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How can I be sure this book hasn't already been published? (1 Viewer)



Hi all!

I am new. I have been freelancing part time for the past six months. Doing okay, not great. Lots of irons in the fire but the "big one" still hasn't come around yet :-(

I have an idea for a non-fiction book based on a very interesting family that had some notariety in the late 1800's/early 1900's. I have not been able to find much about them besides old newspaper articles, etc.

Before I think about turning this into a query, is there any definitive way I can find out if there has been a book about them? I have looked everywhere/every how, including having a reference librarian at a university library do a search and so far nothing has turned up. On the other hand, this family is SO very interesting (all members of it, too!) that I can't believe someone hasn't beaten me to the punch.

Any ideas?

Thank you!

Ottoline Composition
St. Louis, Missouri
I think you can pretty much assume that you're the first one. You'd be surprised how many people's stories go untold.
Even if it turns out that their story has been published before, it's no big deal. Some stories get repeated all the time (ironic, no?), and there's certainly no way you can get accused of plagiarism.

Lost in Some Story

Senior Member
Does it really matter, especially in a non-fiction market? I mean, look how many books there are about Princess Diana for Christ's sake.

Write the thing. Don't worry about your competition. If it's well written and lucid, then maybe you'll sell a few copies.

I have been freelancing part time for the past six months. Doing okay, not great. Lots of irons in the fire but the "big one" still hasn't come around yet.

Rule of thumb: The big payday doesn't come until the seventh month.

Good luck,



Senior Member

Your take on that family will undoubtedly be different than what another writer has done, because you'll be coming from a new perspective. There are generally many books written on one particular person or family that have made notable impacts on thier generations or simply their local communities. The publisher, unless you're self-publishing, will likely take into consideration how much attraction the overall work will have on the broader public, as that's where they will make their money from to recoup printing, marketing, and distribution costs, so when you pitch it to the publisher write your proposal accordingly.

I am working on a similar work in NW Missouri. My subject isn't so much fascinating as much as he as ominous and destructive. An interesting character study.


Senior Member
"Life! ... Give my creation Life!" by Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein the movie

Like the others have said, it doesn't matter if someone already has or hasn't. What matters is your style. Two writers can write about the same thing even with the same angle on the subject, and yet one will be a success and the other won't. All because of 'writing style.' In writing nonfiction what one needs to pay attention to are 'rights' - personal rights, government rights, reproduction rights, copyrights, etc. If you aren't alert to the right and wrong of nonfiction you may spent all your earned money and the rest of your life in court, paying off everyone under the sun. Be careful with quotes (learn about paraphrasing), pictures, letters, everything. Learn how to write nonfiction believably, meaning that many times you will have to find a way to prove to the reader that what you are saying is true and correct - but yet don't screw yourself in doing so. First rule in writing nonfiction - protect your ass!