you stole my idea

How often do manuscripts get stolen by NY publishers? Should you worry about someone plagiarizing your story when you mail your novel to an editor? I give you my answer over at Check it out.

6 replies
  1. Abe
    Abe says:

    Hi Tess,

    The nerve of some people. They think that they can get away with this, but eventually they WILL get caught. I found the following at
    and it says straight out what not to do. A theft is a theft.

    It’s Not “Borrowing,” It’s Theft
    Every once in a while, a piracy or plagiarism lawsuit will make the news. In 2002, historians Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin were accused of plagiarizing the work of others in their books. In July of 2002, an unauthorized Harry Potter book written by a Chinese author was released in China, prompting agents for real Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling to announce, “We are taking this issue extremely seriously.” Several years ago, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro sued a fan writer who used one of her characters in a fanzine story without her permission. In 2000, Harlan Ellison filed a lawsuit against parties who were posting his works on the Internet without his permission.

    “Individuals seem to think that they can allow the dissemination of writers’ work on the Internet without authorization, and without payment, under the banner of ‘fair use’ or the idiot slogan ‘information must be free.’ A writer’s work is not information: it is our creative property, our livelihood and our families’ annuity,” Harlan Ellison said in the press release announcing his KICK Internet Piracy campaign.

    Yup, this is serious business. When you use the work of another author without their permission (piracy), you’re stealing it. When you incorporate the writing of another writer in your work and pass it off as yours (plagiarism), you’re stealing it. The worst results of such theft — like those above — hit the news. They cost the thieves a lot of money. Copyright infringement can send the guilty parties to jail. But even if you’re not sued, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble by using something someone else has written without their permission.

    Let’s think about what can happen when you’re caught. The real author will ask that you remove the material from your web site (if you’ve posted it there), or send you a bill for the use of the work. If the author discovers their work in something that you’ve put your name on and submitted to a publisher, the author will contact the publisher and reveal that the material they paid for is not owned by you. That publisher will never want to work with you again. Think it will end there? When authors discover that their words have been stolen, they’re mad. They usually want to tell others about the experience — either as a warning to other writers, or simply to vent. Chat forums and writers’ listserves are littered with subject lines like I’VE BEEN PIRATED!!! and THEY STOLE MY WRITING! Yes, in big, block letters — they’re mad, remember? One listserve I belong to started a blacklist of known offenders. News travels far and fast on the Internet. The result? Your name is dirt.

  2. Tess
    Tess says:

    while plagiarism certainly happens once our work is out there in print or online, it doesn’t happen within the NY publishing business (i.e., editors stealing ideas), and that was the point of my blog at Murderati. That we should all relax and not worry about our unpublished work getting snatched by unscrupulous editors.

  3. Omm Lucarelli
    Omm Lucarelli says:

    I’m familiar with the “deluge” of common themes from reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies. Every year, she’d have strange commonalities between story themes, even though the only prerequisite was that the characters somehow relate to the theme of sword and sorceress. One year there were lots of unicorns. Another year was dragons. And so on. I don’t get why people get so bent out of shape that someone, somewhere, managed to have a similar idea.

  4. therese
    therese says:

    Great article! Even this is not new information. 🙂 Yet it needs to be retold, often, because new writers are always testing their toes in the scary world of publishing.

    It’s good that you made the distinction between idea/premise and an actual novel. There is a huge journey between the two, and a mastery of craft.

    Even in non-fiction the questions are: What’s the idea. What’s it like. How’s it different. What’s your platform.

    I think new writers can be so isolated in the wonder of working with a story muse, they don’t realize that publishing is a professional business. Keep reminding us all!

  5. ec
    ec says:

    And sometimes, the collective unconscious can take odd turns. While editing an anthology of zombie tales, Jim Lowder received 12 submissions titled “Working Stiffs.”

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