I was surprised to see "register copyright" at the top of the list of things not to do before getting an agent. Wouldn't copyrighting your own manuscript prevent against theft? I'm having trouble imagining the downside.
Brenda Lynn contributed
Guessing here but I expect the copyright issue is about trust. You presume that your agent will steal from you before you’ve even worked together, rather than research honorable agents. I presume there is one :)
It also marks you as an amateur because it means you haven’t yet figured out that every story has already been written...just not by you. How do you copyright voice?
And Daniel then replied
Is it possible to reply to comments here? (I'm more used to Reddit than Blogspot!)
To continue the thread regarding copyright I wanted to respond to BrendaLynn: My interest in registering the copyright for a manuscript doesn't stem from fear of the agent but fear that one of my accounts gets hacked and some stranger steals the work.
Also, if I'd already copyrighted the manuscript, is that something I would need to mention early on to a potential agent?
First, yes, you can reply to comments. Generally the form is to put the person to whom you are responding on the first line in bold.
Now, to the question:
Copyright does not prevent theft, any more than car insurance prevents accidents. Copyright registration allows you to sue if someone does plagiarize your work.
But let's dig deeper:
The reason you do NOT register copyright for your book before your agent sells it to a publisher is that the publisher registers the copyright when the book is published.
It's a boilerplate clause in most publishing contracts with major houses.
Thus if you have ALREADY registered the copyright, it's not an initial registration, it's an amended registration
The copyright office charges a lot more money ($130) for an amended registration than an initial registration ($35).
Copyright attaches at execution. You only need a registration number if you get a film deal, or if you want to sue someone.
While I'm sure some enterprising hacker might very well want to steal your brilliant unpublished work, it's far more likely they're going to lift something that's already published.
In other words, trying to protect yourself from something with a minimal chance of happening will create problems for something we hope has a far greater chance of happening (your book is acquired by a publisher.)
If by some chance you've already registered copyright, please remember to tell your agent BEFORE the contracts with the publisher are drawn up.
It's not a deal breaker, but as with most things, it's better to be upfront about problems instead of sweeping up afterward.