Mmegi Blogs :: Stop your manuscript from being stolen
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Last Updated
Friday 21 September 2018, 15:09 pm.
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Stop your manuscript from being stolen

Many new writers are fearful of submitting their work to publishers. You’d expect that it’s the fear of rejection that they’re shying away from, but surprisingly, it is not. They fear the publisher that they submit their work to will steal it and will claim it as their own.
By Lauri Kubuitsile Fri 06 Apr 2018, 14:04 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Stop your manuscript from being stolen








Honestly, this hardly ever would happen, though having said that, I once met a woman whose Setswana poetry collection was stolen by a publisher and was later prescribed by a Ministry of Education. A lengthy, costly, nerve-wracking legal case ensued. You do not want that situation, ever.

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself, or at least to very quickly get your work back from such thieves.

First a warning. It’s unlikely nowadays, but very occasionally that a person has only one copy of their manuscript, which they hand over to a publisher. This is a very bad idea. Even if the publisher doesn’t steal it, what if the publisher loses it? That’s your work gone forever. So never do that. Always have copies either in your computer or physical hard copies.  The reason I say that the idea of a publisher stealing an author’s work is unlikely is that most publishers are professionals who want to stay in business. If they behaved so unethically, no author of any worth would want to associate with them and that would be the end of their publishing house.

Though I say that, nowadays there seems to be all sorts of ‘publishers’ appearing in Botswana and around the internet.

These outfits are not real publishers. They are usually in the business of capitalising on potential authors’ dreams of becoming published. Their motive is to use that dream to enrich themselves. They will do almost anything to get a writer to join them in this endeavour. They will tell the author their manuscript is incredible, when it’s not. They will agree to publish it. Tell them how they will be selling overseas — that means they will put it on Amazon — a task I can accomplish in a few hours with one hand tied behind my back. I would not put theft out of the realm of possibilities for such outfits. If they happen to find a good manuscript in the massive pile

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of bad ones, they might very well steal it.

One way to prevent this is to not deal with these questionable publishers at all. To find out who is legit and who is out to rip you off, check their website.

What books are they selling? What do the covers look like? Cheap and badly designed with multiple fonts and clip art? Not a good sign. Contact some of their authors, ask them about the publishers. How was their experience working with them? Do they ask for money from the author for anything? (A big warning sign) Do they pay royalties’? Do they pay on time?

Another important thing to do to prevent the theft of your manuscript is to save drafts of your work. If someone steals your book, they will not have various versions of it, they will only have the final version. That is proof the manuscript is not theirs. To be sure you don’t lose those versions, send them to your gmail account.

Doing that will also come with a timeline already verified. Or better still, open a gmail account for your many versions of your various projects. If it should arise that someone claims your work, you will have ample evidence to show them that they are lying. Evidence that can be used in court. 

If you’re submitting to a writing market, either a publisher or a literary magazine, outside of the country, most countries have working copyright protection societies that will assist writers. I have in the past used the Canadian copyright society to stop a person from posting my stories on their website.

In practice though, in 99.9% of the instances, the publisher is NOT going to steal your work. As stated above, it really isn’t in their best interest. And if you want to be a published writer, you need to send your work out, so it’s best to have faith that most publishers are good guys, which they are, and submit your work to them.

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