Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Good project: check. Good client...err not so much

Recently, I wrote a post about showing me that you're going to be difficult.

In today's incoming email I found a whole new way you can outsmart yourself:

BE ADVISED: THIS EMAIL CONTAINS ORIGINAL COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL FROM A MANUSCRIPT BY THE AUTHOR(redacted); COPYRIGHT 2014. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Putting anything like this on your email flags you as the rawest of raw recruits to the Publishing Horde.

It also tells me that you think manuscripts get stolen so often that you need to make sure to warn everyone not to do it.  That's the first sign that you're this guy


You never need this on a query.
Not EVER.


Any questions?

63 comments:

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

BE ADVISED: I just wanted to say “be advised” instead of asshat.
Is it asshat, ass hat or ass-hat? I have now met my ass…hat quota.

dellcartoons said...

Copyright 2014?

Does the fact that this manuscript had been around three years help or hurt?

Theresa said...

This makes me cringe almost as much as "fiction novel." But for different reasons.

french sojourn said...


Well Mr. Author Redacted, if that even is your real name*. I just wanted to let you know, you're not alone. My manuscript is such a work of art, I took out a patent on it. (Patent pending.)

*This comment is TM in three different states. ME., NH, and Mind.

Kitty said...

The writer should read Janet's post Copyright.

Colin Smith said...

Here's my question for Janet:

Did you read the query? And if so, is it one you would have rejected even if the writer hadn't included this statement? How often do you see silly n00b mistakes like this on otherwise good queries? If this does happen, do you request a full anyway, or do you sigh and form reject?

OK, that kind of morphed into four questions. But I've only just had my mushy Coco Puffs. :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

In the early days of the library writing group, somebody expressed hesitance about emailing their pieces to everybody, preferring to make photocopies. They didn't say the words "I'm worried you people are going to steal my work" but....
So anyway, one of the other members said "I'll email it, I don't care. If you can steal my story and make money off of it, then it's better than I ever thought it would be. I'd be thrilled."

(For the record, I encourage my members to do what they're comfortable with. Share, not share, email, hard copy, whatever. Read it aloud or not. The rule of write club is if you're there, you have to write.)

Donnaeve said...

If I count two places for first name, last name in the redacted area, they wasted 21 words of their 250 word query.

That's a lot of query real estate.

I want to know the same as Colin. Did you read the query anyway?

Timothy Lowe said...

In my early noob days, I mailed a hard copy of a godawful manuscript to my parents and had them save the unopened mail as proof of originality. I didn't mention it in my half a dozen godawful queries.

I would think that a digital receipt would hold up if any issues ever arose - which they wouldn't, because, really, who wants to steal your godawful novel anyway?

Lennon Faris said...

I remember this feeling!

As time goes on, you realize that, even though your work may be brilliant, no one (NO ONE!) thinks it is quite as brilliant as you do. That is why you have to be its #1Fan to make it go anywhere. Also another reason why you have to let it sit before you edit, and get outside eyes on it before you submit.

So yes red flag for Noobie Alert... I still feel for the poor dude (/dudette).

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I am actually glad these guys are out there considering my abysmal query writing skills. I need some sort of advantage. A few queries for fiction novels and with paranoid upper case copyright warnings at least makes mine look almost competent. Maybe someone reads the pages and forgives me for a query that reads like IKEA assembly instructions.

I will fix it. Eventually.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: Did you want to share my mushy Coco Puffs too? :D

Dena Pawling said...


Since you just received this email recently, with the "copyright date" of 2014, this makes me think the work has been previously published.

E.Maree said...

I've seen a spree of forum posts recently where writers are being encouraged to trademark their titles, and even the font used in their title logos. Ack. There's a lot of the usual bad excuses about how 'you need to invest to succeed' and how it's preparation for the future. (All untrue, of course.)

One more thing to add to the list of 'ways writers are convinced to throw away good money'.

Grace Wen said...

This shows how important it is to get advice from people who are actually in the industry. A copyright attorney friend (who doesn't work in publishing) told me to put copyright notices on all of my manuscripts before I queried. I wisely ignored him.

E.Maree said...

While I'm here and grumbling, a certain Carkoon resident nudged me to share a Reider success story: I just accepted an offer of representation from a very reputable British agent, who I totally clicked with during our call. I am over the moon!

