Don’t Worry About An Agent or Editor Stealing Your Book

You probably shouldn't submit to this guy

In response to my post “Penguins,” My Blasphemous Christian Book, Finally Returns Home, I received a couple of emails from people wondering what a writer can do to protect his or her work from being stolen by a literary agent. I’m actually asked that pretty often, so I thought I’d take a moment to answer it here.

Before you send your manuscript or book proposal to an agent, be sure to first thoroughly research that agent, via the web and the usual writer’s guides. If you’re considering a legitimate agent, with a roster of real authors he or she represents, and a real track record of real books sold to real houses, don’t even worry about that agent stealing your work. A real agent can’t be bothered with that kind of nonsense. They’ve got their hands more than full dealing with all their business that’s not slimy or weird.

That said, there are creepy agents and editors out there, so it’s not totally inconceivable that what happened to me with Penguins will happen to you. (I’ve actually had two books stolen from me: in my naivety, I once sent a book proposal directly to a major publisher, who never responded—but who then did publish the exact book I sent them under the name of someone famous. Can’t get much stealier than that.) But you don’t really care if an agent or editor steals your book, because then only one of two things can happen. Either the version of  your book that they publish will be so much like your book that, once it’s published, you can sue them—or, in an attempt to hide their nefariousness, they will have so altered your book that your original work and their published rip-off of it won’t be alike enough to ever be confused—which means your book is still yours.

So don’t worry about an agent or editor stealing your book. If you’re a new writer who wants to publish a book, do your homework, learn how to write a good book proposal, find the right agent for you, and submit to that agent. Just make sure that you always keep a very clear paper trail off all correspondences between you and the agent or editor. I always do business by email, because I want that trail. But other than that, don’t worry about it. If you’re the kind of person who comes up with ideas so good people want to steal them, then you’re the kind of person who’s going to make it anyway.

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I have a mini-book available on Scribd.com for $5.99 entitled, How To Make a Living Writing.

Email: johnshore@sbcglobal.net

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A bit about book proposals
"Penguins," My "Blasphemous" Christian Book, Finally Returns Home
My New Book Has Taken Over My Head
What Book Publishers Want Most, But Can't Have
About John Shore

More and more I'm communicating with my readers through my free (and ad-free) email newsletter, which is just a simple, direct and personal email from me that I send out every three weeks or so. If you would like to receive this email in your inbox, subscribe to it on my website, or by using the subscription box about halfway down the column on the right. I wouldn't think of using your email address for anything but my e-newsletter (to which you can always unsubscribe with the click of a button). Thanks, and looking forward to communicating with you in this more intimate way.

  • 5kidswdisabilities

    I'd never worry about an agent stealing my book ideas…they are hard enough to believe with me living them, no one would ever believe a stranger's account!!!!

    Lindsey Petersen
    http://5kidswdisabilities.wordpress.com

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    5Kids: You have a really interesting looking blog (not to mention life). I'm looking forward to spending more time on it.


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