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Why I Won’t Sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement

Recently I was asked if I would sign a non-disclosure agreement before an author would agree to query me. I said no and explained why, but I want to expand on that further.

BookEnds has a history of brainstorming ideas with our clients and for our clients. We actually have almost a full page of ideas we’d love to see brought to publication, all of them are ideas we’ve come up with in-house and all of them are waiting for just the right author. We also have a number of clients working on a variety of different books with different ideas. Signing a non-disclosure could put any of those ideas at risk.

I can’t agree to sign something that I don’t know what its about, I can’t do that to my business and I can’t do that to my clients. How would an author later prove that the idea came from someone else and was not something I disclosed?

You might be surprised at how often we see the same idea and how rare it is for that idea to actually go to publication. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times Jesus has been cloned or how often real estate agents become amateur sleuths.

Ideas can’t be copyrighted for a reason. They are just ideas. Even the best idea is only as good as the execution. Fourteen different authors could come to me with the exact same idea, but if they don’t execute it to the full extent of where you could go with that idea it’s only that, an idea.

If you are concerned that an agent might steal your idea don’t submit to that agent. Its that simple. In the end though, you’ve got to write an amazing book to match the idea, the idea alone isn’t going to sell.

Category: BlogFaust



  1. Laughter. Laughter always wins out. And I have to say, I’d laugh over a glass of good wine and a “thank goodness for that request because it helped me dodge a bullet…”

    Just sayin’…

  2. Sounds like the writer doesn’t understand enough about the industry. There are tonnes of books out there with the same idea, but every author writes it differently.

    This is an interesting one because I know there are authors who are reluctant to judge contests, or continue with crit groups because of fear they will be accused of ‘stealing’ an idea. I mean, there have been court cases involving Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, the movie The Matrix (just to name a few) where it is claimed the author stole the idea from someone else. In the last couple of years there was a case in the US where an unpublished writer claimed a published author stole her idea when she judged the entry in a contest.

    In this case, thought, that’s one less person I have to worry about when I query (harsh, but honest).

  3. This comes up periodically on author loops about having beta readers sign NDAs. I always ask “why are you having someone you don’t trust beta your work?” I’ve never heard of it when querying, but my question would be similar… “why would you want an agent you don’t trust?”

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