My fellow human beings often confuse me. If you know me in any capacity, whether personal or professional, then this is hardly news. Every so often though, someone I cross paths with in my travels will do something that no one I keep company with seems to understand.
This week, I've spent a decent-sized chunk of my time cleaning house in regards to my web presence, especially in regards to written content out there with my name on it. I've been having a major problem with a former client who -- for reasons I sincerely do not understand -- apparently started posting ghostwritten content I wrote for him a long time ago under my own name instead of posting under his own or using a proper pseudonym.
Why he did that in the first place, I honestly don't know. Most clients who hire a ghostwriter do so expressly for the privilege of taking credit for writing that is of considerably better quality than anything they could produce themselves. They don't often give the writer a byline because that defeats the purpose. Why this client didn't stick to our original agreement regarding my hire as a ghostwriter, I may never understand, but he didn't, nor did he bother to ask my permission to use my identity like that before apparently deciding it was A-OK that he do so.
Wait for it though, it gets worse. For reasons I really don't understand, this person has been continuing to post content under my name all over the web even though we no longer work together and haven't for a long time. However, the additional content in question is naturally not even written by me. Some of it is obviously spun content that some cheap abortion of a software program shat out onto a computer screen at some point in the past. The rest is just plain bad writing that seems like it was produced by cheap writers from third-world countries who are far from fluent in the English language.
The last thing I need is for potential clients or publishers interested in my work to Google me and think those are actual examples of my writing... yet there they are anyway, just as plain and day. It's embarrassing and considering the reason why it's happening, it's also completely unacceptable.
Obviously, I am livid about this whole thing -- especially about the fact that this has been an ongoing problem that has escalated over time. For one thing, I am very picky about what I will allow my name to be attached to. Clearly, anything I write and publish to the web for personal purposes on one of my own sites I will want credit for. Bylines in regards to creative writing or poetry of mine published elsewhere are imperative. I also far prefer to have a byline if I'm writing an article or a review that is actually reflective of my own unique views and opinions.
Ghostwriting is a different animal though. If I agree to ghostwrite content for a client -- especially any sort of advertising material -- I'm basically agreeing to assist them by simulating their voice in a way they can't do for themselves. If I help them produce a product review or some copywriting material that endorses their website or company based on information they provide, I don't want my name attached to the work. I may have written it, but those really aren't my words. They certainly aren't my opinions or recommendations; they are those of the client.
Forget the fact that he eventually started posting writing that had nothing to do with me whatsoever. By attaching my name to even the material I wrote without my permission, he basically impersonated me and told what potentially amounts to the whole world that I use and endorse his products. Yeah... how about no! Contrary to popular belief, writers aren't complete byline whores. We don't throw our hands up with glee when we see our names in print without any regard for the circumstances. These are our names. We care how they're being used and what's being done with them.
I'm not famous. I'm not well-known. I am honestly not even sure what this client thought he was going to gain from using my identity like that. He was in the habit of complaining constantly about my rates and trying to come up with reasons why he felt I should be giving him discounts or special treatment though. Maybe he planned on pointing out the fact that he was oh so generously giving me OMG FREE BYLINEZ as yet another "don't you think I deserve a discount" campaign at some point. Maybe he was just too lazy to make up a damn pseudonym. I honestly have no idea... and I'm not really sure it matters. It was a shady thing to do either way.
Anyway, a week or two back, I decided enough was enough and contacted him insisting that he either remove my name from the accounts he was using to post his advertising and link-building material or else delete them. I also told him it should go without saying that I don't want to see any more of this "writing" appearing with my name on it in the future either.
Time went by and I never even received a response from this person, let alone an apology or anything. However, I did notice that many of the accounts and articles were either removed or changed just as I'd insisted on when I went to check on my own before e-mailing him again about the issue. There were still quite a few older postings that hadn't been touched though, so I spent the better part of a recent afternoon reporting the ones that remained for copyright infringement, abuse, and fraud.
Honestly, he's lucky I didn't directly contact the company that he works for to complain to his boss about how he's handling their marketing and link-building campaign! If I see any more fake Shannon Hilson articles going up in the future, I will though. I'm that pissed off.
I'm not enough of a jerk to actually name this company or anything so that this blog post comes up in Google searches under their name despite the fact that they potentially spoiled my professional reputation the same way. However, I will assure you that anything you happen to see on the web that appears to be written by me, but has anything to do with aluminum briefcases or related products is not an actual reflection of any of my personal opinions or views.
Regardless of what it looks like otherwise, I'm certainly not encouraging you to go out and buy briefcases from the company in question in any way whatsoever... at all. Why the hell would I after their marketing director decided to pull something like this on me? For the record, I do not use aluminum briefcases myself for any purpose and I certainly don't use or care about these particular ones.