How to Tell if an Editor is About to Steal Your Book

One of the most common questions I see new or aspiring writers ask is “How do I show my manuscript to an editor/publisher while also preventing them from stealing it?”

The conventional answer to this question–the one you’ll hear from most writers–is “Don’t be silly; no editor is going to steal your book.” To convince you their answer is realistic, these writers will cite all sorts of silly facts, like “A publisher that gets known for stealing manuscripts will never receive another submission” or “It would be far too easy for you to prove you actually wrote the book” or even “Editing pays far better than writing books does.”

But what if all those writers are just throwing you off the scent? What if they’re lying to you in order to cut down on the competition, so their own books can get stolen–I mean, sold–more efficiently?

Some editors, like mine, are the nicest people in the world. Some editors, also like mine, are dastardly supervillains just waiting for heroes like me to slip up so they can steal my book and pretend to have written it themselves, in my notebooks, in my handwriting, in my house three thousand miles from their office. *shakes fist* I’ll get you for this, Dr. Nick!

Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer the same fate. There are several “tells” that can clue you in as to whether the editor really wants to help you, or just wants to steal your book.

Image: Blog post title image with title, URL and stacks of books.

When you first talk to an editor, ask yourself the following questions. If the answers to one or more of these questions is “Yes,” don’t trust that editor!

  • When you ask to meet, does the editor turn down normal locations like coffee shops and insist on meeting someplace out of the way, like a Lair of Book Thievery?
  • Is the editor’s conversation filled with sinister puns and innuendo, like “I’d love to steal your manuscript, if you know what I mean”?
  • Does the editor wear a cape or twirl their mustache a lot?
  • Do they have a maniacal laugh?
  • Does the editor insist on calling you “Mr. Bond” even though you have repeatedly asked them to stop?
  • Instead of accepting your manuscript via email, cloud storage or thumb drive, does the editor insist on a convoluted scheme involving costumed henchmen and a large machine of mysterious origins and unfathomable purpose?
  • During negotiations, does your favorite author burst through the door and shout “Evil Editor, unhand that manuscript!”?
  • Does the editor ever say “Curses, foiled again!” or “I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling bloggers explaining copyright law!”?
  • Did you find this editor on

If any of these red flags sound familiar, start looking for a new editor right away — preferably before your current editor brings out the Giant Book-Stealing Laser.

Show your appreciation for this advice by buying me a coffee or sharing this post with someone you know who fears manuscript thievery.