Category Archives: The Sword of Dragons

Are Writers Too Close To Their Stories?

Hi everyone!

Back in March, I wrote an article about software that analyzes a passage and tells you whose writing style it is similar to.  One of the things I was surprised to learn was that my writing style has changed over time.  More than that, I’ve even come to realize that my writing style changes depending on what I am writing.

I’m not just talking about the difference between fantasy and sci fi, but within a single novel.  The first Sword of Dragons novel (Rise of the Forgotten), I initially got Arthur Conan Doyle, and later on, JK Rowling.  I’ve put in a few other passages from Rise of the Forgotten (all edited versions) and got Dan Brown for an action sequence, and then JK Rowling for another random section.

However, back in March, I was surprised when passages from Burning Skies and the unfinished book 3 came out as Ursula K. Le Guin, the writer of the Earthsea series.  I’d never read any of her work, so wasn’t sure what to make of it.  So I went out and bought the first Earthsea novel, The Wizard of Earthsea.  About a week ago, I finally started reading it.

…and I don’t see it.  I don’t see any similarity to her writing style.  I was shocked by that.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t like her writing style, I actually rather enjoy it and I’m getting through the first book very quickly.  In fact someone said she’s a master of character development, so the comparison is flattering.  But I don’t see the similarity to my style.

Or at least, I didn’t think so at first…

Am I Just Too Close To My Own Writing To See It?

I mentioned this to my friend Liza the other day over IM.  She kinda paused for a bit, and then replied that she actually could see the similarity, and started going into details about how.  One of the thing she said is that we both write very matter-of-fact in many instances.

I see that in Earthsea, but I wasn’t seeing that in my own writing.  And I started wondering…is that just because I’m too close to my own writing?  I know that’s why they say a writer should always get an outside editor (hard to do when you can’t afford one…)

It’s neither a good thing or a bad thing, though, it’s just my style.  Some people will like it, some won’t.  I started wondering if I should find a way to adjust my writing and make it less ‘matter-of-fact’ but then I realized that it works for me.  Not to say my writing style is perfect – I will never stop trying to make myself better.

But that’s an important thing to remember.  Find your voice.  It may be like someone else’s, but that’s okay as long as it is your voice and it isn’t a struggle to write in that style.

So Do Outside Opinions Matter Or Not?

This becomes a rather difficult question to answer.  Not everyone likes my writing style.  And I truly do think that I’ll always have room for improvement.  But who would be the best judge of my style and what direction I should go to improve it?

Honestly that’s something I struggled with in the writer’s critique groups.  There were writers from all genres there, and some of the other writers there were criticizing aspects that were staples to fantasy.  As much as I like to turn some tropes on their heads, if you do that too much, you can actually drive readers of your genre away.  Finding that balance is difficult.

I find that writers often try to impose the rules of their genre onto others when they get into a critique group.  Just ask any die-hard literary fiction writers.  (And now I’m having flashbacks to my college days…)

So does that mean that only writers from your story’s genre can be good judges?  Actually…not necessarily.  Because even within a genre, writers have their own styles, and readers can have preferences to styles.

So the question is…who is the authority?  Is there an authority?  I honestly don’t know.  Even within a single genre, ‘famous’ writers can have extremely different styles, and some of those famous writers break every rule that’s out there.

I don’t have an answer to that question.  At all.

So my only advice: go with your gut.  Trust the opinions of your target audience and don’t stop trying to improve your writing.  In fact, pay close attention to what your target audience says.  That may be the best thing you can do for yourself and your writing.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

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When Is It Too Soon?

Hi everyone,

I apologize that today’s blog post is such a short one, we’ve had a family emergency and my mind is just…not in the right place for writing a blog.  However, I didn’t want to leave you all with nothing this week, so I thought I’d answer a question I’ve been asked by a couple of people recently.

Cover by Christian Michael

“Why did you announce the 2nd editions of the Sword of Dragons so early?  If people know that there’s going to be a 2nd edition sometime soon, doesn’t that mean few people will want to buy the current editions?  You won’t get many sales between now and then.”

That’s true, and is one of the things I considered when deciding when to reveal those plans.  However, for the same reason that I made the announcement so early, I’ve not been buying any more advertisements for the books.

I would feel guilty, trying to get people to buy my books when there’s a newer, better version on the horizon.  I already feel bad since I know there will be some people who already have the 1st editions that will want to buy the 2nd, and that in turn has fueled my desire to make the 2nd edition as good as possible, to make it worthwhile.

