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Pitching story ideas to authors and book publishers

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#1
What is the name of your state? California

I am pitching my true life story idea to various authors and book publishers. What kind of legal protections do I have? What kind of precautions should I take to protect my story and idea?
 


FlyingRon

Senior Member
#2
First off, if by life story you mean your biography, you don't have any rights to it. It's facts and doesn't rise to the level of protection until it is expressed in some creative form.

If you want to constrain people from using information you present to them, you should have a lawyer draft an enforceable non-disclosure agreement. Of course, absent some sort of consideration, it's may not be even possible to do this.

Further, I have my doubts you have anything here worth selling. Unless you already have notoriety, why would anybody be interested? A publisher doesn't talk to subjects of books. They talk to authors who have either a completed book or a substantive proposal to write one. Even then, in cases like we seem to be discussing, they usually want to talk to agents.

You'd have to explain just what it is about your story that gives it anything to "protect."
 
#3
Okay. I see. So, authors and publishers, as well as agents are doing me a favor by even listening to my pitch. I get it.

Thank you very much for your reply!
 

Shadowbunny

Queen of the Not-Rights
#4
I've heard that established (read: known) authors least-favorite phrase to hear is "I've got a great idea for a book." If your idea is so riveting, you'd be best off writing the book yourself (most likely with the help of a professional editor). And reputable publishing houses aren't 1) interested in unsolicited, unfinished works, and 2) going to steal your ideas. Think of it like this: if it's a true-life story that has any notoriety at all, then you don't have anything original to pitch. And if it's not about a well-known person or situation, then it's not going to be of interest to any publisher.
 

FlyingRon

Senior Member
#5
No need to get snooty, Erik. I'm telling you how it is. I do freelance editing for a number of book houses and indeed an am author myself. I'm telling you how the industry works. It's very difficult to even take a completed work and market it, let alone someone who just thinks they're life story would make a good book.

The truth is, these days it's trivial to self publish. Write your story yourself (that would give you immediate copyright protection) or pay an author/writer to help you. You can then submit it to any of the 'on demand' publishers and get it available for someone to buy on Amazon or whatever. Of course, nobody will because they won't have any idea the book is there unless you also market it.

Perhaps you'd be better served (and I'm not being snooty here, so don't take it the wrong way) to go over to the WritersDigest sites or something similar and do some research there into books before you start worrying about the legal aspects (they have legal subforums over there as well).
 

quincy

Senior Member
#6
What is the name of your state? California

I am pitching my true life story idea to various authors and book publishers. What kind of legal protections do I have? What kind of precautions should I take to protect my story and idea?
Your worry should be less about protecting your life story from being written by someone else and more about protecting yourself from a lawsuit arising from the contents of the story you write.

Those people who have played roles in your life will be either identified by you or identifiable by content. There can be defamation and invasion of privacy (false light, publication of private facts) issues when writing stories about your life.

I suggest you visit the following Knight Community News Network website - http://www.kcnn.org - and look for the "legal risks module." Although the site is designed for online writers, the legal risks advice is good information for all writers.

Once you have written your book, I recommend you have your manuscript personally reviewed by a publishing law professional in your area, for the careful editing and tweaking of your text.

A traditional publishing house will have editors but you will want to approach any publisher with a polished product, this after communicating by letter with the publisher about your book.

Do not send any work to a publisher without an invitation from the publisher to do so. Having an agent can help you get your manuscript read. Unsolicited works are either returned to the author unread or tossed in the trash unread.

Good luck.
 
#7
FlyingRon, I apologize if you feel I am being snooty. That is not at all my intention. Again, I apologize.

I truly value your feedback! I am just really unfamiliar with this author/publishing world. And so I am learning. From you and this forum.

I am a newbie. I am just stepping into the water.

The 'On demand' publishers sound interesting. I will look further into it.
 

quincy

Senior Member
#8
A caution about self-publishing companies: They are not all created equal. Many have been sued by writers who have submitted their works. Investigate thoroughly!

It can be better to find a small publishing house instead of self-publishing. There are books available that list publishers, with information on what type of books they publish and how to submit your work for review. One example is "Writer's Market" that has a comprehensive list of publishers and agents, with additional information (tips) provided by successful authors.
 
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FlyingRon

Senior Member
#9
Writers Market/Writers Digest are the same people. The book is sort of a database but the company publishes lots of useful books on a number of subjects, publishes a magazine, AND has their own set of forums which is more on topic to what Erik wants to do than this forum will ever be.
 

quincy

Senior Member
#10
Writers Market/Writers Digest are the same people. The book is sort of a database but the company publishes lots of useful books on a number of subjects, publishes a magazine, AND has their own set of forums which is more on topic to what Erik wants to do than this forum will ever be.
Right. And I agree a forum for writers would be helpful to Erik as are books on the business of writing. The Knight site linked to earlier is also helpful - this especially if Erik wants to tackle writing his story on his own and needs information on the legal aspects of writing.

There are writers who will approach subjects who have interesting stories and contract with these subjects to get their stories in print. Some people have lives - or events in their lives - that make for good books.

Finding another writer to write his story as he wants it written can be a challenge for Erik, though.
 
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