Thursday, December 20, 2007

Writer's Question on Copyrighting Novels

A common question among new writers is fear that someone will steal their work or that if they don't copyright there material, they might lose the rights to it.

This question came from a writer in England, and I thought it might be something others have been concerned about too.

Question from Terry: I sent query letters to agents, and one of them has responded and wants a proposal and samples of the book. Both my Dad and my husband are concerned that an agent might "steal" my idea if I don't copyright my work before I mail it off. Do I copyright the book first?

My Response:
Agents would never steal your work, and in fact, you're work is legally copyrighted the moment you type it into your computer and that would hold up in court. Most agents are not writers. They have their reputations to protect and their work ethic can make or break them. They work under the rules of the AAR which is the Association of Author Representatives. This is an ethical organization that sets standards for agents, and it's important that the agent belongs to this organization. If you found them on an approved list, then I would assume the agent is a member of AAR.

Another problem in copyrighting your own work is when you submit the book to an agent or edtior, if you've already copyrighted it 2007 and you don't find an agent or an editor who wants to publish until 2009, the book will be an out of date book before it reaches the market. It will not be copyrighted again.

I know so many people who have worked for a variety of agents -- and I've never heard of one stealing a writers work. It's really not heard of. But here's a way to easy your mind, and a good site to know about. You can also check out the agent at the website called: Preditors and Editors It's an excellent sight to check the integrity of both editors, publishers and agents.

Getting back to anyone stealing your book, you might like to know that a group of Christian novelists who are all highly-published wrote a book to show that no one can steal ideas. First of all, there are only about 12 plotlines out there, and all we do as authors as add new names, locations and give the story a twist.

To show this idea, twenty-plus authors took five story requirements, and each of us wrote a short story in our genre using the same five points. Each story was totally different. The requirements were 1) the story began with the line -- The wind was picking up, 2) the story ended with the line - So that's exactly what she did, 3) the story involved a mistaken identity, 4) the story included a unusual form of transportation, and 5) each story included a noted landmark. The stories were all totally different and so interesting. We published the book and the money earned goes to Samaritan's Purse, a Christian organization that supports victims of poverty, war, natural disaster, and disease. The Book is titled What The Wind Picked Up and can still be purchased at

So if the question of copyright or someone stealing your idea ever comes to mind, don't fear. You can submit your book to an edtior or agent with a fearless heart. To double check the integrity of the publisher if it's not a known one, check them out on Preditors and Editors.

Terry Whalin, editor and blog host also has a free teleseminar that he did earlier this year with two literary attorneys. Here's the free link. If you want to learn more about this aspect, I encourage you to listen.

1 comment:

Terry Whalin said...


Good post about copyright here. Thanks for that effort. If your readers want to learn more about this aspect, I'd encourage them to listen to a teleseminar that I did earlier this year with two literary attorneys--and here's the free link.

The Writing Life