Marketing,  Publishing

What To Do If You Think Your Manuscript is Stolen

A year or so ago, on our FB group, 10 Minute Novelists, we had an author who believed that her editor had stolen her manuscript and then tried to sell it as her own on Amazon. It was unclear how the author met the editor, we’re pretty sure it wasn’t through our group. 

While this is a rare event, our staff, as well as our members, were wondering the best way to handle such a problem. Unfortunately, every time we hire someone to help us with our work, we take a risk. And while events like this are rare, it helps to know what to do in case you are in a similar situation. 

These were some of the recommendations by an agent associated with our group.

  1. Make sure all of your correspondence with any professional is dated. You may need it later for evidence. 
  2. Investigate the “perpetrator” on the Predators and Editors, Writer Beware, and any other writers’ associations. Contact these associations and tell them what happened. They may be able to warn other writers.
  3. Write up a description of exactly what happened to you (and if a lawyer advises it) post this publicly to warn other authors. 
  4. Join the Author’s Guild. A membership will get you free legal advice. 
  5. Diligently and persistently contact the selling entity’s legal department and inform them that they are selling your intellectual property. They should remove the sales page, at the very least, until the matter is settled. 
  6. Seek out an intellectual property rights attorney. 
  7. If you are a victim of fraud, and you may be if your “editor” promised one thing and did another, file a report with the state police. If this act was committed across state lines, the matter becomes more serious and a potential felony has been committed. 

But that begs the question: How do you know if someone is reputable? 

There’s nothing of substance in their Facebook profile. If all they have is one photo with no friends, no family, few followers and they only joined FB recently, like in the last few weeks, this could be a fraud account. Do not engage with them. 

They ask specific questions about your manuscript. They want to make money with as little work as possible, so they’ll seek out finished or near-finished work from first-time writers who just want a big break. Do not give away too much information and DO NOT give them access to your work. 

They have poor communication skills. This should be a no brainer — if someone is engaging with you and they have a poor grasp of basic English, then they are not legitimate editors. You want a professional with excellent skills and references. Don’t engage with someone who communicates poorly.  

You Google them and you get nothing. A legitimate service such as editing, publishing or representation should have a professional-looking website, titles, author testimonials, etc. But even THAT can be deceptive. To be absolutely sure, click every google hit in which they are mentioned and read about them. Reputable companies will be talked about positively. 

Publishing is frustratingly slow. All of us want to see our name on the cover of books. Unfortunately, predatory experts and services are making a great deal of money by taking advantage of desperate or impatient writers. 

 The very best thing you can do for your writing and your long term career is to write the best you can. Get editing and proofreading help from other authors like you (and reciprocate!) Investigate various publishing options thoroughly before you spend money. Go to conferences and meet agents. Take classes. Find a critique group. Understand how the self-publishing and traditional publishing business works before you give anyone large amounts of money or copies of your manuscript. 

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.

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