Writers Ask – Can They Steal My Idea? – business Proposal thoughts

Tuesday, December 11th 2018. | Proposal

Your book is equally interesting And original. Unfortunately, the part that’s original isn’t interesting and the component that’s interesting is not original. -Samuel Johnson

I GIVE A LOT of seminars on freelance writing. When I get to he a part of where I explain how to write a question or book suggestion I understand that someone in the area will raise a hand to ask this heartfelt question:”How do I know that they will not steal my idea?”

And why don’t you ask it? After all, the Writer asking the query had the idea in the first place, polished it up and refined it, and is now ready to attempt and have it published. The last thing she needs is that a rejection slip, followed by a similar post over someone else’s byline a few months afterwards.

The short answer is no, it is not Likely they will. However, there are still some important things you need to know to protect yourself and your intellectual property away from anything crooks there may be out there

A number of those questioners look Almost paralyzed function as fear of dropping the goods of the heads and hearts to unscrupulous individuals who might, in some manner, gain access to them at some stage during the publication process, largely while they’re shopping an idea around.

Such authors find themselves at a Type of Catch-22: they can’t get printed without sending out their ideas for consideration; however if they send out them they think that they could risk losing them. So what’s the dope? Do thoughts get stolen in the writing trade? Seldom? Frequently? If that’s the case, how do you protect yourself from this literary thievery?

I have been a magazine editor and
Freelance writer for over 35 years. During this time, I’ve had no personal experience with purloined thoughts, none of my buddies in the industry has ever complained to me of purloined thoughts, and no writer submitting queries to my magazines has ever complained that her or his thought has been stolen.

You Can’t Prevent It

Moreover, what option have you got? If you’re a farmer, you have got to sow your seed, even though the birds might peck up one or even two of these there or here. Maintain the seed from the barn and you do really protect them from the vagaries of the natural world, but you also keep them from germinating and bearing fruit.

If you want to be a writer, you have Got to send your ideas out, or they simply rot in your thoughts like the fearful farmer’s unsown seed rot in the barn. However, I imagine the writing trade has as many dishonest persons per capita as exist in almost any other profession, so maybe I was just lucky. At any rate, my assertion that I experienced this type of editorial malfeasance is no guarantee it is not going on.

Writers enjoy much more protection From present-day copyright laws than they ever enjoyed before. Until the late 19th century no one’s novels, let alone thoughts, were protected. Unauthorized editions of popular works could be and were published around the world, with no benefits at all going to the writer. As long as the writing business consisted entirely of print books, the issue has been pretty much solved. But now with the huge, still untamed, lands of digital publishing before us it is a very unwise writer who does not understand what the real risks are and how to safeguard himself

So let’s map out the territory and see where we stand.

Suggestions and Words

Here is the good news: it does not really matter if someone steals your idea. They can’t slip your style. Ideas are not all that significant in themselves. And though an idea could be ripped off, its really not very likely in the writing trade. The great French poet Stephanie Malarkey was out walking one day with a younger writer. “Monsieur Malarkey,” the young man asked. “Where do you get your ideas for poems?”

“Ah, but you do not make poems With ideas,” Malarkey responded. “You make them .”

It is the rhythm, the pictures, the Sounds of the words – the way that they look on the page – that makes a poem. The idea is secondary, except it should be one of interest to many readers. Here is an idea:”Don’t give all of your worldly goods for your kids. They might not love you as much as you love them.” The notion is dull, flat. So go right ahead and slip it and determine what you can do with it.

How many books have been predicated on This thought:”A young man and a woman fall in love but the normal course of their fire is obstructed and catastrophe ensues.” The idea is the same, however the novels couldn’t be more distinct.

This is another idea, a very Modern one, that of the”gratuitous act.” A individual commits an act of murder maybe not for any rational motive but simply as it can be carried out. That is a really clear and simple idea, but at the hands of different writers it finds very different and complicated expression: Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment, Andre Gide in The Caves of the Vatican, and Truman Copote in his”non-fiction novel” In Cold Blood. It is hard to picture three more different books, but the exact same basic notion informs them all.

Thoughts and Editors

In the publishing industry we see In fact, it can be maintained that there are a limited number of thoughts on the planet in the most elementary level: love, hate, greed, and ambition. Then there are the subcategories: pure love, erotic love, selfless love; hate of oneself, hatred of a single other; hatred of a race; greed for money, for property, for electricity; ambition to reach political power, worldly standing, epic prestige; sensual bliss.

That’s barely a dozen thoughts, and it Editors watch them over and over again. No, thoughts aren’t tempting in their own. Most editors got where they are because their own heads are rather brimming over with ideas., and also for most writers the dilemma isn’t a lack of thoughts by the opportunity to create all of them.