My press release, which is my first press release ever and was very exciting to help write, is up on my website. I started in the query trenches in 2012*, and five years, two manuscripts, 14 massive rewrites, 180 queries, and a few horror stories later I've got where I wanted to be. I'm so happy! :D

It's with a manuscript I was convinced was terrible and was ready to put in the bin, and an agent I repeatedly talked myself out of submitting to because I didn't think I was good enough. So hey, you reading? Don't self-reject. Send it.

I'm very excited, very proud, and still slightly dazed by this whole experience. Looking forward to keeping you all up to date with my adventures from here on out. :D

(*This isn't counting the very first query I sent out when I was ten years old, and e-mail queries were still new and shiny. I got a lovely reply from an agent who rightly noticed I'd named my main character after Lyra from Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials, my favourite books at the time. It was such a kind and lovely response, I remember it long after the agency details are forgotten.)

Colin Smith said...

Grace: Which is why, for me, the final arbiters of good query advice are agents. They're the first people I look to for tips on how to write good queries.

And then there are those who have written successful queries...

Colin Smith said...

YAYYAYYAYAYAYAYYYY!!!!!! EMMA!!!!!! WOOHOOO!!!! Congratulations!!! :D :D :D

Here's the press release on Emma's (E.Maree) blog:

http://emmamaree.com/i-have-an-agent/

The book sounds really really cool. Please keep us posted WHEN it sells and WHEN it's available to pre-order! :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

E.Maree Cobgratulations. What a great story of persistence. Your story is super inspirational to those of us trying to brave a second trip into the trenches. Keep us posted on how your journey progresses

Joyce Tremel said...

Congratulations, E. Maree!

Grace Wen said...

E.Maree, congratulations!

K White said...

When I purchased my first edition of the Writers Market way back in the early 80s it included a section on manuscript formatting that recommended authors put a copyright symbol and the year on every manuscript. In later editions the guidelines changed. After reading this post my first thought was if this individual is using really outdated reference material or if they didn’t get the updated memo (like no longer putting two spaces after a period. It took me a long time to break that habit).

Sherry Howard said...

Well Emma's wonderful news detoured me and I forgot what the column was about today. Big congratulations to you, Emma. And your web site is lovely!

On topic, I cringe with queries lest I do something inadvertently offensive. But I don't have to worry about doing what OP did. But then, there's a lot of misinformation floating around out there in the woodlands, ya'll.

BJ Muntain said...

People - even those in the industry - are still telling others that it's a good idea to put a copyright symbol on one's work. That's like putting a label saying "Sweet!" on a bag of sugar. Just the fact that someone is reading it means it's copyrighted.

The symbol doesn't protect you in any way - someone who wants to steal your work will steal it anyway. It only means anything if you've registered the copyright, and then it just means that you can sue for damages if someone steals it. And registering the copyright before publication is usually a waste of money, because no one really wants your stuff, anyway.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Congrats E.Maree!

Sounds like a movie-ready concept:)

Mister Furkles said...

I suspect he copied it from his employer's documentation. Many companies add such a notification to their documents.

Megan V said...

Congrats again Emma! Wish I could throw a happy dancing GIF here, but alas, you'll just have to imagine me jumping around :)

As to the original post:

The sad thing is that the reason so many of these people are out there is because there are plenty of idea snatchers. And yet, ideas themselves aren't copyrightable.

Every person here could write a story about a lovelorn, kale-eating dragon on a fiery rampage in Carkoon (because why should the dinosaurs have lovers and not the dragons?)

It makes no difference whether you slap on a symbol. All that matters is the substance and form your story takes.

BJ Muntain said...

Congratulations Emma!

Trademarking titles? Yes, titles are not protected by copyright in North America. Titles are simple, a word, maybe a few, and that's hard to protect. But trademarking a title that may change in the publishing process? Maybe a very unique title that is important to your book... maybe. Maybe it will become necessary as your book/series becomes popular. But not before publication.

Grace: Lawyers are always over-cautious (no offense to Dena!). They live in courts where the slightest word choice is fought over, and see the worst sides of people involved. A copyright lawyer might prefer you register copyright, because they can't help you in court if you don't.

Kitty said...

Well done, Emma! Wow, what a success story, a true inspiration for the rest of us.

E.Maree said...

So interesting to hear that the copyright marking is ye olde publishing advice.

@Everyone: OMG THANK YOUUUUU <3 Gosh. I've been lurking and occassionally posting here for years, but I nevr really considered myself a 'regular' like Colin, so I've been really surprised by how much Reider support I've had around the announcement. It's like I've been part of the club all along and didn't even know!

