When it comes to distributing your work, managing expectations using contract wording or in an email will provide you a high degree of confidence. Prepublication manuscript theft is uncommon, and you can't control someone who is going to act improperly. However, with a few keystrokes, you can reduce the danger and identify your finest working partners.
The first step in protecting your work is acknowledging that it can be stolen. Manuscripts have been lost and recovered before discovery of print. In the early 14th century, William Caxton published the first edition of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. He had previously worked with the poet on several projects, so when his employer John Kempe refused to give him permission to go ahead with the book, he simply went ahead anyway. The result was the first recorded case of prepublication manuscript theft.
Since then, manuscripts have been stolen for profit (the most famous example being the Lascaux Caves in France), given away as gifts (Shakespeare's First Folio was given away as part of a prize contest) or left behind when moving into new homes or offices (this is why houses keep finding books they're not supposed to have; they're often missing authors' manuscripts).
Even if you use Google Drive or Dropbox to store documents online, this doesn't prevent others from stealing them. One way around this problem is to encrypt your files; this prevents anyone else from reading their content even if they get access to your account.
To begin with, reputable publishers and agencies do not engage in the practice of "stealing" content. They are overwhelmed with authors and ideas, and if yours has promise, you can be confident that the agency or publisher will be interested in you and your work. "The expression of an idea" is what you can copyright. A literary agent or publisher would never claim ownership of an author's ideas.
That being said, it is important to realize that even though a publisher may not be "stealing" your content, they still have the right to use it. If you have not been compensated for its use, you should seek compensation from the publisher.
In addition, if someone else has taken the time to write about topics that you have also covered in your work, they may be able to bring suit against you for copyright infringement. Make sure that you give credit where it is due. Failure to do so may result in a lawsuit against you. It is best to avoid such situations by following good writing practices from the start.
Once a written document has been distributed, it cannot be changed. Because every written word is definite and definitive, written communication is non-flexible. Secret information, unlike oral communication, may be easily disclosed through printed documentation. As a result, this medium is unsuitable for sensitive information that must be kept secret at all costs.
Written language requires clarity in order to be understood. This is not always possible during face-to-face communication where body language can help explain what is being said with no need for words. In formal written documents, however, ambiguities may lead to problems interpreting their meaning. Each word has a specific definition; therefore, when these definitions are not clear they must be clarified by other words or phrases. Using proper grammar and spelling will make your readers feel like you are taking them seriously and they will understand you better.
The main advantage of written language is its permanent nature. Once written down, a letter, memo, or report can never be erased from physical media. However, electronic files can be deleted, so care should be taken to preserve old emails and documents electronically before deleting them from physical media. Written language is also useful for distributing news stories or important information that might cause anxiety if communicated orally.
The main disadvantage of written language is its inability to convey emotion. While facial expressions and body language can help explain our feelings even without words, this is impossible when communicating in writing.
Any signed paper that (1) adequately identifies the subject matter of the deal, (2) is sufficient to suggest that a contract exists, and (3) specifies with reasonable certainty the material provisions of the contract can satisfy the Statute of Frauds. If you have questions about whether a particular document satisfies the requirements of the Statute of Frauds, contact an attorney before you sign anything.
The mere fact that a document refers to some other document or documents that contain details about the transaction does not prevent the first document from satisfying the requirements of the Statute of Frauds. For example, if I sign a letter "referring you to the sales contract for item number 1" and the sales contract for item number 1 is also signed, then both documents satisfy the requirements of the Statute of Frauds. In this case, both documents are evidence of a contract for sale of item number 1.
Is it necessary to copyright my novel before submitting it to editors and agents? It is not necessary to copyright your book (with the United States Copyright Office) before submitting it. A provision in most contracts between publishers and authors establishes an arrangement in which the publisher acquires copyright in the author's name. Therefore, unless you want to enter into such a contract, you do not need to file for copyright protection.
However, even if you do not want to go through this process, it is important to note that copyright protects only the original expression of an idea. It does not protect the idea itself. So, if you give other people ideas for their novels, they should not be able to claim copyright on those ideas.
Furthermore, even if you were to file for copyright protection, this would not prevent others from using similar ideas in their own works. In fact, it is common practice for writers to borrow from each other's books, either directly or indirectly. For example, characters often appear in more than one work by their authors, and scenes can be re-used with slight changes to reflect the story being told in the different context. Copyright law allows for this type of activity as long as it is done without taking away the incentive for others to create new works.
Because, yes, your concept may be stolen. If you give them your pitch, outline, or character sheet, they can do something with it. Maybe they'll create something similar to what you have in mind. Maybe not. But if they use your idea, they should give you credit for it.
The best way to protect your ideas is by not giving them away in the first place. This may mean not sharing them with others until they're finished and published. You can also register your ideas with some form of identification system (such as a code name or number). This will make it harder for someone to copycat your idea before you publish it.
In conclusion, no book idea is immune to being copied. However, if you follow proper protection techniques, there's no reason why your idea shouldn't become reality.