Friday, January 8, 2010

Are You Writing A Book? Do This...NOW!!!

Are you working on a book, finished a book, have a outline for book you think you might write in 50 years? You might think this is strange, but here's a suggestion:

Email yourself!

I'm not kidding. As soon as you finish reading this post, do it ASAP and here's why:

Right before I started querying Eternal Starling I stopped by the bookstore and happened to see a display for a YA Fantasy book. I try to read a lot of YA Fantasy since it's one of the genres I write in and I was especially interested in this book because a local author wrote it. I took it home and started reading, then immediately wanted to bang my head against the wall. As I kept reading, I kept wanting to go to the wall for more head banging. The reason? The book had several plot points that were eerily similar to things in my book. I'd never heard of this author or their book before I saw it in the bookstore, and even then, I just picked the book up on a whim.

I frantically spent weeks rewriting many aspects of the plot and cursing the writing gods for giving the other author and myself similar ideas. Eternal Starling is better now because of the revisions, but if I'd just done something as simple as emailing myself, I wouldn't have had to worry...or at least, not as much. This experience taught me what I need to do to protect myself as an author.

Here's the thing: all ideas are essentially ideas other people have had before, they're just packaged in an original way when you write your novel. There's a good chance some other writer out there has an idea comparable to yours. When it comes to getting sued for plagiarism, you only need to be able to prove that the idea in your book was original to you. One of the best ways to do this is to attach the draft you're working on to an email, then send it to yourself and save the email in one of your account folders. How often you do it is up to you, but if I'm working on a writing project, I email an updated draft to myself about once a month. Having these emails with a time stamp on the email/attachment can help protect you if you're ever sued for plagiarism.

I decided to start emailing my drafts after my software engineer husband suggested it as a way to safeguard my work. I also got some information from a patent/copyright attorney. I later found out that even bestselling authors email their drafts to themselves as a way to protect their ideas.

So start emailing yourself my dear writers! Trust me, your head and your wall will thank you. :) If you have other suggestions for protecting your work, I'd love to hear them! Please post in the comments below.


  1. Great advice. I am always emailing my work to myself, since I'm not always working where I can save my writing. Plus, I'm always emailing myself scene and story ideas--since I often forget them as soon as I come up with them. But, I never really thought about it as a way to safeguard my material from plagiarism. What a good idea!

    : )

  2. Great advice Angela. I've been writing songs for years, and every once in awhile, I print out the lyrics and mail them to myself at my home address. When I get it, I don't open it. It's sealed, and it's got a government sanctioned date stamp. Especially since the audio versions of some of these songs are floating around online, It's a great way to get some protection.

    Kimberly - I'm also emailing myself scenes or lines all of the time! Great minds think alike!

  3. I email myself a copy of every chapter to have a back up copy. Bonus, that its a great way to prove it was my idea!

  4. I have honestly never thought of doing this but it's an awesome idea! Thanks for the post!

    I've gotten in the habit of going to the post office and mailing a copy of my finished manuscript (before editing) to myself and filing it away, unopened for proof of copyright but I love this as a way to save my WIP as I go.

    Thank you!

  5. I'm so glad you were already doing things to protect your work! I have super smart blog friends! :)

    Kristin and Kristi, the post office idea is a great one too! My dad's patent attorney told him to mail his ideas and keep them unopened as well so he can always prove the date that he got the idea. The attorney said it works for manuscripts too.

    And Kristin, I didn't realize you wrote song lyrics! Do you sing as well?