On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to Protect Your Work from Theft

Many writers seeking publication worry that an enterprising agent or publishing assistant may steal their work. To be sure this is a wrenching situation to imagine. With the growth of the internet and electronic files, if someone's objective is to steal your words it is laughably easy.

If you are currently sending out submissions and the image of your book being stolen keeps you up at night, I recommend that you immediately print out a hard copy of your manuscript and snail-mail it to yourself. Don't open the sealed envelope. In a court of law the postmark will prove beyond a doubt that you are the originator of this body of work.

Now that you feel better, I'd like to tell you why you shouldn't worry about manuscript theft.

Point One is that the moment your ideas are translated into a tangible format, they are automatically copyrighted to you. You don't have to worry about hiring a lawyer or finding a registration service. Any court of law recognizes this copy write.

Point Two, and this is most certainly true, your manuscript is not valuable enough to steal. The process of getting a newbie manuscript accepted by a publisher, then editing, packaging, and marketing it, is mountainous no matter how good the book is. If one manuscript doesn't work, there are plenty more available. Trust me, no one wants the aggravation.

I remember I used to be semi-paranoid about people reading my manuscripts -- especially writers who knew how to submit manuscripts, and those who might recognize what gold was before their eyes. I found on the rebound that these same writers gave priceless feedback that honed my writing skills.

I have grown to recognize that nothing I write, or ever will write, is deathless prose. There are few people who will produce this level of work. My advice to those who worry about theft, is relax.

Even with my published works, I have cheerfully given away thousands of books, and feel that I'm ahead in the bargain. My best thought is that I may have helped people, or at least challenged them. The next thought is that my name has become better known, and this helps build a good reputation for further works.

John Kremer, a noted self-publisher, often poses this tongue-in-cheek question: should you err on the side of theft or obscurity? 

Why are you writing? Is it to make money? Or to get your words out there? I recommend that you let go your words, let them fly and touch people. Ideas change people; give your words a chance to reach others.

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