Stop, Thief! (When Another Author “Steals” Your Idea)

Recently I opened one of those helpful emails from Amazon—you know, the ones that suggest books you might like. They’ve got me dialed in. I definitely liked the book they suggested…because I’d come up with the idea to write it several years ago.

Seriously, the resemblance was uncanny. I’d never heard of this author and it’s highly unlikely she’d ever heard of me. She didn’t actually “steal” my idea.

I seem to be cursed with this sort of thing, though, because earlier this year, one of my favorite authors put out a book that was eerily similar to another idea I had stowed away in my big file of book ideas.

And again, last year I pitched a series to my agent, and she gave it a pass because she’d just sold another client’s series with the exact same concept.

Now, I want to make it abundantly clear that none of these authors actually stole my ideas. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating to have a great idea and no longer feel like you can write it because of something that’s beyond your control. Perhaps the lesson in all of this is I need to stop sitting on ideas and just write the darn books. Obviously, my ideas have merit. So perhaps that’s the silver lining—affirmation that I’m barking up with right tree.

This discussion begs the question of whether or not there are any original ideas left. In general, there has to be—otherwise, we’d already have flying cars, right? In terms of fiction, I’m not sure. Some people believe there are only seven plots…or nine…or thirty-six. I’ve heard a lot of different numbers.

I tried to find reliable statistics on how many books are published each year and came up empty. One site suggested a new book is published on Amazon every five minutes. Another site purposed up to a million new books are published each year. Regardless, I think we can all agree that since the rise of self-publishing, more and more books are being published that otherwise would have died cold hard deaths on the author’s hard drive just a decade ago. This ties back to the idea of finding unique ideas—with so many books being published, will yours ever truly be unique?

The pessimist in me says no. The optimist says it doesn’t matter because you have one thing that no other author has—YOU. Your voice is unique and while others can try to imitate it, there’s no possible way to duplicate it with 100% accuracy.

So get your butt into that chair and write that amazing idea. Hopefully it will make it into the world before another author “steals” it.

Now excuse me while I go try to follow my own advice.

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