©2012 Wendy Scheuring and Mark Henderson
Sometimes new authors think that the manuscript they’ve been ruminating about and whittling away at for years is bestseller material. And when they’ve dotted the last “i” and crossed the last “t”, they clutch their manuscript with a death-grip so tight that not even Edward Scissorhands can loosen it. They suddenly become afraid—very, very afraid—that someone, anyone—even a ghostwriter or editor—may steal it and get all the money and fame from their story idea and all their hard work!
Whoa, cowboy! Pull back on those reins! First off, committing plagiarism or stealing someone else’s work is a serious thing, and no professional ghostwriter or editor would be caught dead doing it. That would be career suicide at the very minimum.
And, stealing someone’s work would just be, in an abstract, stupid!
Why? Well, in the first place, it’s not easy to take someone’s preliminary manuscript and turn it into a compelling story, then market it to literary agents and publishers, get it published—all under a cloak of secrecy. Oh yeah, then there’s that little problem of trying to sell it. Trust me, it would be easier to run back-to-back 100-mile ultra-marathons through the Rockies in a bikini than to steal someone else’s manuscript, change the names to protect the innocent, revise it and tidy it up, put a bow on it, and ship it off to agents with a slew of query letters.
If an agent is found who’ll take the work, and if that agent happens to find a publisher willing to take on the manuscript, your thieving ghostwriter or editor could relax, for a long, long time—long enough to take a trip to around world in 80 days—about 10 times—before he or she sees the book in print. Then, after all that, the book-napper would really be in debt up to his nostrils because the royalties won’t even pay for one 80-day trip. Get the picture? It would be easier to paddleboard around the world than to steal your manuscript, and reap any kind of benefit. Unless, of course, the ghostwriter or editor has some sort of manuscript-kleptomaniacal disorder where they derive some sick pleasure from the thrill of stealing and the agony of doing something with it. Since there aren’t any pharmaceutical companies clamoring to make a pill for this, I doubt it’s much of a problem.
Ok then, what about self-publishing, you ask? Couldn’t someone steal a manuscript, doctor it up a little bit (you know, someone who’s always wanted to write a book ‘some day’), and then send it off to one of those vanity presses and make millions, maybe zillions?
Lassie, come home! That’s an impressive scenario you’ve come up with, but do you know how much it costs to self-publish? And then there’s that little problem of trying to sell enough copies to make more money than that it cost to print; and all that on the down-low, so to speak, to avoid discovery.
That kind of action takes a whole lotta love, and, trust me on this: Nobody has that same ‘cloud nine’ love relationship with your book that you do.
Well, then what about those online publishing companies that publish books on demand for free? What about those? To be honest, with publish on-demand companies, you get what you pay for: Hidden costs and fees and the POD sites rarely sell many copies. That kind of puts a big kink in the deal.
So, can someone steal or plagiarize your manuscript? Yup, absolutely! Anything can be stolen. But the real question is, would anyone in their right mind—not to mention anyone who might need to protect business credibility—take the time, effort, financial commitment, and risk to steal it? So, now that we’ve answered your questions, give us a chance to ask you one: Are you too in-love with your manuscript?