Proof that woodland creatures are the best creatures. ❤

@E.M. Goldsmith Omg EM yes, you can do it! Get back into the trenches! We share initials, so it's fated now, you've gotta send it out there into the world!

@Sherry Howard Thank you Sherry! I'm glad you like the site, I redesigned it earlier this year and it was one of those little indulgences you feel guilty about when you don't feel like a 'real' writer, you know? But I'm so glad I have it now!

Susan said...

Emma: I know I said it before, but I'll say it a hundred times--Congratulations! Popping the bubbly for you over here. Panda's bringing the cupcakes. It's a party now!

As for copyright and trademarks: it's disheartening to know that even those won't entirely protect you if someone is morally corrupt enough to steal your work. It happens, and then it's a long legal battle fighting for proof of originality. This happened to one of my author friends. Even though I know it's not the way of things, I can't say I blame anyone for being paranoid when you put your heart and soul into your work and that's taken from you.

Someone once told me that there comes a point where you have to let go of the art you create, and that philosophy has helped me tremendously with putting my work out into the world. But I can't say I don't have that same lingering fear as this querier--I just have to consciously choose not to act on it.

Megan V said...

Off topic

For those of you who aren't on twitter and may not have seen the news, there's a publishing fundraiser going on right now (raising funds for the Virgin Islands) where you can bid on critiques(for everything from queries to fulls) and arcs and a whole lot more. I will note that the QOTKU is partaking.

Click here to check it out

RosannaM said...

Congrats, Emma!--it sounds like it's been quite a journey for you, but oooh, what a destination!

As far as our poor, unwitting querier--I kind of feel the need to reach out and dry behind his/her ears. Someone needs to take him under their wings....or we could just let time drip wisdom on him/her one drop at a time. Like it did for most of us. Sigh.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

E.MAREE balloons, launch the fireworks, strike up the band, kiss a baby, congratulations.
Another reider on the road to success.

Karen McCoy said...

Hooray, Emma!!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

If somebody already mentioned this forgive me, I just got home from driving around for an hour with sleeping 9 week old for an hour. He has a cold, poor baby.
Anyway, I remember years ago when we were advised to make a copy of our work and mail it to ourselves and let it remain sealed in case a big bad agent/writer/publisher wanted to steal our brilliance.
My sealed big brown envelopes are still in a cardboard box in the attic. I wonder why no one wanted to steal my work?
Hahahaha ? As if I didn't know.
They were simply too good.

Jill Warner said...

E.Maree That's so exciting! Congratulations!

My question is if that querier has written anything else since 2014 or not. Either way, I sure hope that they put the last 3 years to good use on revising/editing this piece.

Casey Karp said...

Brava, E.M!

Sounds like even your inner ten-year-old is (rightfully) thrilled!

nightsmusic said...

Congrats, Emma!!!

As to the whole copyright/patent/he-stole-my-idea stuff, someone said there's less than 10 plots/ideas in publishing. It's what you do with them that will make or break your story. And I can't tell you how many times I've read one trope or another, but it's been handled somewhat differently, or the nuances are better or worse or the writing itself is phenomenal. After all, if all of this copyright/patent/he-stole-my-idea stuff had put the cabosh on story ideas 150+ years ago, we'd have very little to read these days...

Dena Pawling said...


BJ - lawyers love fighting over words! In fact, sometimes a case is decided by a comma.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/15/health/oxford-comma-maine-court-case-trnd/index.html

Congrats EMaree!

Steve Stubbs said...

I think you are very wise to avoid this person. It reminds me of something I read one time, that people register screenplays with the Writer's Guild so they can sue production companies if anyone produces a screenplay that vaguely resembles theirs. The text of the copyright law precludes that kind of cynical opportunism from having any legal merit, but presumably those people are hoping for a settlement.

I know a man who is constantly laughing at people he intends to try to f**k over. He is not intelligent enough to know you laugh at victims AFTER you do it to them, not before. He is not bright enough to know why he is not very successful. When people tell me in advance what they are plotting, they are not the ones who end up laughing. I am.

People do steal. There was an incident a few years ago in which Stephenie Meyer, the author with the most misspelled name in history, sent out pdf files to beta readers, and one of them spread it on line to kill its market value. Stephenie tagged each copy so she knew who did it. A single MS by her was worth $4,000,000 so that was not a minor act of treachery.

