Archive for 28/03/2011

Copyright & criticism fears – is it worth it to get a reader?

28/03/2011 2 comments

There’s a lot to suggest that the writers who go out to get their work read by somebody, whatever it takes, often have the best shot at publication. Even while submitting the official way, it seems that getting your work read and discussed elsewhere can sometimes make the difference.

If you’ve finished something, it can be frustrating not to have a reader. Even if things are going as well as they can be without an actual book deal; great agent, lots of interest, etc etc, there’s probably going to be a time when it all goes very quiet, and what happens happens somewhere far away while the writer waits. You’re no longer drafting, so you don’t necessarily need feedback (hate that word), but neither are you published so your book sits and waits with you. In time, you might start to wonder what Novel 1 was for, and whether it ever actually existed. That’s where the idea for Yet-to-be-books came from.

In our first few months, we’ve had some really good discussions but there have been a couple of concerns raised by writers;

1) Criticism / negative comments. Overarching negative comments such as ‘the book is crap’ won’t get through because all comments are moderated. (There haven’t been any comments like that so far). There are some grey areas; minor negatives, criticisms, and criticisms by inference among them. Although it’s explicitly not the aim of Yet-to-be-books, some writers do ask for ‘feedback’ during the discussions, which is fair enough. What of those who don’t, though? It would be interesting to know how writers – members, potential, or otherwise – feel about the idea of criticism in the public domain.

2) Copyright / plagiarism – someone could steal your work, distribute it in an unauthorised way, or let it pass into the wrong hands by negligence. There is some reciprocity in Yet-to-be-books – to get the books sent to you, you need to have a book to send. That way they’re not getting fired off to hundreds of any-olds. The concern remains for some, and there has been a suggestion that we ask all participants to delete electronic copies from their computers and email accounts, then confirm by way of the organiser (me) that it’s been done. Another suggestion is that participants agree, when they join the group, to deleting electronic copies after each discussion. It would be interesting to know what people think of this too. Is plagiarism, etc., likely and are measures like this worthwhile?

In my own experience, a couple of friends have got book deals through other writers who’ve read their novels, then passed them on. I don’t know anyone personally who has experienced plagiarism, but would be interested to hear from anyone who has, in the comments on this post. Do the potential benefits (and immediate satisfaction) of having a reader for an unpublished book outweigh the risks? Is it almost as difficult to plagiarise and publish a book successfully as it is to write and publish one? Writers who have had work discussed on this blog – what has been your experience of criticism / discussion in the public domain? Over to you.

(Thanks, by the way, for a good discussion on Monday 21st – 226 page loads from the UK and US, including 36 new visitors and 43 unique visitors in total. The next discussion will be on 9th May and will be on ‘Strange Affairs, Ginger Hairs’ by Neil Leigh.)