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Another way to protect yourself is to watch who you give your unpublished book to.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?