The Weird Sisters are shrieking: "Beware the beta reader."

Susan Bonifant said...

You used to show funny animal faces with "Any questions?"

What's happened? What's changed?

Sigh.

#bringbacktheanimalfaceswithanyquestions

Colin Smith said...

E.Maree: but I nevr really considered myself a 'regular' like Colin Emma. If you comment on here a couple of times, you're as regular as prune juice. :) Besides, it's a given that lurkers are as much Reiders as commenters. Some don't have the confidence to comment, some don't think they have anything to say, and others feel crowded out by those that comment too mu... hmm. OK. :D

Anyway--and this goes for everyone, Commenters, Lurkers, and Erstwhile Commento-Lurkers--if you've signed with an agent, sold a novel, or had some other similar publishing success, don't be shy to let us know. We want to share your joy and be encouraged. :)

Colin Smith said...

Dena's link linkified:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/15/health/oxford-comma-maine-court-case-trnd/index.html

Matt Adams said...

Okay, I understand what Janet is saying, and that no one wants to steal your work. I'm sure that's all true and correct an accurate.

But let me share with you something from Matt the unpublished novelist's collection of publishing horror stories.

I wrote a book. Got an agent. She loved he book so much she engaged Hollywood-type agents (from UTA, no less) to pitch it around town, see if there was any interest. The Hollywood-type agents also loved it. Life is good. No one bought the book, no one wanted to option anything. Life goes on. About a year alter, Hollywood-type agents suggest I write a pilot script for the novel, jut to see. I say okay -- kind of hard and it sucked, but i did it, sent it to agent who sent it to Hollywood guys. Never heard another word, book flounders and is sitting on my hard drive.

Fast forward three years. I'm watching TV, and I see a commercial for a series that's close to my book's topic. I tend to watch those when they appear. So i watch the show, and I'll be damned if the pilot I'm watching isn't an awful lot like my book. Not enough for me to do anything about it, but similar enough that I've no doubt the person who write the script read either my script or my book --premise similar, setting similar, physical types and occupations nearly the same, plot point one nearly identical, unusual character names popping up, stuff like that. It was floating around Hollywood about the time the script for this was being written -- after the development deal was signed, but not long, so they would have been looking for similar subject matter. Might even be the reason the Hollywood guys suggested I write a pilot script. Don't know -- both they and my sorta-former agent say they're sure it's coincidence, that lots of things get written on my subject, but even they agree it sure is a big coincidence. But it is interesting that after the second episode, they took a wild veer from where my book/script was headed, and that was after the creator brought in a different writing team.

All this to say that yes, it's silly to copyright stuff. And yes, it's a unreasonable and paranoid fear to think someone will steal your idea.

And turn it into a TV show. :)

But it also is good advice, i think, to control who sees your book, at least to a degree. because, while I'm sure what happened to me could have been a coincidence, I'll never really know because the thing was floating around. And you never know who might pilfer an idea. Or more.

BJ Muntain said...

I know, Dena! Another case that rested on a comma happened in Canada, which cost an American company a lot of money. I'm not sure if it was overturned or not, but that would have been in 2006, I think.

Steve Stubbs: Many people won't even look at your screenplay if it isn't registered, simply because they don't want to be sued by these people. I think it's easier to prove you *didn't* steal it if it's registered, as well. I entered a screenplay contest once which required registration as an entry qualification.

Matt: I'm sorry that happened to you, and it's so hard to say. It really could be coincidence, like with the article Janet linked to.

french sojourn said...


E. Maree, again Congrats. Great news!

cheers, Hank.

Claire AB. said...

Yipee E.Maree!!!! Many congrats! Like everyone here, I'm so thrilled for you!!!

Barbara Etlin said...

Big congrats, Emma! Your book sounds fascinating!

kathy joyce said...

Congrats Emma! Sending positive thoughts for a quick publishing deal and many sales.

To Megan's point about the USVI auction, I logged on here to comment on how generous the publishing community is. They just finished one of these auctions for Puerto Rico, and they're doing it again. Good people!(Even if they like to portray themselves otherwise ;)

Miles O'Neal said...

BE ADVISED: ALL THE WORDS IN THIS COMMENT ARE COPYRIGHTED< TRADEMARKED< AND PATENTED> IF YOU USE ANY OF THEM YOU OW ME A ROYALTY!!!

YOUR FRIEND< B!FF!!!

