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Is It Safe To E-Mail Material?

This is a response to a recent post
(below) about copyright and
protecting your work.

Q: I am puzzled. You state in your coverage of copyright that a writer should not put text of a manuscript online as it could lead to the lifting (paraphrasing here) of the material by another writer. These days, so many publishers and agents ask that writers do just that: send the first five pages or more in the body of an e-mail. This certainly can lead to this very thing, although I am not the suspicious type. It does happen, doesn't it? Then why are writers asked to put their ideas in jeopardy of this is the case?
- Sylvia

A: You sound suspicious for not being the suspicious type.
Regarding my advice to not put portions of your work online, I'm not talking about e-mail. I'm talking about placing chunks of text (chapters, usually) online on your Web site. Sending your work in an e-mail, or as an attachment, to an agent or editor is quite safe. Like I said before, agents and editors don't steal work; writers steal work.
Putting part of a novel or short story online for no one in particular to see is usually a mistake, because very little good can come from it.

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