Writing Books/Plagiarism

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QUESTION: Dear Nori J. Muster,

I hope that all is well with you. I'm having a problem that is becoming more ominous for me a Writer. Recently, I created a new website. I began writing blogs and articles on the website. Some of my articles I shared on Twitter. I requested people not copy my work via sign post, and the blogs/articles are copyrighted. I am now becoming interested in writing a book. I want to use some of my same articles in the book I write. I want to make money from the book. I'm thinking to myself, What if the blog ever had to come down for reason? What if someone steals my articles, and re-post them as their work either here in America or another country? For the first time I'm thinking blogging, and writing internet articles is one of the most foolish things I could have done. I found this response on Yahoo Answers by someone who had a similar view...

"Best Answer:  Ideas cannot be copyrighted. Therefore, they cannot really be stolen.The idea itself is only 10% of the novel. The other 90% is hard work and dedication. Even if someone does steal your idea, they have to make the effort of writing the book on their own. The people who "steal" ideas are usually not the people with the ability to sit and actually write a novel. Besides that, in order for it to actually be plagiarism, someone would have to steal a whole section of the actual story you've written and try to pass it off as their own. In a case like that, you'd be able to prove that your version was posted first, and the plagiarist had access to it.

Just posting excerpts is fine, though I'd recommend against posting the entire novel. When you post the whole thing online, you are essentially publishing it (and giving up first publishing rights), and most publishers won't accept it once it's already been published somewhere. Even if you remove it, there are archive sites that will make sure it's never really gone. The publisher isn't likely to sell a book when people can read it online for free. It's too much of a risk for them to take.

You might try posting excerpts of your story in the Share Your Work section of the absolutewrite.com forums, or on some writer's forums. You might also look into getting a good critique partner (someone you trust, so you won't worry so much about your work getting stolen).

Good luck with your story."

My articles have been posted since Mid-March. In your opinion, Should I remove ALL of my post? Some have received a decent amount of traffic, because I sent people to the site to read the articles/blogs. I'm becoming very concerned about this. They are Christian articles. If they go my readership goes too (maybe I can sell products through the site or something). I want to use Blurb or a similar site to write a book, but now I wish I worked on the book first. PLEASE HELP! I will wait for you reply.

Thank you,

William

PS: 2 New Long Articles, 3 New Blogs, 12 Archived Articles: Calendar Period 2000-2007. I was going to release another new long article, but I'm having second thoughts. I was told by a long time Writer, "Do not worry about plagiarism. Get your name out there and become known. You cannot plagiarize from someone who isn't known". But there have been incidents of famous Musicians who ripped off "nobodies". Singer's Alan Thicke and Will Ferrell now have to pay the Marvin Gaye estate (family) millions, because it was determined they ripped off his work. He is dead and they felt end of story, but a federal judge decided otherwise.

ANSWER: Hi William,
Thank you for writing to me, nice to meet a fellow writer.
Your "Best Answer" is partly correct and partly incorrect.
He/she is correct ins saying that

-- Ideas cannot be copyrighted. Therefore, they cannot really be stolen.The idea itself is only 10% of the novel. The other 90% is hard work and dedication. Even if someone does steal your idea, they have to make the effort of writing the book on their own. The people who "steal" ideas are usually not the people with the ability to sit and actually write a novel. Besides that, in order for it to actually be plagiarism, someone would have to steal a whole section of the actual story you've written and try to pass it off as their own. In a case like that, you'd be able to prove that your version was posted first, and the plagiarist had access to it. --

However, Best Answer is incorrect here:

-- Just posting excerpts is fine, though I'd recommend against posting the entire novel. When you post the whole thing online, you are essentially publishing it (and giving up first publishing rights), and most publishers won't accept it once it's already been published somewhere. Even if you remove it, there are archive sites that will make sure it's never really gone. The publisher isn't likely to sell a book when people can read it online for free. It's too much of a risk for them to take. --

If you wrote something, and you can prove you wrote it, and your e-book is selling about a hundred copies a day, then it would be easy to find a publisher who would pick it up.

