them as much as possible on Tweetdeck, with their videos out of sight, out of mind, it might work for me.

      Yeah, I’m a marketing person myself, so from a business perspective, I seriously understand why they do what they do. Using YouTube to expand to perhaps less enthusiastic readers than the traditional blogosphere while simultaneously creating entertaining shareable content that is not a direct marketing pitch as their previous efforts have been (Tea Time) – it makes total sense to me. But since I’m also in this industry as a content creator myself, it’s really sad that the big guy can just step on the toes of the little guy and feel zero empathy. They’re in effect starting to compete with bloggers and vloggers. Honestly if they had just said, “We’re sorry, we honestly didn’t know about your blog,” I wouldn’t be feeling half as frustrated as I do now.

  15. I’m sorry to hear such a brush off reply. Why work for the better for your blog if others are just going to reap off of your ideas?

  16. I’m so sorry that this happened to you Debby! When I read through your post, and got to the part where you featured excerpts from their email back to you, I was furious! How dare they steal your idea and not even apologize for it?! And, if they were a good company/ group of people they would change the name of their feature instead of just pretending that it doesn’t matter because Epic Reads is owned by a big name in the publishing world. Ugh, I’m getting even more upset as I write this! And isn’t all content on your blog copyrighted?

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I will no longer be going on Epic Reads in honor of you because they don’t deserve my viewership if they are going to dismiss a fellow book blogger. Hmph.

    Sorry again that you have to deal with this! 🙁


  17. Gosh, this is so infuriating. Especially that I was a fan of them, but I hate condescending people so much. And not just that, but how they handled the situation (failing to pre-check the name, not apologizing, looking down on you “little blogger”, etc.) I would be so mad too if It had happened to me, but you’re so strong for daring to put this out for the world.

    Anyway, I didn’t know that HarperCollins was running this. Does it mean they’ve given permission for the employees who do the vlogs to plagiarize? That would be shameful for such a big publisher company.

    Furthermore, this sentence “Your readers have been with you for a long time now and know when you started it and new readers will easily be able to see that you’ve been doing this for some time thanks to the way you’ve titled those posts.”, doesn’t make any sense. You’ll gain new followers and they may not stumble upon this post or the issue at all. In my view, it’s like “you won’t have any new fans anyway”. Rather enraging. The whole situation is rather enraging indeed.

  18. Lucy

    I have one thing to say – that crap they fed you about not having known about your “book nerd problems” posts is just that – crap. I have a VERY hard time believing that even if they didn’t about your book nerd problems posts beforehand, that they DIDN’T do a Google search for it. There’s no way – whenever you’re going to start a sort of “series” of videos/posts like that, you do a search to see if there’s been something similar, and if so, you change the name. I don’t believe that whole “we didn’t know” face they’re putting on. I will not be watching any of their further content any more (never much enjoyed them in the first place).