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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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • 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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