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Question about publisher's reaction...

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mxlemore



Joined: 18 Sep 2008
Posts: 44
Location: Georgia
Question about publisher's reaction...  Reply with quote  

Hi all,

I'm writing a novel and in it there is a scene where an author submits his manuscript to a publisher (or more likely, his agent submits it to a publisher) only to find out that the exact same story idea was already submitted to them a matter of weeks ago, and they are in the process of publishing the first submission. The original idea (and submission) is by a different person altogether.

As I have never published anything (yet!) and have never dealt with a publisher or literary agent, I was wondering what kind of feedback this poor unfortunate author might receive as feedback? Would an editor (or agent) actually write to the second contributor that this exact story is already in the works?

I doubt anyone has had this experience, but this is how it is in my story (the story kind of revolves around this concept), and I wanted to know if anyone of you might know what kind of response this guy would receive. I appreciate any feedback. Thanks!

~John

Post Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:05 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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John:

I actually had that happen, although it was with a proposal for a book that had already been accepted -- a parody of Griffin and Sabine. And they told my agent, "We love it, but we've just purchased a Griffin and Sabine parody."

So the answer is, yes, they would tell you. They would especially tell you because otherwise you could accuse them of swiping your idea if you didn't know they already had it in hand before they saw your book.

Post Tue Dec 23, 2008 2:41 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
mxlemore



Joined: 18 Sep 2008
Posts: 44
Location: Georgia
 Reply with quote  

Thanks for the quick response, Chris.

One more question, though, if you don't mind. If two people went to a publisher with the exact same story and one was in the process of getting published, would the publisher investigate the second story for plagiarism, or do you think they would simply return the manuscript explaining that someone beat the guy to the punch?

I know there was litigation for Dan Brown's DaVinci Code by some people that said he plagiarized some of their work, so I was just wondering how this might work out.

Oh, and one more thing, I think it's great that you interact with your fans on a personal level. I hope you will always be so amiable.

Post Tue Dec 23, 2008 5:27 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
mllefifi



Joined: 28 Jan 2006
Posts: 8964
Location: Deleoware
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There was a movie a few years ago called Coming to America, I think, with Eddie Murphy. Didn't the makers of that movie get sued for allegedly stealing the story/plot/scenario/treatment from someone else?
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Post Tue Dec 23, 2008 5:59 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website AIM Address
urhangovergirl



Joined: 05 Feb 2008
Posts: 705
Location: center of the purple haze
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You cant plagiarize an idea...and I doubt they would look more beyond that if you aren't already published. why bother?

but I don't know.
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Post Sun Dec 28, 2008 10:55 am   View user's profile Send private message
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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mxlemore wrote:
Thanks for the quick response, Chris.

One more question, though, if you don't mind. If two people went to a publisher with the exact same story and one was in the process of getting published, would the publisher investigate the second story for plagiarism, or do you think they would simply return the manuscript explaining that someone beat the guy to the punch?

I know there was litigation for Dan Brown's DaVinci Code by some people that said he plagiarized some of their work, so I was just wondering how this might work out.

Oh, and one more thing, I think it's great that you interact with your fans on a personal level. I hope you will always be so amiable.



It's not likely that they would investigate. More likely they'd just send the second one back. When an author signs a publishing contract, it includes an affidavit that states that all the material is either original to the author, or credited and used with permission, which is supposed to hold the publisher harmless from litigation -- which, of course, it doesn't.

Technically, you can't copyright an idea, but in reality, people are sued for stealing ideas all the time. It's almost expected when a book or movie has great success that someone will sue, saying the writer stole the idea from them. Rowling had it, Spielberg had it for E.T., and yes, Art Buchwald sued the producers of Coming to America for stealing an idea from him and won. But a plaintiff has to prove that the author or producer he is suing actually saw the material he allegedly copied, which explains why I can't read ANYONE'S manuscript. Ever. If I didn't see it, I can't be accused of stealing it. And here's the rub -- it doesn't matter if you stole it or not, you can still be sued and you still have to defend yourself. My agent got a query for a comic Jesus book while I was working on Lamb. He wouldn't even look at the book, because obviously there were going to be similarities, if only in the main character.

But in my experience, it's almost never a consideration when it comes to publishers. For non-fiction books, absolutely, but for fiction, it's less about the idea and more about the execution of the idea.

Post Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:34 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
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