Is NDA a Dirty Word?


Once in a while the issue of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) would pop up in author discussions. To writers, one of the worse thing that could happen to them is having someone steal their work (along with running out of coffee and a computer meltdown). It is not unheard of for authors to ask people (beta readers, cover artists, reviewers, etc.) who receive advance copies of their work to sign an NDA. I’ve been a beta reader on and off for a few years now, and I have yet to encounter an author who asked me to sign an NDA. I surmise that the more popular writers (and by that I mean the top 1%) would have NDAs with everyone they work with but to the average writer, NDAs are still not an SOP. I took an informal poll among the Writing Wenches to see where they stand on the idea of an NDA. The results actually surprised me. (Note that 90% of the Writing Wenches write fiction, and a greater number fall under the romance genre so their answers will probably vary than someone who writes non-fiction).

Of those people who answered the question whether they had or would consider using an NDA, everyone answered they did not have one. Most of them have never thought about it. And those who thought about it, only thought of it in passing. The main reason they did not have one? They trust the people they work with.

NDA Cartoon

Although everyone agreed that NDAs are a good idea, most (obviously from their non-use of an NDA) didn’t bother with one. I can certainly understand this: if I have to ask people I work with to sign an NDA then I don’t trust them, and if I don’t trust them, then why bother working with them? Of course, my husband whose an attorney vigorously disagrees with me but he comes from a legal perspective so although I understand where he is coming from, it’s not the way I want to build my relationships as a writer.

The second poll question was whether the Writing Wenches (many of whom are beta readers, bloggers, artists, editors themselves) would sign an NDA. Of all those who answered, only one said they will not sign one. The reason for not signing an NDA was because the responder finds their use “silly” but more importantly, the writer was concerned it might offend those people being asked to sign an NDA. Although I do not know if I would refuse to sign an NDA, I agree that I may find being asked to sign one offensive. If the writer does not trust me to not steal their work, then why bother asking me to read it? As another author said “NDAs do not stop people from stealing your work.”

So, should you, shouldn’t you? Would you? The answer is really up to you and the way you want to handle your (writing) business. NDAs are not a bad idea. In fact some people will highly recommend NDAs as a way of protecting you and your work. But before you whip out that NDA, I do suggest that you create a community of professionals who will not only support you but one you could trust with your work, NDA or not. Because, even a well-written NDA will not protect you from a thief but surrounding yourself with trustworthy people can help insulate you from theft. Finding the right people is one of the hardest part of becoming a writer. But once you do, you may find that NDAs can become redundant.


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