When I said that, someone replied, “Who cares if they have to buy two versions?  You want to make a living off of writing, right?  Then you should try making money anywhere you can.”

Is that the right way to make more money?  Possibly.  But is it the right thing to do?

It’s no secret, I want to be able to make enough sales to one day live off of writing.  But I don’t want to make my entire focus be on money, because I’m afraid if I do that, I’ll lose my real focus –  Telling stories the best way that I can.

Progress on the 2nd Editions

I’m more than halfway through Rise of the Forgotten’s edits, and I’m finding that all of the chapters I wrote just before, during, and just after my writers block all those years ago need way more work than any previous ones so far.  And that makes sense to me, since I had a really hard time getting the story out back then.

As for the maps, the map of Edilas (the continent where the 4 kingdoms are) is complete except for a couple of details.  Test prints came out wonderful!  I need to get the world map cleaned up and a couple of final details on it, and then I need to get Devor ready for book 2.

Projected completion of 2nd editions is still in the air, but I’ll definitely let you all know as soon as I know :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

More To Map Making Than Meets The Eye

Hi everyone!

Part of why I was excited to release last week’s announcement was that I can finally talk about the different pieces of my latest project, and how everything is coming along with them!

This includes the maps of Halarite for the Sword of Dragons novels!  A couple of years ago, Wayne Adams of VtW Productions introduced me to a friend who was interested in making maps for the Sword of Dragons.  Through many months of collaboration, Chloe drew up several maps, including a low-detail one of the world and higher-detailed versions of each continent.

One thing we agreed on was that she would not label anything.  That task would fall to me after I scanned them in.  However, there’s one thing I didn’t think about at the time:

I have very little experience making or labeling maps.  And it is not as easy as one might think.

How do you put labels on a map so that it is understandable, legible, and not cluttered or confusing?

The map that came with Elder Scrolls IV – Oblivion

Thankfully, I had actually done some work on this all the way back in school, and a little bit since then.  Plus, I love maps.  I have a giant map of Middle Earth hanging on the wall at our apartment, and I have kept every map from every Elder Scrolls game I’ve bought, not to mention some old maps from EverQuest.

As I’ve been working on this, I’ve come to realize a few things…

Labeling What’s Most Important

Good example of labeling what’s important to a story, from the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

Just like a book cover must convey the appropriate message to the target audience, a map should be tailored to convey the information someone might need from it.  In the case of a novel, a map should have the information a reader might need.

These decisions are especially important for me since my maps will be in a small, black-and-white paperback format.  That means there isn’t going to be room for a lot of small details, and fine-print will make it impossible to read.  Obvious labeling will be necessary.

I do have the advantage of the fact that I have different detailed maps.  The overall global map has few land features on it, so that gives me room to label political boundaries, for instance.  Furthermore, I’m considering having the global map span two pages, as I’ve seen done in other novels.

Then, for book 1, I’ll have the more detailed map of Edilas, the continent where the 4 kingdoms are, on a single page.  For book 2, I may still include that map, but I’ll also include a map of Devor.

Another lesson I remember from school is that bigger features require bigger names.  So for instance on the global map, I’ll make the world name the biggest.  Continent names will be smaller.  Kingdom names smaller, followed by city and feature names.

Maps for Print vs. Maps for Web

One advantage I do have: these are fairly high-res images.  So while I’ll be focusing for now on the maps that’ll go into books 1, 2 and 3, I will be making higher-detailed versions for the website, http://www.theswordofdragons.com/.  Thankfully people can always zoom in to read finer print on the web.

There’s also the advantage of color on the web.  I’ve already played around a bit by adding overlay colors for the 4 kingdoms on the global map.  I think this will be useful and interesting for readers.

While I don’t want to make readers of the print editions go online to see more detailed maps, I think having the option will be a nice addition.  “Here’s these maps, but if you want to see more details, go to the website!”  That’ll allow readers like me, who love to learn as much as possible about fantasy worlds, to get more information.

That’s all for today!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the production of the 2nd editions.  If there are any specific features you’d like included in the maps, let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

The Big Announcement – My Next Publication!

Hi everyone!

I’m excited to write this blog post today, because I’ve been hinting around my new writing project for some time, but I’ve not actually made any official announcements.

As many of you know, my life has been extremely crazy and busy lately, between moving, wedding plans, and work going through a busy period, so I knew I was not going to get the 3rd book of Sword of Dragons finished in time for its planned release.

