What If a Publisher Steals Your Book Idea? The Stupidest Advice I’ve Heard This Year…

A new author came to me recently saying she’d been advised not to pitch her brilliant book idea to Hay House “in case….” drum roll… “they STEAL your idea.”

Well that certainly made me choke and splutter on my fruit smoothie first thing in the morning. The thought of publishing icon, Louise Hay, STEALING someone else’s idea. Crikey, did I hear that correctly? I asked the author to repeat what she’d just told me. And yes, she was certain this was the advice that she’d been given.

I’d like to dispel a big MYTH here about publishers nicking book ideas off unsuspecting authors.

Publishers are inundated with book ideas. Some of them are receiving over 1,000 manuscripts per DAY. Do they really need to pinch your book idea when they can barely cope with what they’re being sent already?

Just supposing that an editor did this in a moment of madness, would they get away with it? In this Internet age, when blogging and social media are prevalent, how on earth would they keep this secret? Wouldn’t we all know about it via viral media? They might get away with it once. But twice, a dozen times, a hundred times? How would the publishing house stay in business when authors stopped sending them their manuscripts?

I’ve been working in publishing for over 20 years now. I’ve yet to witness anything that convinces me that this actually happens. What I do see though – and regularly – is opportunists taking advantage of authors’ anxiety that this might happen. Because guess what? It just so happens that the ‘experts’ who share such nuggets of wisdom have their own publishing presses which can… wait for it… publish your book at a price. Gee, thanks!

Cowboy publishing experts aside… if you’re really worried about your idea being copied, you can ask the other party to sign a ‘Non Disclaimer Agreement’ (NDA) or simply trademark your book title. Be warned though that NDAs are off-putting to most publishers and literary agents, unless for example, you have good reason to hide your identity like Belle de Jour. It is also difficult to completely trademark a title, as it’s still relatively easy to mimic a brand. Take for example, my event, The Millionaire Bootcamp for Authors which was recently ‘copied’ by one of the speakers who attended it under the title of The Millionaire Summit for Authors. But imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?

Many authors are understandably anxious that their book idea might be used by someone else. You may worry if: another writer has the same book title; if they launch a book with a similar plot or topic; or, if they have a writing style like yours. When you discover a book with the same idea, you may worry that “someone else got there first” or “there’s no point in me writing my book now”.

But here’s the good news. No one else is ever going to write with your unique voice, your passion, your dedication, your amazing experience. Another book may have the same title or plot. But it’s impossible to replicate YOU.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel – and sometimes it’s a great advantage to ‘piggy-back’ off someone else’s fantastic book idea. You only need to consider ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Westside Story’, or ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, to realise this.

Some literature experts argue that there’s only a limited number of archetypal plots in all books, whether fiction or non-fiction. The generally accepted point of view is that there is only ‘one’ basic plot. Ie. There is a problem – the problem is explored – the problem is resolved. This problem is usually dealt with in a sequence that typically follows the pattern of: Exposition – Rising Action – Climax – Falling Action – Denouement. This pattern can be repeated once or many times throughout a book.

With over 2 million books already published worldwide this year, it’s unlikely anyone will come up with a totally fresh and original idea. But your wisdom, your enthusiasm, your vision, will always be as unique as your fingerprint.

And no one can EVER steal that from you.

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