What editors are looking for are just two Matters; a fresh slant on the identical basic truths of human experience which have consistently fascinated readers; and a strong, original fashion capable of dressing those ideas in words that will give freshness and creativity for their saying. Nobody has time or want to steal ideas. Writers are what’s infrequent, and should you approach an editor with a fresh slant at a query letter that convinces him that you can write well enough to bring your idea to life, you could not drive him off with a baseball bat. It is you, not your idea, that interests him, because you exhibit that rare combination of creativity and talent that he is trying to find.

Simultaneous Invention

Simultaneous creation – wherein two People, not in touch with one another give birth to the exact same idea or clusters of ideas – is not a new phenomenon. Writers do it all of the time. An idea is only in the air, and many freelancers, independently of one another, jump on it and try to market it. It is entirely possible that this is actually the origin of several”stolen idea” stories. An editor has several variations of the same item on his desk. He selects one and rejects the other. Several months after the rejected writer sees an article on a theme similar to that of his piece from the magazine in question. But he’s wrong and suffering from a bad case of simultaneous creation.

The standard bar against the theft Of intellectual correctly is the global copyright convention, based on which the vast majority of literate and literary states worldwide join in realizing the sole right of authors (unless voluntarily signed to other people by the author) to delight in the ownership and benefits of their literary works.

Copyright protection in the United States was governed by the copyright act of 1909, which granted protection to the author for a span of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. In the event that the copyright Wasn’t renewed, all protection died, and the job in question passed to the pubic domain

This law was revised in 1978. Under The new law, copyright protection exists for the author’s lifetime, plus 50 decades. Bringing the USA into line with the copyright legislation of England and various other nations. What’s more, copyright security is supposed to exist in the moment that a work, in whole or in part, is present in concrete form: handwritten, typed, or output by a computer. Technically, copyright registration is not necessary, however in the lack of a certification of copyright issued from the copyright division of the Library of Congress one’s rights under regulations are a lot more challenging to assert – possibly even impossible.

A certificate of copyright is easy to obtain. One has just to ship two copies of the literary product, a copyright application, and a check for (as of this writing) $40 into the Office of Copyrights at the Library of Congress. It is possible to get details and download application forms online in the Library of Congress web site.

What Copyright Doesn’t Cover

Although a certificate of copyright Is the most basic and effective protection available to get a literary work, it doesn’t cover some matters. It doesn’t, for example, pay the title of your job, nor does it prevent persons from quoting a paragraph or 2 (the specific amount is ill-defined) under the”fair use” doctrine. Thus a school student preparing a term paper on Hamlet can, without fear of copyright breach, quotation a hundred or so words from a different critic’s study of the exact same play. Anyone who wishes to quote more extensively than that might need to write to the holder of the copyright to ask permission to do this and pay whatever fee, if any, could be asked.

However, if copyright law doesn’t Protect a name, there may be others who do so in some, well-defined cases. Another person may not legally appropriate your name (though you would need to go to court to stop it) if your title is part and parcel of a larger marketing presence.

Such titles are said to be the Equal of new names. A well-known example today is that the”Idiot’s Guide to…” which are observed in most of the bookstores. The title of this set of reference guides for writers Small Blue Sourcebooks! For Writers and Self-Publishers(TM) is yet another. Notice that I include the little”(TM)” after Sourcebooks to warn others that this is a”branded” series.

A work whose copyright has expired Or that intentionally created without copyright protections (as are most government publications, booklets and pamphlets, for example ) are thought to be in the”public domain,” and could possibly be used by anybody at anytime without any consent or punishment.

Things You CAN Worry About

If out-and-out thought thieving is an Unlikely event in the publishing world, this doesn’t mean that thieves and evil-doers are not lurking there as everywhere. There are other kinds of literary skullduggery that are a lot more probable and that you be prepared to protect yourself against. Expression of surprised innocence. Or, should you decide that it is in your best interests to work together, choose to do so of your own volition, not by default.

The Rights Pirates

Rights pirates, like unscrupulous Politicians ambulance-chasing lawyers may dress well and seem to be pillars of the literary community. They earn their living not by stealing your idea but by poaching in your right to gain by that idea in its written form. This works in various ways:

You are paid for the initial Book or”first serial rights” but receive nothing from later applications of you perform when the American Association of Journalists and Authors, the two top advocates for freelance authors, are now working to bring fair compensation to the writer in these types of cases. I will provide some examples below.

Here’s a minor instance of electronic Rights grabbing in my experience. It wasn’t important to me personally, because I wrote the bit primarily for PR purposes and to get visibility for my publishing business in the community to that I’d just moved.

In April I set up my office in Savannah, Georgia, with relocated from Fort Lauder dale. I contacted the editor of a tabloid supplement to the Savannah Morning News called Coastal Senior and suggested an article,”How to Write (and Publish) a Living Family History.” The editor accepted the guide, told me just how much he’d pay. I composed the piece and it had been duly published.