In fact, I’ve not had a chance to really focus on writing the 3rd book at all, I don’t have the time to devote to it.  But with all of my conversations with my fiancee about book covers, and all of the research I’ve done online, I knew there was a project I could do that would allow for very short spurts of work on it between the busy times.

The Sword of Dragons novels have all received high praise from those who have read it, but getting people to give it a chance has been a difficult task.  All of my market research and discussions with other authors and my fiancee point to several factors, including but not limited to the cover.

As such, I am officially working on the 2nd edition of books 1 and 2 of the Sword of Dragons series!

What does a 2nd edition mean?  More than just a new cover.  A whole lot more!  But let’s start there.

The New Covers

Books 1 and 2 side by side :)

As I talked about in my last blog, I’ve learned that keeping marketing in mine from the get go has been important.  This was a key focus for when I started working on new covers for books 1 and 2 while also planning covers for book 3 and for The Orc War Campaigns.  I wanted to create a theme that could be carried through all 4 books, as well as be something I could carry into the rest of the series beyond book 3.

My focus on marketing this time around actually was a big help in coming up with the final cover layout for the entire series!  I also followed the advice of publishers, editors, and cover artists, and created multiple versions for each novels’ cover, and then worked with several people to decide which one worked best, and even how to make the chosen one for each book better.

This involved sending the version to everyone helping me, as well as following my fiancee’s advice and taking a screenshot of an Amazon page, and editing in the versions of my cover to see which stood out best, and how my improvements to them changed how it popped on Amazon.

The result?  4 very amazing covers!  That I can’t reveal just yet.

Cover by Christian Michael

*ducks*  Hey don’t throw things at me!  ;)  But seriously, I am not yet ready to reveal the covers.  What I can tell you is test prints have turned out amazing, and even Christian, the man who made the cover for book 1, agrees that the new cover scheme is well done and works well with my genre.

Where did I get the cover art?  That was where a ton of my time was spent: looking for cover art.  And I ended up finding a cover artist on some stock photo websites who has done several pieces of dragon artwork that is stylistically similar.  This allowed me to find 4 pieces of cover art that are stylistically similar, and I have knowledge that there is plenty more for me to use for future books.

The best part is, being stock art, I can buy the rights to use them on the novel.  No legal issues, no ‘I hope they don’t realize I used their art without permission.’  I’ll have followed all proper procedures and will have legally procured the rights.

However, before I did purchase the rights, I took the watermarked, low-res versions of the artwork and made test covers, then printed them out to ensure they would look good.  This is a method I intend to use from here on out, to ensure that I don’t spend money on cover art that I end up never using.  I am, after all, working on a very limited budget.

Maps Will Finally Be Included!

I’ve heard it from countless readers: maps are a must!  So the 2nd edition of books 1 and 2, and all future volumes of Sword of Dragons will include maps.  I’ve had physical copies for a while, but haven’t had a chance to get them scanned, and a visit a couple months ago to Office Depot to get them scanned was highly disappointing, resulting in totally useless files.

Thanks to Wayne Adams from VtW Productions, I was able to get high-res scans finished last weekend.  This means I now have digital copies to edit and prepare.  These will first be made available on the website, http://www.theswordofdragons.com/, but will also be included in the novels.  I hope this will be a big help to everyone who reads the novels!

Much-needed Editing

Photo by Wayne Adams of Death’s House Productions

My original plan with the 2nd editions was to do another set of proofreads to catch any spelling or grammar issues.  As I started on book 1, it became very clear that my first published novel was in need of some serious TLC beyond copy-edit.

I am not changing the story, but I am fixing up how the story is told.  Sometimes this means very few changes, but sometimes this means entire paragraphs are rewritten.

My beta readers have read through the rewrite of chapter 1 and thoroughly enjoy the changes, while noting that even though they have read the original version several times, the changes weren’t distracting.  In fact, this is what I am working on right now, and am about 1/3rd through book 1.

Furthermore, Wayne and 2 of his friends have volunteered to perform copyediting on books 1 and 2!  So this will further ensure a polished edition :)

But…book 1.  Hmm.  The Sword of Dragons book 1.  Naw, that needs a better title.

Naming Book 1

When I first prepared book 1 for publication, Christian insisted that I should give book 1 its own unique title, different from the series title.  I didn’t listen.  And now I regret that decision.

