Avoiding the Consequences of Plagiarism

A literary agent offers advice to authors about avoiding plagiarism in their published work, the consequences of plagiarism, copyright issues and “borrowing” from the Internet.

New software for detecting plagiarism means that writers should take steps to prevent risking their reputation due to charges of plagiarism.

Plagiarism is a serious issue, and one that should concern every author.

Very clearly, we do not want to be on the receiving end of someone plagiarizing our work, nor do we want to be the plagiarizer.  This applies not only to deliberate or inadvertent “lifting” of content from hardcopy, but from web content as well, even if it is taken from your own websites.

Of course you know that it’s a serious offence to include copyrighted material in your work as if it were your own.  But too many writers are confused about web content, thinking anything they find on the Internet is copyright-free and available. It isn’t.

When writing your book or article, don’t “borrow” from printed material or anything from the Internet, even if it is in the public domain.

Put everything in your own words.

Your publisher must explicitly approve the few exceptions to this advice prior to your manuscript’s deadline, or better, before offering you a publishing contract. If your publisher agrees, you will be responsible for getting the legal permissions needed and must submit the signed documents to your publisher prior to publication.

The ramifications of plagiarism are very serious, not only for the author, but for the publisher of your material.  So serious, in fact, that most publishers today utilize a software tool that very effectively checks every manuscript for plagiarism, that even cites the sources of the plagiarized material.

Authors who submit manuscripts containing plagiarized text are likely to have their publishing contracts terminated. Word about such things gets around the publishing community.  Reputation is important in this industry–sully yours and your future writing career will be seriously jeopardized. No legitimate agent will knowingly represent plagiarized material and will be upset to discover it in a project they’ve sold. No editor will want to work with an author who is known to plagiarize—the risks are too great.

So, do your research.  Then put aside your research material and write all your content from scratch.  That way you, your agent, your editor, and your publisher will all be pleased with your original writing and eager to work with you again!

Copyright 2006 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.

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