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PostPosted: March 5th, 2011, 9:36 am 
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Joined: March 2nd, 2011, 6:35 pm
Posts: 2
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. gtvincent2280@comcast.net


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PostPosted: March 9th, 2011, 6:45 pm 
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Joined: February 21st, 2007, 4:12 pm
Posts: 11
Location: Fallbrook, California
When I worked in advertising on pitches for new products, the Big Idea, text and graphics were kept secret until presentation day. Imagine our surprise when a client would reveal two agencies had come up with the same Big Idea. Maybe the execution was somewhat different, but the "idea" was identical. Generally it was decided that only one very good conclusion could be reached, and that both agencies had done it. In your case, I think it is very suspicious that a publisher you'd pitched with an idea eventually printed a book containing an identical plot line. Perhaps justice would be served if you took another look at the characters after they'd aged and continue their development. Of course, I suggest you first look at what the author who may have stolen your idea did with the characters and how that author ended his/her story. By the way, thanks for the information about your "lesson learned". I'm getting ready to start the query hamster in its wheel and will follow your lead.

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PostPosted: March 9th, 2011, 11:40 pm 
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Joined: March 9th, 2011, 11:25 pm
Posts: 1
I too, had this experience. I sent a query to a traditional publisher in response to a call for short stories/novellas that incorporated Valentine's Day and chocolate. They turned me down, and I thought that was the end of it. Then about two years later, I googled my book's title and there it was, in their anthology, same title, same editor but written by a house author. I was (and still am) a member of the CWG (Christian Writer's Group) on Yahoo, and authors more experienced than I said that there was nothing that I could do, titles cannot be copyrighted, and if I did make a fuss, publishers would deem me 'difficult' and not want to work with me. I was very upset--like you it was the same editor, publisher and idea with someone else writing the story. (And not very well, may I add...) But I went on to write other books and even got my anthology novella published. So I feel a bit vindicated.
I really encourage you to write your story anyway. Even if someone thinks you copied them, your best revenge is success. You can someday tell Oprah or Jay Leno the whole truth! (and shame the stealing publisher).Maybe your book is ten times better than the stolen one and maybe you will earn so much it won't matter.


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PostPosted: March 10th, 2011, 2:33 am 
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Joined: July 8th, 2004, 1:30 am
Posts: 16
Hi Writer1953!

I can imagine your distress in seeing a book with your idea out there, but I don't think the publisher stole your idea. Here's why:

1. Unless this is a big time publisher (and even then!), publishers are not likely to "steal" ideas and then go and do the work in-house. Why not simply publish you? It's not cheaper and in fact, it's unlikely they're making tons of money off the idea. Most small presses are in debt up to their eyeballs and unless this is a NYT bestseller, they're unlikely to make much off it.

2. Ideas aren't copyrightable. You'd have a hard time proving that you're the owner of this idea-- and even then..

3. The idea of werewolf superheroes and werewolves saving humanity is in a million books out there, including in the Twilight series. Half human or not. The idea isn't as original as you thought.

4. The time line is off. If you submitted the query in 2005, someone would've had to write the novel and then the publisher would have had to publish the novel (including editing, typesetting, etc), in a year. Yeah, it could be done, I suppose.

My guess? Someone else beat you to the punch. The publisher had already bought something along those lines and rejected yours.

Now, if they actually published your work without paying you, or if they put someone else's name on your work and published it, that would be a whole other story. But I gather that's not what happened.

Sorry this happened to you, but it's common. Anything you think up, someone else could too.
4.

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PostPosted: March 24th, 2011, 1:12 am 
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Joined: December 16th, 2010, 1:26 pm
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You would have a hard time proving this publisher took your idea. I think you would have to actually compare your drafts (if there are any) to the work which was released before you could make a case. Ask a legal organization for writers for some advice.

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PostPosted: March 28th, 2011, 10:16 am 
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Joined: March 2nd, 2011, 6:35 pm
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AdamC wrote:
You would have a hard time proving this publisher took your idea. I think you would have to actually compare your drafts (if there are any) to the work which was released before you could make a case. Ask a legal organization for writers for some advice.


Dear AdamC, Thanks for your reply to my post. You're right, I would have a hard time (read;impossible!) proving that my concept was hijacked by an editor at a supposedly reputable publishing house. But thanks for the suggestion about contacting a writers org regarding this problem. I'll look into it. I was considering starting a forum for writers who've had their ideas/work stolen, but that would probably be like asking "Who's been shafted by the IRS, or big business?" (Everyone and their brother, right?) Oh, well. lesson learned. Thanks again for the advice. Sincerely, Glenn.


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