So that will be part of the change in the 2nd edition.  Book 1 officially has its own title!  *drum roll*

Rise of the Forgotten

Rise of the Forgotten

It fits quite well, not just in a big way, but in many small ways :)  Plus, giving book 1 a unique title has allowed me to keep a theme for the covers of all novels.  (And yes, I just showed you a sneak-peak of book 1’s cover ;) )

Those are all of the big changes coming in the 2nd edition!  “What about book 3” you might ask?  Well, that already has a title and a cover!  But I still need to finish the actual manuscript.  The Orc War Campaigns also has a cover, but again, I need to finish edits on it before it is ready for release.

“When will these be released?”  I do not yet have a timeline for that, and I’m hesitant to try to set one at the moment.  There’s still too much going on in my life to be able to predictably work on the edits.  But I am working as diligently as possible, and I am looking forward to revealing more as time goes on!

I hope with these 2nd editions to please the fans I already have with a nice, polished, worthwhile product, while also attracting new readers!

Thanks for reading! :)
-Jon Wasik

Planning Ahead for Marketing

Hi everyone!

When it comes to self publishing, one of the things I’ve struggled with the most is marketing.  In fact, it’s been one of my biggest banes since I started down this rabbit hole.  Going in, I had no idea just how important it was, and for that matter, just how much it needs to be a part of your product development from day one.

I thought I had it all figured out in the beginning.  The day that I decided that I was going to self publish The Sword of Dragons, I immediately started looking at what I was going to do for a cover design.

Image Source – http://indiefreshpress.blogspot.com/2016/08/store-tour-absolutely-fiction.html

This led me to wandering bookstores with friends, pointing out book covers that stood out to us, discussing the good and bad parts of covers, and trying to figure out what would make a good cover for the Sword of Dragons.

In hindsight, doing so, especially first thing in the planning process, was a smart idea.  Unfortunately, that was probably one of the few things I did right in the beginning.

What did I do wrong after that?  For starters, I didn’t have a fully finished product.  I wanted my book out there, and I didn’t want to wait to finish important things, such as getting a polished world map ready.  I also didn’t spend more time researching marketing, researching fantasy novels, or cover design.

At one point, while looking at covers, I looked to a couple of my friends and said, “all of these fantasy novels look the same.  I want mine to stand out and be different.  So I’m not going to follow their examples.”

In principle it sounded like a good idea.  Make my book stand out amongst all the others.

Except I was looking on bookshelves.  Not at Amazon.com.  Not at Barnesandnobel.com.  Plus there’s one other aspect I hadn’t considered…

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

I’ve run into a problem with the Sword of Dragons series: everyone who has read it has thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’ve even gained a few fans!  And they’ve done their best to try to spread the word to others.

Books 1 and 2 side by side :)

But what about those who don’t know me or don’t know any of those fans?  Or even know the fans, but are so stretched for free time that they are picky about what they read?  What do they think when they see the cover for the Sword of Dragons or Burning Skies?  Do they see a book that looks like a great fantasy adventure?  Or do my covers say something else to them?

I’ve touched on the subject before about cover design, you have to target your audience.  And one of the things you can do is make a cover that fits within your genre while standing well on its own.  Many, many people have told me at this point, “put a dragon on your cover, your sales will increase.”  Why?  Because my book has dragons in it, and the entire series will increasingly feature dragons.  So I want to attract readers interested in dragons.

But there’s more to it than that, and this has as much to do with marketing as graphic design.

Marketing Books in the 21st Century

I think one of my biggest mistakes was trying to consider how my book would look on book shelves.  Even if I get to that point some day where Barnes and Noble puts my novels on their shelves, before I can get to that, I need to consider how my covers will look as a tiny little thumbnail on amazon.com.

And while working on a project’s cover recently (well, sort of recently, before we started packing to move), my fiancee had a great idea that I believe may have helped me in the long run.

If you go to amazon.com and start drilling down into book categories to, in this case, fantasy novels (sword and sorcery!) take a look at the books there.  The covers have all been resized down to thumbnail size.  Beck had the idea, “take a screen shot, and then edit in your cover design to see how it looks in comparison with the others.”

I knew the moment she said it that it was an amazing idea, and set out to do so.  It also helped me figure out which cover to use, because I had ideas for 2 or 3 different covers and had made preliminary versions for each.  I put each version up as thumbnails, and very quickly identified which cover popped best while still being easy to identify as a sword and sorcery type novel with dragons.