A week after the editor who had The contract, I discovered, given to the newspaper not only first serial rights, but all other rights, including digital rights, web rights, and also the right to use and distribute my piece by any other means now in existence or which may one day develop into existence. Talk about a broad source of rights! The same thing will occur to you, when you’re don’t take good care to read the small print. Most of us achieve some kind of freelance profitability by recycling articles, by selling them more than once to non-competing markets or by recycling them afterwards in books. A contract like the one my newspaper sent me makes such multiple uses technically prohibited

Fortunately this piece, for me, was a throwaway. I wrote it to get some publicity and name recognition also did not intend to promote it elsewhere. Nevertheless, I doubt that I would have signed the agreement giving up all rights had I ever seen it before book.

Technically printing on demand is Basically a way of production, available to anybody who chooses to utilize this, and most printers that offer print on demand providers have nothing to do with the actual business of publishing in any way. On the other hand, the technology has been adopted by a range of businesses which promote themselves as”POD publishers.” These include such firms as I Universe, 1st Books, a couple of the biggest and best known.

As a Case of POD for a publishing Company, let us look at a company that I will call”Star bound Books.” This is a real company, and the facts below are presented in their brochures. The name, however, is untrue. Star bound Books invites authors to send in their books for publication. Star bound Books promises to”release” these novels, formatting the inside and designing a cover for a reasonable price, using standard templates. It is not difficult to get printed at Star bound. In case you’ve written a novel that doesn’t transgress the laws of libel or decency, it is likely to be accepted by Star bound.

Star bound becomes the writer of Individuals who send in a manuscript. It assigns an ISBN into the work printed and also has a contract with writer specifying royalties to be paid on retail revenue and income sharing on sales of subsidiary rights-if any retail sales or rights sales do in fact occur. Star bound Books claims to make the writer’s book”available” in bookstores and other outlets. Note that this does not follow that the books will really on the plate. It simply means that the writer’s book will be recorded in the Books-in-Print database, and so readily available for special order each time a client asks for such an arrangement.

A POD publisher offers contracts Very unfavorable to the author who has paid upfront to get his book published, siphoning off earnings from rights earnings that it does little or nothing to earn.

Here’s the way it typically works. A writer, frustrated by her or his inability find a publisher for a manuscript, sees and advertising for a Web-based publisher who offers to publish any publication, in eBook or print formats, for what seems to be a small fee, generally a few hundred bucks. The writer further offers to pay the writer a royalty of twenty to forty percent on books marketed and to sell books to the author himself at a discount of up to fifty percent off the retail price. The publisher also offers to pay the writer a hefty percentage of any cash received through the sale of subsidiary rights.

So what is wrong with this deal? Here Are only a couple of ways that this agreement can go wrong to the unwary author:

1. The publisher doesn’t have editing, Therefore the published books suffers greatly-often fatally-from the absence of expert editorial input.

2. The publisher uses a template Design format into which he forces many distinct types of publication. The one chosen for your publication may not be at all appropriate. Reviewers who pick up an ill-designed book usually put it down just as quickly.

3. The publisher does nothing in Any Way To advertise the writers book. The fact is explicit at the presentations made by leading POD. .

4. The author’s book Isn’t likely To be assessed in an substantial and important review media. The main reason is that, because the POD publishers will bring out virtually any author, no matter how bad or good he can be, is willing to pay for, many review sources routinely pass them as not worthy of their infrequent editorial period.

5. Lots of POD publishers will Request the writer sign away far more of his rights which is called for. They do this so that, in the rare case that one of the titles should develop into a hot seller-in despite the fact that they have done nothing to make it do so-they, as writer, will stand to take a substantial portion of any gains made without incurring any risks at all.

6. The POD publisher provides it is Services in rock-bottom rates-often as little as a couple hundred dollars to start with. However, in case you need and custom design characteristics, proofreading, editing, or individual cover design this base cost rises very quickly

So if Star bound’s novels are unlikely To sell, how does the company make money. Straightforward. ? If this book has 200 pages, printing costs, at the very most, $3.90 (and this really is actually the retail rate) for printing. Thus Star bound Books nets a profit of $8.07 on books sold to its own authors. Let’s say, further, that Star bound Books has 1000 authors each month, each of whom requests 25 copies of his or her book for friends, relatives, and local reviewers, and then the earnings is substantial. This amount multiplied by $8.07 equals $201, 750. This produces an yearly income of $2,421,000. When you consider that Star bound Books, since it’s a POD publisher, has no investment in stock, no need for warehousing or fulfillment solutions, and that the whole enterprise, once setup, can perform business almost entirely in the thin air of hyperspace, the net gain is considerable.

