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Hello, I have just finished a book I had been working on for serveral years.  It is my personal account of my struggle and eventual survival with a depression.  I have had it critiqued by friends, realatives, college professors, and anyone else I could get to read it and all have encourged me to try to get it published. My questions are: Do I need to get a copyright before sending it to a publisher? Do I need an agent?  What are the legal aspects of using real names, or do I need to change the names of real people.  I have spent hundreds of hours on the internet and in libaries trying to find the answers to these question and I am now totally confused, please help.  Thank You  

Answer
Dear Genie,
Congratulations on writing your book. You can find more information about how to find a publisher posted at my site. http://steamboats.com/writing.html
You will also find some good writing books about how to get published.
I hope the information answers your questions, but I will give a few brief answers here.
You don't have to get your manuscript copyrighted before you send it out. Just type copyright [your name] on the cover page. Or "c. your name." If you send your book proposal to legitimate agents and publishers they will not steal your writing. If you are worried about it, you can always print out the manuscript and mail it to yourself. Leave it unopened and the postmark will show the date when you had the idea. You can also give the unopened envelope to an attorney to hold. Another way to do it is join a writer's group and register your idea with them. It is rare that a legitimate agent or publisher would steal a writer's idea, although it has been known to happen in the case of screenplays, especially.
re. agents. You would probably be better off trying the mid to small publishers yourself, without an agent. Most agents like to work with celebrities or people who have their own magazine column, or people who are in the news. Besides, if an agent takes your story it could end up lost on his or her desk for a year with no buyers. You have the motivation to sell your story, so it's probably better not to get a middle man involved.
You can use real names if it's your story and they are people who played a part in the story. Just make sure you portray them accurately. Also, make sure the publisher knows that you have used real names. The publisher will know the proper way to present it.
I hope this and the info. at my site helps.
Sincerely,
Nori

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