Monday, July 13, 2009

Manuscript Theft Part 1

Is manuscript theft really a problem? I’d say for the most part we don’t have to worry about our entire manuscript getting stolen. It happens, but rarely. Still, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect yourself as much as possible.

Keep copies of your story. This means all versions and every change. That way, if you ever have to go to court to prove the story was yours, you’ll have something concrete to show. Some people go as far as mailing a copy of their finished manuscript to themselves. This only works if you don’t open the package once you receive it because the idea is to have the parcel inspected in court. Once it’s been determined the envelope or box hasn’t been tampered with, it will then be opened before the judge. At that point, you’ll prove that particular version of the story was written before the postal date.

Some writers have their work copyrighted, but that gets complicated. Your story automatically becomes copyrighted the moment you write it and then the publisher files for a copyright on your work once they buy it (or so I’ve been told). Other writers have also said paying to have your book copyrighted is a waste of time and money since there are other ways (as mentioned above) to prove you’ve written the work. Also, some say this comes across as amateurish to agents and editors.

Another way to protect yourself is to watch who you give your unpublished book to. If you’re letting the whole town read it, there’s a possibility someone might decide to take advantage of the situation and use the work as his own. One tricky thing about this is he’ll have to have some knowledge of the publishing industry so he knows to query agents or publishers. He wouldn’t get very far by simply sending the whole manuscript to an agent without a request for a full.

Come back tomorrow for part 2.

Have you been or are you now nervous of this happening to you?

12 comments:

  1. I regularly e-mail my MS to a hotmail account, so I can access it in the event of a computer crash. The e-mails are dated so I think they would hold up as evidence should I ever need proof. I'm not positive though.

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  2. I have started dating my pages as I write, then I scan them onto computer, the dates are filed then. If I do it on computer, I download to a disc with dates. Interesting article.

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  3. I've always been nervous of this. I've considered taking my book trailers down. Even taking down the titles of my books, but that would be impossible. I talk about them so much in posts and comments there's now way to get rid of them now! I'm always paranoid. Especially after I sent my manuscript out to so many people. But I really do trust all of them. Still, the thought has crossed my mind a lot.

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  4. I really haven't worried about this yet. I do keep copies for backup purposes but nothing else. Hopefully, no one would want my work:)

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  5. Great post. And always a very good idea to know and trust people before you let them read your work. :D

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  6. Way to stoke the paranoia flame! LOL

    Yes, this has definitely crossed my mind.

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  7. I think I've been more concerned about the stealing of ideas than the actual story. I've only let a very few people handle the story, people I trust.

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  8. Hmmm...very interesting. Before I knew anything about publishing and copyrite laws - I used to worry about my ms getting stolen. It was three years ago, right after I finished my very first novel. But now I've gone to the opposite extreme...maybe I let too many people read my unpublished stories... A good thing to keep in mind. Safety never hurt anyone. :)

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  9. I would have to say I don't know enough to be scared about it. I've shared my manuscript with only 2 people beside my husband and daughter, so I really don't think much of it.

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  10. The "poor man's copyright" is nice to have just in case, and is cheap. The Post Office stamp establishes when you had it completed/mailed to yourself. Plus, it's cheap. :)

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  11. Thanks for your comments. I always love to hear from you.

    Lynnette Labelle

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