Plagiarism of novels is fairly common, especially in the age of self-publishing. Authors do not have to go through the normal channels. They can simply upload files to Amazon and sell them online. Unfortunately, as much as this has opened doors for a lot of writers, it also means that people sometimes steal intellectual property in an effort to sell it for as long as they can before they get caught.
Sometimes, authors will even lie when caught. For instance, one man passed off work that was essentially another woman’s novel as his own. Someone asked him about the similarities, and he said they had collaborated on the project. That was not true. She had no knowledge of what he was doing.
Many times, when this happens, those who steal the works will make minor changes to make the text appear to be “their own.” In the example above, for instance, the man kept descriptive paragraphs of the main character, but he changed her age by two years.
Another change could be altering the names in a novel. The plot and text would largely stay exactly the same, but all of the characters would have different names to make it less clear that was the same book. This is an easy change to make with a word processing system that allows users to find and replace specific words with others. In a matter of seconds, a person could have a “new” novel.
This is still intellectual property theft, of course. Those who lose money because of this type of activity need to know about all of their legal rights.