Dear fellow writers, I know of no other source to turn to for advice concerning this nagging problem. Let me lay it out for you as succinctly as I can. In October of 2003 - on Halloween, to be exact - I had an idea for what I thought would be a unique character and plot. What would happen if a woman were raped and impregnated by a man who was turning into a werewolf at that very moment? What kind of offspring would this produce?
I developed this idea into the following scenario; the woman had twins, a boy and a girl. The female would be a half werewolf - half human hybrid, while her brother would be fully human. When they grew to adulthood, they would both work with an organization that protected humanity from various supernatural creatures. I worked on this story for a year or so, and in 2004 sent out a number of queries to various publishers. I got the usual rejection letters, of course, but kept working on the story.
In 2006 I was looking online for a publisher to query who dealt with fantasy stories in a similar vein. Imagine my surprise when I discovered one that had published a novel in 2006 using this plotline; A woman who is half werewolf and half vampire and her twin brother work with an organization to protect humanity from supernatural creatures. I would have thought this was just a fantastic coincidence but for one fact; this publisher was one that I had sent a query to a year earlier describing virtually this exact plotline.
Now, I know this is a common fear with new writers, that a company you send a query to will steal your idea and have someone else write a book using it. But really, what are the odds of this happening at the very house that I had queried? I was going to include this author's name and publisher, but I'd probably get sued. But if you read these kind of fantasy stories, you are probably already familiar with this particular series of books, or can easily find this info on Google. (Hint - kangaroo.)
I still have all my research notes, drafts and query letters which date from 2003, so I do have some evidence that I created this character and plot line and submitted a query to this house long before this author published her version. I know there is probably little I can do about this at this late date, but this has been nagging at me for years, and I gave up working on the story long ago. I'm sure if I tried to sell it now I would be accused of stealing the idea. According to an article Angela wrote a while ago on this site (Nov. 13, 2002, "When you've been violated: What to do when someone steals your ideas or articles) this kind of thing DOES happen, so I feel it's my duty to spread the word to my fellow writers about this incident. I guess all I really want is your views, opinions, and perhaps a little validation. And if anyone else out there has had this happen to them, especially when dealing with this publisher, I'd really like to hear about it. There is power in a group that one person cannot muster. And let me give you two pieces of advice; One; Submit to an agent, not directly to a publisher. This way you'll have evidence of your work. Two; Keep all your queries and rejection letters FOREVER! Thanks for your time, and I would be grateful for any response you may send my way. Keep up the good work. Sincerely, Glenn T. Vincent. firstname.lastname@example.org