Wheatmark client Michelee Cabot forwarded me this fascinating entry from Wikipedia about the dreaded “book curse.”
The best way I can describe it in contemporary terms is that it was like medieval copyright protection!
According to the article, “a book curse was the most widely employed and effective method of discouraging the thievery of manuscripts during the medieval period.”
Punishments usually included excommunication, damnation, or anathema. Harsh!
These days, the punishment for swiping someone else’s work is more pedestrian: typically, the ripped-off author is entitled to financial damages.
Copyright is one of least understood areas of publishing, while simultaneously being one of the areas of highest concern for authors… and first-time authors in particular.
Here’s the scoop: even in its draft-manuscript stage (for example, in a Microsoft Word document stored on your computer’s hard drive) your manuscript is copyrighted under US law.
If someone steals your draft and publishes it as their own work, it’ll be easy for you to prove it’s yours because of the time stamp on your Word document.
So you don’t need to worry about formally copyrighting your book until it’s published.
Once your book is published in its final form, then you’ll want to officially register the copyright with the US government. This will entitle you to greater damages in a court of law should someone ever try to steal your work and claim it as their own.
Many authors are extremely concerned about this, and with good reason. After all, you’ve spent months or even years writing your book—you don’t want all of that hard work to be stolen.
However, in my experience, the outright theft of your material is extremely unlikely. Why?
Perhaps because most authors are only interested in writing and publishing their own work—not yours.
This is one of the main reasons publishing companies say they don’t accept “unsolicited manuscripts.”
They don’t want to be accused of theft by amateur authors (“Hey, my book is about a boy wizard too—J.K. Rowling stole my idea!”)
But theft is usually not the biggest problem first-time (and other relatively new) authors face.
The real problem? Obscurity, ie, readers not knowing who you are and why they should read your book!
That’s why it’s so important to start marketing your next book—whether it’s your first or your 20th—before you publish it.
How do you market a book you haven’t even published yet?
Register to watch my presentation “The One Way to Market Your Book” to find out!
PS: Steal not this book my honest friend
For fear the gallows should be your end,
And when you die the Lord will say
And where’s the book you stole away?