In our modern age of technology, not only is it easier than ever to have supportive writing communities, and to find like minded readers and writers to help us in our own journeys. Unfortunately, however, it's also easier than ever to steal and pirate WIPs.
But having beta readers, critique partners, ARC readers etc. is so important for authors. So how do you get around needing people to read your WIP but also protecting it from potential threats?
Non-disclosure agreements are an excellent solution.
I searched the internet all over for a good beta reader Non-Disclosure agreement for authors but to no avail. Which is why I created my own.
Scroll down to the bottom of this post to view and use my beta reader Non-Disclosure agreement!
Essentially, non-disclosures are contracts that the potential readers agree to or sign prior to receiving the WIP in question.
Now you may be wondering, "Why do I need it? Are people really that cruel to steal my WIP?" or maybe "It won't stop them from stealing it."
Fortunately, the majority of people who want to spend time reading an unfinished WIP are genuine in wanting to help, but sadly not everyone is. I personally know an author who had an entire manuscript stolen from them and actually had to fight for it back legally. It was miserable, scaring, and made the author scared to ever let anyone read it again.
Here are three reasons how Non-Disclosure agreements can help.
Discourages thieves. These agreements discourage potential thieves or scammers from even attempting to steal from you. A Non-Disclosure agreement is similar to a "Beware of Dog" sign. You may not have a dog, but no thief wants to take the chance that you do.
Proof in court. In the case that your WIP does get stolen, you have a legally binding contract that clearly shows the perpetrator is in the wrong and you are the original creator of the WIP. Even if the contract isn't foolproof, it will offer so much evidence against the thief, it'll help tremendously should it ever go to court.
Encourages respect. Beta reading can be a big deal and sometimes the people we chose for beta reading are the only people we want reading that super raw draft of our precious works. Depending on the depth of your agreement, a non-disclosure will encourage your beta readers to respect that you don't want anyone but them to read your WIP. Especially if you don't want them sending it to friends or family just for a "free" book!
Now if someone oversteps the disclosure, do you always have to press charges? Of course not!
I had an acquaintance sign my non-disclosure agreement and beta read Child of the Dragon Prophecy. My agreement specifically stated that they are not to share it with anyone, AT ALL, in any form or fashion. About a year later I caught wind that they gave it to their older brother to read, just weeks before COTDP's official release. If you're not a writer you may not understand the gravity of that action but it's embarrassing. The beta reader version of COTDP is so horribly raw and outdated and it pained me so much that anyone would read that version when they could've just read the final, perfected version I published.
Now, I could take that acquaintance's signed contract, wave it in her face and tell her what she did wrong and how it hurt me, but I'm not going to because it's not going to hurt me financially and I really doubt that she meant harm by it. However, is she going to be allowed to beta read Heir of Two Kingdoms? You can bet not.
If someone doesn't respect the non-disclosure agreement that they blatantly signed or agreed to, then they're probably not going to respect anything you ask of them. It's better to steer clear of these kinds of people and find others who genuinely care and respect you and your WIP.
Want to use a non-disclosure agreement but don't know where to start?
You're not alone! I searched the internet for a long long time but couldn't find one that suited my needs. After pulling up three different contracts, I finally penned my own.
You are absolutely more than welcome to copy, paste, change, alter, and distribute this agreement however you need or see fit.
Hopefully this agreement will help you find dedicated readers and discourage those who might be out to harm you!
Even though the world is a big scary place with not very nice people in it, it's also full of incredible people who want to help you and your WIP reach its full potential and while you should be cautious, Beta Reading is an exciting and fulfilling step in your writing journey and you should be proud of your WIP and confident in its safety.
May the suns smile upon you presence
—Effie Joe Stock