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I'm working on a sci-fi novel, and it contains a lot of fictional creatures, which are in some ways separate from the novel because I came up with them a while before I actually got the idea to write a novel.

Would it be safe to create a wiki for my creations before the book is published (and before I've gone through the hoops of copyright etc)?

For clarity in light of the answers so far:

  • The reason for the wiki would be that basically I think others might find the creatures I've created interesting (even if I never did publish the book), and I'd like to see what others (who like fiction) would do with them.
  • Others could use the descriptions of these creatures to create illustrations and artwork, and I and others would enjoy this I'm sure.
  • @Xqyz Well part of the value for me, is that in this age of everything being electronic, some things can be publicized before they are finalized. So, I guess seeing as I will likely publish first in ebook format or something, and I'm hoping to get a community around the whole concept in the novel - a wiki with the creatures would be of great value to me. If others create new species from what I've created for example, I would love that :) (this was originally a comment)
  • I'll add some more reasons as I get my thoughts together ;).
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This is an old question, but maybe someone still cares, so here is my comment: You can create your Wiki (or website) before you publish your novel and still keep it private. Just require a login to view your site. That way you can work on your site and test it live and then go public from one minute to the next with a finished site simply by removing the password protection. And you can allow select beta viewers pre-publication access to get feedback, without having the general public make fun of your errors. –  what Jul 1 at 7:23
    
@what Long comment....or an answer? Just saying. –  AnotherUser Jul 8 at 4:03

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Define what you mean with "safe".

If you invented them and publish them, then no-one can use them, if your creatures are specific enough to be recognized as your creation. I.e if you created a vampire, which looks like the standard vampire around the corner, then there is nothing worth to be intellectual protected here. If you create a vampire which carries his head between his legs and uses his neck as an umbrella stand, then that's a difference to the ordinary vampire.

On the other side, if you build up a fan community (what I think is a good idea) and these guys draw pictures according to your descriptions, then they own the copyright of their work. You cannot use these illustrations in your book without their permission. Same is true for creatures they have invented.

So the key thing here is, to establish rules for your wiki. You have to tell people what they are allowed to do with your intellectual property, and what you want to do with their property. Then they have to agree to that treaty before posting stuff. Sounds like you need a lawyer, if you ask me.

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"If you create a vampire who carries his head between his legs and uses his neck as an umbrella stand," watching him try to bite someone in the neck is going to be very entertaining. I'd buy that book. –  Lauren Ipsum Jun 13 '11 at 19:53
    
Wow... I switched my chosen answer to this - cause I more "agree" with you, and you seem to be right :D. As for needing a lawyer, I'm not sure about that one :P. My creations have existed before I even thought of a novel - but I'm okay with making them public and building up a fan community with relatively liberal terms. –  RolandiXor Jun 13 '11 at 19:54
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@Lauren Ipsum I was thinking along the same lines lol XD... something that insane just has to be read :P –  RolandiXor Jun 14 '11 at 0:16
    
@Lauren: Don't make me write vampire books ;) –  John Smithers Jun 14 '11 at 13:20
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Why not? Just because something is popular doesn't mean your contribution would be crappy by definition. (I almost wrote "would suck," but that's perhaps not the best phrase for this discussion. :) ) –  Lauren Ipsum Jun 14 '11 at 14:44

I am not a writer but I would think it's not a great idea to detail out your own idea regarding a novel that you will be writing in the future for public to see. What do you hope to gain from doing this? If you are looking for constructive criticism, I would think you can wait till at least you have a rough draft ready so that you can pretty much claim this being your idea that you already put into work. Quick check on google shows that you have to send in your actual work to copy right office. I would think google is your best friend but personally, I don't think it's great idea to put up a wiki before your book is secured with copy right.

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You have the copy right for everything you create automatically. There is no need to send it anywhere. –  XQYZ Jun 13 '11 at 17:45
    
@Xqyz can you provide some references that confirm that? –  RolandiXor Jun 13 '11 at 18:17
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@Roland: copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#register covers the U.S. I don't know about other countries. –  Lauren Ipsum Jun 13 '11 at 19:54

It depends, it might be worthwhile to do this privately if you think it helps you keep everything in order and you use it as a writing aide.

