Dear Author Enabler,
My husband and I are wondering how to copyright our writings. We have both written some things that we are considering submitting to magazines. Shouldn’t these be copyrighted before we send them off for possible publication? Thank you in advance for your advice. I love getting BookPage from my local library!
Donna Morrill
Carver, Massachusetts

We are (by this I really mean I am) often asked this question by authors who are nervous that their work is going to be stolen. In fact, you don’t need to do anything to copyright your work because it is automatically copyrighted.

The simple act of writing something down, whether on paper or digitally, means that your work is copyrighted and protected under U.S. law. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be stolen. If it is stolen, the burden of proof will fall on you to prove it’s your work.

If you are really concerned and want absolute peace of mind, you can register your work with the United States Copyright Office ( for a fee, which currently starts at $35. This will officially establish the work as yours, but again, I don’t see the need to do this in your case.

The truth of the matter is that reputable publishers—whether of newspapers, magazines or books—aren’t out to steal work. There simply isn’t the motive, but the key word here is reputable. Do your due diligence in deciding which publications to submit to. And be wary of posting your work online, where it could be easily poached by someone else. Sadly, this does happen, likely because of the ease with which people can copy and paste.

Dear Author Enabler,
About a year ago at a writers’ conference, I met an agent from a well-established agency. She’d read the first 40 pages of my manuscript and wanted to see more. Pure excitement! After sending her the rest (and waiting months until breaking down and finally calling her), she told me she really liked it but thought the mystery market was too swamped. Pure disappointment.
She then agreed to look at the first few chapters of a young adult novel I’m writing. She liked it and wanted to see more, which is again very encouraging for a fledgling in the field. So I sent her more and am waiting to hear . . . again.
I realize she must be really busy with current clients and sifting through hundreds of query letters, so I’ve pursued her rather than vice versa. What I’m wondering is when do you patiently wait for a response and when do you decide that maybe she’s just not that into you?
Michelle Taverner

Waiting around is, unfortunately, the not-so-fun part of trying to land a literary agent, and getting no response can sometimes be nearly as discouraging and frustrating as a flat-out rejection.

Hang in there. It doesn’t sound like you’ve signed a contract with this agent, which means that you don’t have an obligation to her. This is great because it means that you are completely free to send query letters to other agents while you wait to hear back. (If you had signed a contract and you wanted to end the relationship, you would need to formally break the contract before approaching other agents.)

That said, she hasn’t said no, so I would still check in with her to follow up. Instead of waiting around to hear back, though, try to concentrate on researching other agents to query, which will not only distract you from the stress of waiting, but also increase your chances of finding an agent who is the perfect match for both you and your book. Just make sure to focus your search on ones who specialize in young adult books.

Think of the search for a literary agent as being similar to looking for a job. Try to stay as unemotional as possible (though I know this isn’t easy), and be patient. Good luck.

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