Perhaps you could write an article or a book without using a search engine, although I don’t see how—or why. If you use facts that are less incontrovertible than the sun rising each morning, you must verify them to avoid potential litigation.
But that’s only the beginning. After you complete your work and set out to publish it, you have to search at every turn from that day on.
In this newsletter, a member recently wrote that she discovered that her copyright had been infringed upon when she saw her pirated content on YouTube. Years ago a member Googled an article she’d written, and discovered that the magazine to which she’d submitted it had printed it without paying her, attributing it to a mythical author. If she had checked out the magazine before sending her work to it, she might have discovered it was a dishonestly run business.
Yet we hear a steady drumbeat of writers who’ve sent books and other intellectual property to incompetent, dishonest, or financially unstable agents and publishers, even though warnings were as accessible as their computer.
Start your investigations with the GCD at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we have info on a person or company in our database, we’ll share it. After that, sites such as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Writer Beware and the Absolute Write Water Cooler forum are good starting places. But just typing the potential publisher’s name into a search engine or social media site often yields useful results. And don’t spare your work-for-hire and ghostwriting clients. Writers are especially vulnerable against small companies and individuals who can ignore your invoices. Financial sites and city real estate records can help you find them. Never, ever do business with any entity that you don’t know enough about.
If you get into trouble despite your due diligence, contact email@example.com and we’ll try to help you collect your money or break your contract. Just remember that saying about an ounce of prevention.
Barbara Mende is the Grievance and Contract Division Coordinator