Monday, December 23, 2013

Question: I gave you my idea, don't steal it ok?

If a published author takes my concept and publishes it before I do, do I have any rights to it. ***

About a year ago I enter a contest on (author's) facebook fan page and shared my pitch and first paragraph. 

The zombie concept I shared has never been done before and after the agent said the idea was intriguing, I was excited but now very anxious.

If (author) writes the idea and then publishes it before I do, I then look like a rip-off. 

Is it just a race to the finish line?  I understand everyone can take the same topic and make it their own but the first original idea does have an impact.

Ex. any sparkly vampires are just rip-offs of Twilight no matter how much superior. 

Any advice is appreciated.


If this is something you're going to spend any time worrying about, knock off entering contests and save yourself the anxiety.

But, rest assured, even if someone lifts your idea completely, the execution is what matters, and no one can write a novel like you.


Also, making vampires sparkle isn't a concept, it's a description of character. It's also very very specific. The concept you included in your email to me (which I purposely did not post) isn't specific at all.

But here's the bottom line: concepts are a dime a dozen.  Actually more like a penny.  If I had a dime for every time I've heard "I have this great idea" and it IS a great idea, but the execution sucks I'd have enough money to buy sparkle treatments for the both of us.

The first original idea isn't what makes the impact. It's the first book that captures the zeitgeist and that often is NOT the first. Or even the best.

This is something you can control ONLY by writing well, and completing your novel.  Gnawing yourself into distraction won't get you anywhere. Knock it off. Get back to work.

Also, most authors aren't reading the entries in Facebook contests for ideas cause they're home twitching about the next novel and trying to figure out how to get the rabbit suit off the stripper without waking up Mom. No, really.



***No. Most likely you signed a waiver to be able to enter any kind of contest that asks for this kind of stuff.

12 comments:

donnaeverhart.com said...

Strange what we worry about...

It seems I'm always one thought away from working myself into a knot about some aspect of the writing journey. My New Year's resolution is to take this sentence, "This is something you can control ONLY by writing well, and completing your novel. Gnawing yourself into distraction won't get you anywhere. Knock it off. Get back to work..." and post it near my desk.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

Janet, I'm very excited about the idea of getting sparkle treatments with you. Can this be the prize for your next contest?

kregger said...

Wait a minute!
Bunny suits and strippers are strictly an Easter combination.
Please don't be like all the other retailers and bump up the season.
Let's keep our strippers in or out of naughty elf costumes.
*glances over shoulder*
"Mom!, get out of my basement, I'm typing."

french sojourn said...

Anyone with an ounce of brains knows you invest forty bucks from the cookie jar and buy three rolls of R-30 insulation.
Spend an afternoon installing it in the basement ceiling and....eh voila!

Let the bunnie games begin.

Stephsco said...

I've heard this type of question most often from people who are very new to writing to those who are unschooled in publishing/writing at all. It's a valid question if you haven't had any experience with writing books, creating art, writing or performing music. This explanation here is a very concise reason why. Thanks!

Bill Scott said...


Don't you hate those reluctant strippers who apply industrial adhesive to their rabbit suits? It doesn't matter how much Benadryl you put in mom's Earl Grey. The yelps always wake her. Always.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I think many writers are crouched jealously over their ideas, teeth bared, hissing "my preciousssssss" at anybody who dares to come near. Or that's the impression I've gleaned from questions such as these.

In the interest of full disclosure, can I claim to have never encountered such deeply seated feelings of paranoia? No, I can't. I just try to keep it in the box. I keep on writing, and keep learning about publishing, and especially the latter option helps put such worries to rest.

Elissa M said...

There are no new ideas; there are only new ways of presenting them. This is why you can't patent (or copyright) an idea, only the execution of that idea.

Adam Heine said...

I don't know why this question always triggers my someone is wrong on the internet response, but it does. I apologize for the following comment.

"If a published author takes my concept and publishes it before I do, do I have any rights to it."

You cannot copyright an idea, so no. (For that matter, the published author cannot publish an idea either, only a book).

"The zombie concept I shared has never been done before"

Not knowing what the concept is, I feel 100% certain that this is false.

"I understand everyone can take the same topic and make it their own but the first original idea does have an impact."

There is some truth to this, I'll give you that. But the impact is not as much as you think (also "original idea" is an impossibility).

"Ex. any sparkly vampires are just rip-offs of Twilight no matter how much superior."

1) What Janet said. It's not an idea.
2) Even if it were an idea, it's not a good one.
3) Even if it were a good idea, you absolutely could take it and make it your own/superior. That's what writing is: taking existing ideas (there are no original ones) and making them your own.

Again, sorry about this comment. It's just something I used to worry about a lot, and I hate to see others worry about the same thing. It's a waste of time.

Lance said...

She yelped loudly when this lone, four-eyed geek tried to unzip her from the rabbit costume. Note: rabbit costume; not even a Bunny outfit. A full, freaking, golden velour rabbit costume!
"You'll wake my mom. Be quiet, please"
"If you scar my back, your mom will be the least of your worries." She looked at the basement: a pathetic attempt at decorating it like the CeeCee on Luke's home planet. A cage rattled in the corner under an old Holiday Inn towel.
"What's in the cage? You're not letting no animal out while I'm here. You got that?"
"No, don't worry. I captured the zeitgeist. I'm gonna put it in my novel."

Eliza said...

This says "if" the author takes the idea, which implies the author hasn't taken it yet. In that case you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Plus, if an author is published, they've probably got a book they're editing, a book they're drafting, and a few book ideas running around in their head. They don't want your idea because they have enough of their own. I'm nowhere near being published and I have 63 ideas in my Potential Stories file.

BPatterson said...

Fun fact, sparkly vampires were done by Anne Rice in a sense. All her vampires had glass fingernails that glittered like diamonds and luminescent hair and features. And if I'm right, (which I may not be, I read those books YEARS ago), in Queen of the Damned, she describes the King and Queen vampires as alabaster statues that shone. So the idea of vampires shining bright like diamonds - not even new to Twilight.