That's why it's good to publish your book on Amazon Kindle. It puts it out there for people to buy. Then if it catches fire, goes viral, a publisher will buy it.
But these days, with the Internet, there is so much opportunity to get your stuff out there without a publisher, agent, etc. That goes for writing, art, music, and professional services like home decorating, etc.
The main thing a publisher can supply is a good edit. The publisher will help polish the book, to get it ready for sales. They can also advertise it to their regular readers, but even with a professional publisher, it is up to the author to promote the book.
Also, it's great to have a day job so you don't have to whip your creations and try to force them to pay all your bills.

My book that's published by a "real" publisher gives me about fifty cents per book. The books I have self-published at Amazon Kindle give me about $2 each (70-30 split for books I sell for $3 each as Kindles). Plus, my books are short, and so $3 is a great price.

Anyways, just make sure that you keep control of the things you post. Make sure your name is on it. If you find people who copied your work and try to pass it off without credit, confront them about it. As long as you can show that you worked to protect your copyrights, they are yours.

I have two friends who collected court settlements for bands ripping off their tunes. One was against the Rolling Stones, and she and her husband could prove they sent a demo tape to the Stones. Musicians may not remember where a melody or song idea first got into their minds, but if it can be proven someone else thought of it first, they will often pay out.

One time, Amazon questioned me about my version of the I Ching (Kindle: "Learning to Flow with the Dao"). They said they found the same manuscript at three websites. One was my own site, and the other two I confronted. One of the sites pulled the pages down; the other one gave me credit. Then Amazon backed off.

So you just have to be aware. Once in a while I put a direct quote from my I Ching manuscript into the search engines to see if it shows up anywhere besides my site and this other site that I allow to use it.

As far as Blurb, I recommend you write the book on your computer, using Word. Then import it to their software (Smart Book?). You want to keep the original copy of your book there on your computer. Keep a few older versions around on CD ROMS in case you ever have to go back and show when you first wrote it.

To work with Amazon Kindle, you open an account (username/password), then follow the prompts. You have to give them your Social Security number and bank account, so they can 1099 you.You can upload your book as a Word file.

Write back if you have any further questions, or when the time comes, write back if you want more tips on posting your work to Amazon.

Nori


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Nori,

Thank you so much for an insightful, and informative reply. I have three more questions... I typed in my written name here and there in my articles and blogs (although, I am well aware how I placed is not always grammatically correct). My first and last name is also on a side panel, and in the footer area with a (c) copyright symbol for every page. Some pages are dated. My question becomes, If I put off internet writing to work on a book manuscript, Should I be concerned about a falling readership/traffic (website crawlers will infrequently need new info. for me to maintain a blogging presence)? Also, now that I tagged my work with signatures, and after I feel I wrote sufficient information to put together a book, Should I leave the stuff that's already on the internet as a precursor to my coming book? Lastly, in your opinion, Are hit counters secondary deterrents to plagiarist (it sends the subtle message other people see who the author is)? Nori, I will wait for your reply. Thank you.

William

Answer
Hi again William -

Good questions. Here's my two cents worth.

-- I typed in my written name here and there in my articles and blogs (although, I am well aware how I placed is not always grammatically correct). My first and last name is also on a side panel, and in the footer area with a (c) copyright symbol for every page. Some pages are dated. --

Very good.

-- My question becomes, If I put off internet writing to work on a book manuscript, Should I be concerned about a falling readership/traffic (website crawlers will infrequently need new info. for me to maintain a blogging presence)? --

Yes, so as possible, continue to blog. Instead of posting the material you're writing, you might talk about the process of writing. For example, you could blog about your productivity, your distractions, your thoughts about writing. Like, "I was writing, but then the strangest thing happened . . ." Or, "It was a productive day, and I am now completing the second chapter . . . " Or, "The third chapter was not coming together, but then I had a realization that . . . . " etc.