If you are thinking about doing it in public, I personally would recommend against it. For one thing, nothing should be set in stone until you've actually published it and therefore the "value" of the wiki for others is debatable.

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Usually a wiki is used for collaboration. Is that really what you're looking for, or are you thinking about creating an online reference?

If you're seeking collaboration, then yes that will impact copyrights.

If you want to create an online reference for yourself and your readers/fans/friends then I would suggest using a blog engine, rather than a wiki. So long as you're the author, you'll retain all copyrights.

More on the wiki idea:

If you release your creations into the commons and invite others to create, use, and extend your work then you lose copyright in ~that specific~ work, ie. the creature. Any novel you build around those creatures would be a derivative work and you would have copyrights to that novel. Of course, someone else could write a novel using your creatures and they would have copyright in their work.

In that sense, your creatures become like vampires, wizards, or elves. If you keep them private, then they're more like Dracula, Harry Potter, or Legolas.

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I marked this as the answer cause it's the most concise answer I've gotten, and pretty much sums it all up. I guess the best time for a wiki would be after a while of the novel being "in the wild" - so I could get something like the V wiki on wikia :P –  RolandiXor Jun 13 '11 at 18:46

I'd be very wary of trying to create buzz and a community around an unsold novel.

Here are possible issues I see:

  • First and foremost: you can run into copyright problems if it is not plainly clear that you are the author of your creations. For example, if anybody could edit the entries, your copyright over the entries might be severely weakened.
  • Even if your own copyright is established, many of the same issues with fan fiction likely apply.
    • Letting people play around with your ideas - particularly in a forum you're involved in and implicitly approve of - can open you to claims that you've used others' ideas without credit and compensation.
    • Letting people use your material in ways that may reflect poorly on your novel would make your novel very unattractive to publishers.
    • Lack of care enforcing your copyright could conceivably lead to you losing it. This would have to be pretty extreme - but then, you're setting this up as kind of a joint creation.
  • Bear in mind that your novel may go through substantial changes and revisions during editing and publishing. Do you really want to commit publicly to so much of your setting's detail before the novel's even finished?

Along with all this, though, I'd say if a wiki site sounds cool to you - then it'd probably make for great promotion later on, when you'll have the book ready and the publisher signed.

And if you think it'd be cool right now - not to speak of building up a fan-base, which is very desirable - why not do something similar, but less inherently tied to your work-in-progress? You could even use a lot of the same ideas - with twists, and name-changes, and room for other people to put in developments you have no intention of putting in your novel. That'd still get you a community of people interested in the kind of thing you're doing - and they'd know you as the site's founder. And you wouldn't be risking control over the creations you intend to sell elsewhere.

Good luck to ye :D

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Great thoughts, and very useful for me as a young writer ;) –  RolandiXor Jun 14 '11 at 0:16

I think you should publish the book, and then create a Wiki. If you want to know the truth, after publishing my novel, I am gong to write an encyclopedia (printed Wiki) to be sold. After that I'd create articles in Wikipedia (e.g. J. K. Rowling). Let's think. Imagine publishing your wikis even before the book is published. Perhaps it would help your book sell more, but on the other hand, I don't see why people would read that wiki even before the book is published. E.g, for Harry Potter, it was not J. K. who created the Wikis, but her fans. She also told that she would write an encyclopedia of Harry Potter. (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/apr/16/harry-potter-encyclopedia-jk-rowling) Let's take the example of Half Bad (by Sally Green). It's been two months since the book has been published and there's merely only one article about the book, although, it has its own universe and terms... The choice is up to you. I would recommend you to wait until your book is sold, then make an encyclopedia.

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Can you flesh this out more? Why do you make this recommendation -- have you seen it? Done it? Talked with publishers? We're looking for answers that explain why and how, not just personal opinions. Thanks. –  Monica Cellio Jul 2 at 1:14

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