But I also realized there were issues with the.  The title blended in with the cover, and the cover was too bland-colored.  So I made modifications and performed several tests, until I had a cover that popped out nicely and whose title was easy to read.

That’s the thing to remember: whether browsing amazon.com or viewing your book cover from a distance at a bookstore, a reader will more likely see your cover as a thumbnail size, and so your title needs to be easy to read without overtaking your entire cover.  A difficult balance to strike, but well worth the effort.

Why Is The Cover So Important?

I keep coming back to this topic: your cover matters a lot.  Why?  Because every single aspect of your marketing campaign is going to hinge on your cover.  In book stores and on amazon.com, it’ll be the first thing a prospective buyer will see.  In a convention or book signing event, it’ll be the first thing patrons will see.  On advertisements, anywhere, whether amazon, facebook, or other, it’ll be the first thing they see.  If you have the money and resources to pay for adverts on billboards, bus sides, or trains, again, your cover, or some edited version of your cover, will be what people see first.

First impressions matter.  People judge books by their covers.

Granted, if you have a fantastic cover but a crappy story, you aren’t going to get anywhere with sales, either.  You might do better than if you had a bad story and a bad cover, but reputation will probably kill your book’s sales.

Do you have a good story?  Then you need an appropriate cover to go with it.  Not just good, but appropriate.

There’s more nuances you can add into a cover design, but I think I’ve written enough on the topic for one day :)  I hope this helps my fellow authors out there, I’ve learned so much about marketing and cover design in the past 3 years and I wish to pass that knowledge on!

Do you have any tips or lessons learned about marketing and cover design?  Please post them in the comments below for others to read!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

The Return of Stargate and the Prequel Trend

Hi everyone!

If you haven’t heard yet, Stargate is finally making a comeback!  And I’m not talking about a reboot of the movie franchise, which has either been fully cancelled or at least postponed.  Rather, this is the next ‘chapter’ in the SG-1 Universe.

…Except, it isn’t.  Announced only a few days ago, it’s called Stargate Origins (click here to check the announcement on Gateworld.net.)  It takes place…sometime before SG-1, though we don’t know when yet.  And reportedly follows an adventure of young Catherine Langford as she defends Earth against an unimaginable darkness…  More on why this is a problem for me further down.

Sci-Fi and the Prequel Trend

Image Source – http://www.techtimes.com

Back in 1999, George Lucas released the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace.  At the time, I was extraordinarily excited about it, I’d always wanted to see those first three episodes, to see the origin story of Darth Vader, and, well, I was excited to see more Star Wars on screen.

What I didn’t know was the trend that it would begin…and that is a trend in Sci Fi that has endured for nearly 20 years.

Prequels.  Though I don’t believe Phantom Menace was the first ever prequel, it was the biggest hit I’m aware of.  Since then, here’s what we’ve seen…

  • Star Trek Enterprise (followed by the 2009 Star Trek reboot, and now Star Trek Discovery.
  • X-Men Origins and X-Men First Class
  • Prometheus (prequel to Alien)
  • The Thing
  • Caprica
  • Oz The Great and Powerful

And that’s just a small list of well-knowns.  Now with Stargate Origins coming out, I find myself crying out “NOOOOO!”  I for one have grown tired of prequels.  Especially in Sci-Fi universes that are supposed to be about exploration and moving forward (Star Trek and Stargate both being examples.)

But why?  Why is this continuing?  Especially…well, do an experiment with me.  Go to google.com and type in the search parameter “Why are prequels so popular?”  I know that Google can tailor search results based on past browsing habits, but for me, the first 10 results talk about why the Star Wars prequels are so hated.

So if the first major prequel of a franchise was so horrible, once again, I have to ask…why is this trend continuing??

Theories of the Trend

One of the most common opinions I get when I ask people this question is “Hollywood can’t come up with anymore original ideas.”  An interesting theory, but I wonder how true it actually is.

Image Source – http://www.irishnews.com

In fact, until recently, I didn’t really have a response except “maybe that’s true.”  Until…Bright.  The name of an upcoming, Netflix-produced movie, Bright is about modern-day Earth, with elves and orcs and faeries living side by side with us.  Will Smith’s character is a police officer partnered with what appears to be a young orc.  This is radically different from any major sci-fi/fantasy movie I’ve seen in recent years.

