Approximately 400,000 books and short stories are published every day. Finding an original concept for your book can be a difficult task when there are hundreds of books about almost every topic imaginable already out there!
To make things even more complicated, most new books will draw on pre-existing themes, styles and conventions of the books that have come before them. That is how we have developed tropes, forms and even genres. So where does that leave you as an author and how do we draw the line between inspiration and “plagiarism”?
All original works are protected under UK Copyright Law from reuse or redistribution. The most obvious way to avoid plagiarising under this law is to give full credit to any other work which you quote from or use ideas from in your book. You must be careful to fully and accurately reference anything which is not your own original concept. This is quite straight forward. If you have decided to write a book, then you are probably already aware that copy-pasting someone else’s work and claiming it as your own is illegal.
The slightly trickier aspect of plagiarism is creative plagiarism. This means that you must take careful consideration of where you find the inspiration for your book. If the idea for your book closely relates to that of another author’s, it is likely to be considered as creative plagiarism. Your work must deviate from any other works with similar world-building, themes or structures.
Perhaps one of the most famous cases of this type of plagiarism is Helen Keller’s The Frost King. Written when she was eleven years old, Keller recounts in her memoir, The Story of My Life, how she excitedly created this story and sent it off to be published. She recalls that she had no recollection whatsoever of the very similar work The Frost Fairies by Margaret T. Canby, written before she was born. To her greatest shame and disappointment, it was soon revealed that the original story must have been read to her as a child and she unconsciously recreated the story without even realising that she was, in fact, plagiarising.
However, don’t let that scare you! Your work will never truly be 100% original, as it is likely to be, even unconsciously, inspired by the history, legends and cultures of society. As long as your work offers a significantly unique concept in terms of characters, plot, structure, setting and narration you are likely to be okay!
Here at Rowanvale, we know that dealing with issues surrounding creative plagiarism can be difficult and overwhelming. However, it is important that you stay informed and aware of how these legal issues affect you and your work. It is definitely worth familiarising yourself with the UK Copyright Law to make sure you are up to date with your knowledge about these issues. If you have any questions or need any help with the legalities of writing and self-publishing, our Writing Advisors and Account Managers are more than happy to help and guide you through the process. Have a look at our Pre-Publishing Packages which include these services, or get in contact with us for more information.