Also, huge congrats to Emma! Gorgeous site. The novel sounds brilliant. And now I'll have to read DRAGON TAMERS. (Lawyer: "Not til all your dragon novels are published!" [gives lawyerly side-eyed look at a certain Scot])
8^)

Beth Carpenter said...

Congratulations, Emma! So exciting. I love "metal from the waist-down, badass from the toes up, and Scottish through and through."

John Davis Frain said...

Emma, you're awesome.

And so, by the way, is your website.

Keep up the awesomeness. And pull someone up with you.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Disney copied one of our TV spots for a children's theme park here. Ours was shown at a convention for theme parks in Orlando (up for an award). They re-did it of course, with a big budget and Mickey.
We were flattered but a check would have been nice!

Adib Khorram said...

Congratulations, Emma!

Panda in Chief said...

Huzzah for Emma!
Um...I was supposed to BRING the cuppycakes, not just eat them? Sorree. My bad.
So glad you've reached the next stage of your writing career. Looking forward to the announcement on it's sale and publication. I'll...um...make more cuppycakes then.

As to the topic of the day, you've pretty much all said what needs to be said. It's easy to understand why people get nervous about someone stealing your work. I've had people lift cartoons from my blog and post them without credit, but as far as I know, no one has figured out how to make money with them. (Hey, if you do, let me know!) I agree about registering of copyright. I don't do it. It would cost far more to do that than I can spend right now. You can still file a cease and desist order if you catch someone without registering copyright. You just can't sue for damages.

Ardenwolfe said...

LMAO - Wow.

AJ Blythe said...

WooHoo, Emma, awesome news! I'll also second Colin (who I am sure is only regular because of all the Carkoon kale) you only have to post once to be a Reider and twice to be a regular ;-)

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

E. Maree that is fantastic news! Congratulations. I'm truly happy for you. It sounds like you've been at it for a long time, just a little longer than myself, so I can imagine you must feel so validated and proud. Very inspiring. Hoping that you will soon find a publisher! Yes, over the moon, and the whole galaxy!

Lynne Main said...

Since the copyright on the manuscript was from three years ago, that makes me wonder if any editing has been done since then--a red flag, me thinks. Janet, was the copyright issue the only thing wrong with the query?

Congrats, E.Maree! The book sounds awesome.

Stacy said...

Congrats, E.Maree!

Meg Leader said...

Um...just one thing. I'm a published (major NY houses) novelist who is moving into screenwriting. I never once copyrighted (or trademarked) any novel ms. EVER. HOWEVER...in the screenwriting world you MUST MUST MUST copyright and/or register your scripts with WGA ($25 for a registration of about 8-10 years; $35 to copyright with the US Govt).

In Hollywood, you cannot enter most contests, or even send your script out for a read without doing at least one of those things. Yes, they ARE paranoid there, but it's because the studios and producers have been nailed so many times with lawsuits ("You stole my story!") that they require that you sign a release form before they will even take a look at your script. The money is BIG in Hollywood, and that brings out the worst in some people--and often the worst in writers.

Please know that Hollywood is a whole different animal than publishing and screenwriting is a whole different thing than novel writing. And if you plan to (or want to) dip your toe into the movie or television world, you absolutely need to learn about those differences and act professionally to a whole different set of standards. If you want to know more about that transition please don't hesitate to contact me privately: meg@megleader.com. There are good, fairly inexpensive, and extremely effective ways to learn that I can share.

Sorry for the length, but screenwriting and novels are vastly different beasts. Agents are different. Managers are different. Producers are not the same as publishers. Everything is wildly different there. Not better. Not worse. Just...different.

E.Maree said...

Oooft, these Hollywood stories are giving me the chills. I've heard a *lot* of stories about 'conveniently similar pilots' based on authors works, with enough frequency that it really doesn't feel like a coincidence.

But Hollywood is a very different beast with very different rules. It really is a whole 'nother world!

---

Catching up on all you awesome well-wishers after a hectic week (alas, the day j*ob goes on!). I got totally overwhelmed by both the comments here and on my site, I really wasn't expecting this amount of support.

*sniffles and thrusts mugs of tea at everyone*
*is British, can only express emotions in the form of tea, sorry*


@Miles O'Neal TEAM DRAGONS *high five*

@John Davis Frain No, YOU'RE awesome! And thank you for the reminder--I've got some excellent writer buddies who help me stay focused on paying it forward and helping out others.