But it’s Netflix.  It’s not a major motion picture studio, it’s a relatively brand new production studio.  And I think this is a key point.  Netflix broke the mold with movie rentals, and now is breaking the mold by producing it’s own TV shows and, now, movies.  Like Amazon, Netflix seems to be all about trying new things, innovating, and moving its company in an unexpected direction.  And it’s succeeding at it.

Major motion picture studios, however…it’s like an unknown author sending a manuscript to an agent or publisher.  You’re a big, big risk.  They are highly reticent to invest time and money into you, no matter how good your product is.  So more likely than not, you’ll be rejected.

I think the same can be said about major motion picture studios and TV production studios.  They want to invest money into something that has a proven history of making money.  And even as reviled as the Star Wars prequels are, they made a ton of money.  So prequels make money.

This, I think, is why we keep getting prequels and, for that matter, sequels, rather than truly original content.

This is also why I am becoming a big proponent of Netflix, and of self-publishing.  It allows those with innovative or new ideas to get their ideas out there.  They may not always succeed, but at least they can try.

Parting Thoughts on Stargate Origins

Image Source – http://stargate.wikia.com

I’m really really sad about the direction they are taking to try to revive Stargate.  I really want more Stargate, but a prequel?  A prequel that, at least at first glance, blatantly ignores established timeline?  For those who aren’t as familiar with it, before the Stargate was opened by Daniel Jackson in the motion picture, the Stargate was only opened one other time after it was unburied in Giza, with disastrous results.  It was subsequently shut down for decades.

Yet this premise seems to indicate that Catherine travels through the Stargate, either before or after Ernest is stranded off-world, to confront some darkness that, apparently, SG-1 and the SGC are never made aware of.

In essence, it’s making the same mistake Star Trek and Star Wars made in their prequels: ignoring continuity.

Worse still, the series is being released as 10 episodes…each episode 10 minutes long.  I can’t imagine why anyone thought this was a good idea…but then again…I’m kind of eating my own words now.  I released 10 short stories which will later be compiled into an anthology (The Orc War Campaigns.)  So…maybe this is a result of the trend of online and subscription based TV shows?

Anyway, I hope I’m wrong about Origins, but I really think this effort is going to fall flat on its face, and Stargate will once again be thrown into proverbial mothballs.  :(

What are your thoughts about all of this?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Copyright Registration – More Important Than You Realize

Hey all,

Back when I first started writing blogs here, one of the earliest articles I wrote was on copyright protection for your novels.  And actually, everything I wrote back then was true.

However, I’ve since become aware of some additional truths to copyright and court appearances, thanks largely to this article.  I’ll try to summarize as best I can.

First and foremost, yes, the intellectual copyright law means that the moment you create something, it is copyrighted to you.  And yes, it is still important to have some means of proving that you created the work when you did.  If it should go to court in contention with another written work, this is extremely important.

However, and this is the big point that I didn’t know: as far as a court of law is concerned, it is possible for two people to create the same thing without ever being aware of each other or each other’s creations.

Let’s say someone wrote a book that is very close to identical to The Sword of Dragons and published it today.  I have proof that I published The Sword of Dragons in 2015, and that I first wrote it before then (and even have proof of initial development going back over a decade.)

However, unless I can prove that this person was aware of my work, a judge will most likely rule in favor of “mutual co-creation” and neither person will owe the other anything.  The only exception would be if it is an exact or near-exact recreation (IE: it was obvious they copied rather than came up with it on their own.)

This is where filing for a copyright comes into play…

Giving Yourself The Best Protection

When you go to copyright.gov and file an official copyright for your novel (or work of art or song), you are essentially giving notice to the world: this is my story.  I wrote it, I published it on this date, and therefore it belongs to me.

As far as the law is concerned, that is the most important part: giving notice.  It doesn’t matter if that other author knew of my book’s existence or not.  It doesn’t even matter if they checked the copyright office before hand or not.  If they publish their work after I copyright mine, I automatically would win a court case.  The judge would simply say to them, “It’s your job to check the copyright office for notice, and you failed to do so.”  In most cases (there’s always exceptions) I would win the case.

My Advice to Writers

If you are publishing your work, whether online for free or on Kindle or as a print book, pay the $35 and go through the process of getting a copyright.  Should your story do well, this is a solid way of protecting you and your intellectual property.

Note that you CAN submit an unpublished, electronic document.  But once your novel is published and has a physical copy, you need to go through the process of sending them a physical copy to obtain a copyright on your physical product.

I hope this helps my fellow authors!  Let me know if you have any advice, or for that matter, questions on this subject :)

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik