What If Someone Steals My Manuscript?


Note:  I wrote this post prior to the firestorm created by #cockygate. My post expresses empathy for newbie writers who worry about their work being stolen. I understand why they worry, but I, also, advise them not to get caught up in the paranoia. It's ironic that the day I scheduled this post to go live occurs on the heels of this issue. For those who are curious, I'm sharing two links at the bottom of this post with information concerning the #cockygate issue.
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My training career puts me in front of new people many times during a month. Sometimes, my interest in creative writing comes up. About half of the times it's mentioned, someone from the workshop approaches me later with questions about getting started or finding resources to help them.

First, I ask them what they write. About half of them haven't started. They just want to write. My advice to them is start.

Then, I invite them to our local critique group. I'd say about one in ten actually follow through on that suggestion.

Last week, a participant approached me and wanted to know more about our group. Then he confessed something I've heard before. He'd written a story but feared sending it out in case someone took it, changed a few words, and sold it as theirs.

To a dedicated writer who has struggled through the process of writing, editing, submitting, and receiving an acceptance or rejection, this sounds laughable or egotistical. But, step back and look at the world we live in. Ethics doesn't play a big factor in the day-to-day news we hear. Someone outside of the writing community looks at the questionable practices around them and assumes it carries over to agents, editors, and publishers. In fact, I once edited a book for a man who insisted I delete all files related to his manuscript after I completed the edits. I agreed. It's not like I needed them anymore, but it spoke of the paranoia in our world today.

I'm not going to say people never steal a writer's work. It probably does happen; however, I doubt it occurs often. More than likely the theft occurs after you're published rather than before. The same thing that happened with music fifteen or so years ago is happening with digital books today. Still, that's after you're published, not before.

I advised this person that our writing group has no interest in stealing another writer's work. We're focused on our own ideas and supporting each other in our writing endeavors.

This goes for reputable agents and publishers, too. They work to help writers get their writing published. That's how they make their money--publishing others' works.

So, if you're thinking about writing or already have written something, find a solid critique group online or locally and get someone else's input on your work. Odds are your manuscript isn't ready to be published, anyway, so no one will want to steal it.

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Info on #cockygate:
Thread by Courtney Milan
Romance Authors Gets Unduly Cocky Over Registered Trademark Information from a legal viewpoint




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