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Writing Books/Protecting your idea


Hi. I have a great idea for a very powerful book that want to donate 50% of the proceeds to a charity. I need to collaborate with the organization in order to be able to collect the information I need for the book, which includes visiting individual patients. I also want to collaborate with a photographer that will take the photographs for the book. I have two questions: 1.) Is there a way to propose idea for this book to the organization and a photographer to find out if they will collaborate with me without giving my idea out for someone else to steal?
2.) In an estimate can you tell me how much money you need to put a book together, and is it possible if you do not have much money to put in to it? Thank you very much, I look forward to hearing your advice.

Dear Kelly,

Usually, at the point of putting together ideas, etc., and even later, when you're doing interviews and taking photographs to back up these ideas, etc., it's not something one can legitimately "steal"; in other words, at that point in the game, it's not tangible material yet -- and one can't copyright ideas or even outlines that one intends to put forward, toward a book such as yours.

The best way to protect yourself during this time, however, is to prepare simple release forms, which I would certainly advise that you use before conducting interviews or taking photographs of the patients -- it can be just a simple form that you write, detailing exactly what you will be doing, and for what purpose, etc., so you can collect signatures of either the patients or their guardians, and you can give them a copy so that everyone will literally be "on the same page," so to speak. It will help protect you from any potential libel cases in the future, should they arise, but it's really just good, standard procedure.

Also, before you head into this, write a pretty thorough proposal, which you can then present to all whom you would like to be involved, and ask that each person (such as the owner or manager of the organization, the photographer, etc.) read, sign, and date, also for your records.

It's really impossible to say what kind of range one would expect this to take in terms of cost without knowing the broader scope of the program and your ideas, etc., but in general (depending upon your charity group), documentaries and/or any other media created for nonprofits are tax-deductible, so at least you can recoup some cash later for any money you put up front to get the ball rolling.

Other than that, you can often work out a deal with a photographer or photojournalist to help you put this together; these kinds of projects are usually not very cost-prohibitive, and they also hold a great deal of appeal toward the public information sector, i.e., your local news media, or even your PBS station -- meaning you can "sell" this piece rather easily because it's human-interest-oriented, which many news organizations truly welcome -- too much hard news is never a good thing because you need that certain "balance" to keep your integrity as a TV station, newspaper, community group, you name it.

I hope this helps, and it certainly sounds like you have some great ideas there -- I wish more people thought like you, and not just for the "dollars" they hope to make --

Another idea re: financing is to obtain sponsorship, which you can get from a place like your local Dunkin' Donuts to a specialty frame shop, just as a general idea. Just use the Yellow Pages to your advantage; you'll be surprised how many people will be glad to pitch in.

Good luck on this project!

All Best,
Catherine Van Herrin

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Catherine Van Herrin


I am an American-born, native English speaker with a BA in English and more than 26 years of professional editing, writing, and proofreading experience. I have edited several books and book-length manuscripts. References and titles available upon request.

For further work or assistance with larger projects, see my profile here, with 190 excellent reviews: WordChannel Professional Reviews, Ratings

I can use British-English or American-English, and I am very familiar with Chicago and AP style.


More than 26 years' U.S. publishing industry experience, editorial (print). I provide crystal-clear, clean grammar; strict attention to style, consistency, flow, logic, accuracy, and spelling, and I work quickly and efficiently.

I do not format or provide technical assistance in publishing books. I use MS Word only.

If I can help you further, contact me at the website above (create a job request) or write to me at My rate is $0.008 per word. Send requests/inquiries to I accept currency only through PayPal, with 50% of the total at project initiation; the balance is due upon project completion.

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AA, Liberal Arts, Anderson College, Anderson, South Carolina. BA, English, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia. Post-graduate concentration: Post-war Irish poetry and early 18th century English fiction, Angelo State University, San Angelo, Texas.

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I have worked with authors in the UK, Canada, the US, and several other countries. References and titles available on request.

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