Star bound does not have to market your Books to anybody else to earn money. They sell a lot of them to you to do that.

Getting Out of It

Some of the problems on its web site:”With online publications,” the NU states,” the methods of promotion and distribution are being reinvented, so writers should take nothing for granted. They should insist on contract provisions that detail, to the extent possible, the ways in which the online publisher is going to make prospective readers aware of the occurrence of the work (online promotion, print advertising, etc.) as well as the ways in which they are supplied access (by e-mail only, by World Wide Web, or whatever). The length of the grant of rights may be tied to certain obligations by publishers with respect to accessibility and promotional budgets.

Authors may also want to consider a Provision saying that after the publisher has exhausted its agreed-on promotional budget, a portion of the future royalties in the job be used for promotion, which could help expand therein-print’ life of the job. Print book contracts generally provide for the conclusion of this grant of rights in the event the publisher does one of several things: fails to publish the publication within a reasonable period of time, fails to pay royalties, or permits the job to go out of print. All these provisions should be adopted in online book contracts.” For more on this I refer you directly to the web site of the Writer’s Union.

Data Bases

You have written an Guide and Gotten it published. A so-called digital”data base” picks up it and stores it, along with thousands of other posts, in its files. When a customer calls the information base company and requests all data on a given topic, the information base’s computers spew out all relevant info, including anything you might have written and published on the subject and published in an indexed magazine or paper. You don’t receive a cent in compensation, even though the publication where your article was initially published may have”sold” the best to use your article to the data base in the first location.

The National Writer’s Union accounts That there are more than 100 NU members protesting the sale of their work at high prices to users without a dime being paid to writers. Of the many databases engaged in this practice, we’ve concentrated our efforts on one of the largest, Information Access Company (AC), to play fair. (AC operates full-text databases on CompuServe, Dow Jones News Retrieval, along with other websites.) While we hope that the suit and the protests will demonstrate principles of fairness and justice in electronic publishing, and the NU is also interested in finding practical solutions to issues. Therefore, in accord with the principles put forth in this document, we have created the Publication Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), a collective-licensing agency motivated by the music industry’s ASAP. PRC has set a transaction-based authors’ electronic-rights advertising and royalty collection system using the Uncover Company. Uncover functions the world’s largest magazine and journal article database, and can be an affiliate of Knight-Bidder, Inc.”


A Last way a dishonest writer Can conduct some intellectual picking of your intellectual pockets is by plagiarizing your work. The plagiarist does not just steal you ideas. He steals your words as well. Plagiarism is not prevalent in professional writing and industrial publishing because it is really easy to spot and really simple to prove. In all but a few rare instances plagiarism is little more than a hassle.

School and college students confronted with a word paper deadline on a topic they know absolutely nothing about. For some, the rich resources of the World Wide Web have made this kind of”borrowing” too tempting to resist. It’s now starting to be controlled by special computer programs designed to detect plagiarized texts. Although reprehensible, this kind of copying is not likely to harm anybody financially.

More serious consequences may occur After the plagiarism is high degree and extensive. In the last year, two renowned historians, Doris Earns and Stephen Ambrose, have been discovered to have used substances in their job lifted from other authors without attribution or notice. Neither of those authors necessary to lift text written by others. In my opinion the misstep may from other sources. Most successful scholars and writers of extensive, broadly-sweeping narratives routinely employ research assistants to do leg work for them and collect relevant references and notes.

A number of these notes more than likely Found their way into the final text because the attribution was omitted in the research assistant degree. Nobody will assert that the writers whose work was stolen were really harmed from the theft. Those most offended by the revelations were Kern and Ambrose themselves, who had been injured where it hurt most: in their reputations.

More extensive and not as excusable.

H. G. Wells, the British author of These mega-hits as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man, printed, in 1920 a book of non-fiction, The Outline of History. I remember reading it through my college years back in the 1950’s. I wondered how it was possible for one person to know a lot.

As it was, it was not He plagiarized a good portion of his novel from a Canadian writer, Florence Seeks, whose own outline of background he’d read in manuscript form. (New York, Four Walls, Eight Windows, 2002).

Why a Union?

I have suggested that readers visit The web site of the National Writer’s Union, figure out what they’re up to, and consider joining. I suggest this because there’s power in numbers. Individually, writers have little prospect of winning a legal battle with a big, strong and above all, well-financed company or corporation. In the court system, the man with the most money almost always wins. That is why serious writers should ban together and, in effect, pool their resources to make legal precedents which will help shield them from the type of literary piracy the data base companies are currently practicing and from the occasional depredations of unscrupulous writers like H.G. Wells.

THOMAS A. WILLIAMS, PHD, is one of The country’s leading authorities on the publishing, self-publishing, and Promotion of books. Along with his job as editing and writing mentor, he Is expert in book design and typography.