For this blog I could have used an inanimate object to get my point across; a submarine with raised periscope and sonar intermittently pinging. However, a cold blooded living-being is perfect for what I have in mind. This is no Ladyfish. I’m thinking of slippery eels - the gulper and swallower types. Perhaps a Large Scale Four-Eyed or the poisonous Toadfish; be it prickly or pale. I want you to imagine this creature lurking in the abyss. It feels quite at home in this murky underworld, stooping low, plumbing the depths of desperation.
Patrica Highsmith once said, “I cannot think of anything worse or more dangerous than to discuss my work with another writer. Their invisible antennae are out for the same vibrating in the air – or to use a greedier metaphor, they swim along at the same depth, teeth bared for the same kind of drifting plankton.”
Unfortunately it is not uncommon for both published and unpublished writers to discover their work has been copied. I know of several published authors who have discovered their novels online, under another person's name. From what I can gather the best advice is to register publications with www.blasty.co . This website claims to, "Monitor Google for illegal copies of your content and remove them with 1 click." But how can an unpublished author protect their work?
Ideas and themes are not protected in UK law, so keep extracts on websites to a minimum. If you don't plan to self-publish you’re in for the long haul. Offers don't come knocking on your door. Agents and publishers don’t have the time or inclination to search for the next best thing. It isn't their job to trawl oceans looking for a lucrative catch. You have to tout your next project. But how do you do that without risk? It’s important to fathom who you can trust before sending submissions. Time-stamp everything, then get out and meet everyone who is anyone.
Networking events are only productive if you have the courage to approach the professionals in attendance. Competition winners usually benefit from introductions. Depending on the award, you could meet the right people at ceremonies or book launches. Don’t miss out on these opportunities. Apply for a travel grant if money is tight. If an introduction isn’t an option you could attend an intimate agent/publisher led course. Whether you are sussing out agents or editors, ask yourself if this person would represent you to the best of their ability and if not, why not?
Don’t discuss your work in public. If an agent/editor asks about your novel, keep the pitch short - no more than a tantalising blurb. Always be quiet and discrete. You never know how many writers are homing in on your ideas. I’ve seen them acting fishy at conferences. You're bound to catch one or two loitering around festivals with their radars on full alert. Keep your eyes on the look out for hungry ambush predators. Patrica Highsmith knew what she was talking about.