-- Also, now that I tagged my work with signatures, and after I feel I wrote sufficient information to put together a book, Should I leave the stuff that's already on the internet as a precursor to my coming book? --

You can leave it, if you want to. Or you could clean it up. In 2009 I took down all the posts I had written during the Bush administration years. I thought that I would form the material into a book about those years, but the quality of the writing was so bitter and upsetting to read, it just ended up sitting on a hard drive since then. I may never make it into a cohesive piece, but it certainly will not go back on my site.

-- Lastly, in your opinion, Are hit counters secondary deterrents to plagiarist (it sends the subtle message other people see who the author is)?--

No, don't worry about a hit counter. The main deterrent to plagiarists would be a letter from you asking them to cease and desist from posting your material. The absolute main deterrent is common decency, which most people still observe. The people who are not decent are more likely to punch a neighbor than steal someone else's writing. Sometimes students will plagiarize to complete an assignment, but that's not the kind of plagiarism you are worried about.

If you want to discuss further, write back. Best wishes on your writing,
Nori  

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Nori J. Muster

Expertise

Writing and publishing books, including e-books.

Experience

I have been writing for publication since 1981, including years as a staff writer, associate editor, editorial writer, and freelance reporter. At this time, I have eight Kindle books for sale at Amazon.com.

Organizations
Lakes of Tempe Authors, Tempe, Arizona

Publications
Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement
Dreaming Peace: Your Thoughts Can Change the World
Cult Recovery Handbook: Seven Paths to an Authentic Life
Child of the Cult
Learning to Flow with the Tao: The 64 Hexagrams of the I Ching
Positive Quotations: Wisdom from the Master Mind
Collected Writings: Five Books by Nori Muster
Noriland Art Gallery: Secrets from the Vault
Spiritual Summer and Other Short Stories


Education/Credentials
UCLA Extension Writer's Program, 1988 - 1994
Master's Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, Western Oregon University, 1991

Awards and Honors
Interviews:
USA Today, Los Angeles Times, BBC World Services Focus on Faith, BBC Sunday Programme, Salon.com, Glamour Magazine, Portland Mercury News, W-Five TV (Toronto), Publisher's Weekly, Boston Phoenix, San Francisco Chronicle, ABC TV News - 20/20, ABC radio, Associated Press, The Age (Melbourne), Rediff.com, The New York Times, Religious News Service, Dallas Morning News, Columbia Journalism School, Whole Life Times (Los Angeles), Toronto Sun, the John Dayle Show (KFYI AM, Phoenix), the Eliot Stein Show (syndicated radio and Internet broadcast), Discovery with Josh Wagner (KKUP, 91.5 FM, Santa Clara, California), KOGO (News Radio 600, San Diego), Jupiterís Girl syndicated radio show, Lakes Log.

Book Reviews:
Publisherís Weekly, Feminist Bookstore News, Yoga Journal, New York Post, Choice Magazine, Boston Herald, Nexus (Colorado), Gentle Strength Times, Coastlines (UCSB alumni), Theology Digest, Nova Religio, Rapport, India West, Rediff.com, Amazon.com.

Book Signings:
Prescott College reunion; Gentle Strength Co-op, Tempe; Different Drummer Bookshop, Laguna Beach; L.A. Times Toastmasters; Biltmore Plaza Border's Books, Phoenix; Bodhi Tree Bookstore, Los Angeles; Health & Life Enrichment Expo, Pasadena; Sacramento Reads book festival, and others.

Publishers:
ISKCON World Review, Van Dhal Publications, Gentle Strength Times, Arizona Woman, Lakes Log, ICSA Today, Cultic Studies Review, University of Illinois Press, Kindle, steamboats.com, surrealist.org, Apple Books, and others.

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