Can an Editor Steal Your Book? 5 Things To Know

Editors spend the majority of their time reading through manuscripts. As such, they’re more likely than publishers and agents to come across a potential bestseller. Naturally, first-time authors may fear losing their work to a thieving editor, but is this really a common scenario?

An editor can steal your book, but it’s unlikely. They’d risk losing their job and reputation, and the harsh penalties associated with copyright infringement make the risk futile. Most editors wouldn’t even think about stealing someone else’s work, as they have a lot to lose by doing this. 

Writers shouldn’t feel held back by the fear of having their work stolen, and this article discusses why. You will learn what editors lose if they do steal your work, so stick around.

Things To Know Before Assuming an Editor Will Steal Your Book

Most editors are aspiring writers themselves, so it seems natural to fear that one of these future writers might take your ideas. However, this isn’t something that happens often. Editors have access to hundreds of manuscripts from first-time authors, but accessing these works and passing them off as their own simply is not worth the risk.

Let’s discuss 5 reasons why they don’t want to take the risk of stealing your book.

1. They Could Lose Their Job

Most editors within the publishing industry have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree. Acquiring this degree not only takes time and effort, but it requires a good deal of money, too.

Stealing a client’s work would undoubtedly cause the editor to lose their job, and it could render that degree in journalism or communications absolutely worthless. That’s because the publishing industry condemns plagiarism, and anyone with a reputation for it is sure to end up blacklisted from the industry.

2. The Risks Aren’t Worth It

In addition to losing their career, credibility, and reputation within the publishing industry, editors that steal an author’s work run the risk of being slammed with a copyright infringement charge.

Make sure to consult a lawyer before acting on any information in this article: we are not lawyers.

Plagiarism laws in the United States provide damages in the amount of $200 to $150,000 (€192.11 to €144,082.50) for each work infringed upon, along with all court costs and attorney fees. 

On average, deliberate copyright infringement holds a penalty of around $20,000 (€19,211).

According to Publisher’s Weekly, the average book in the United States only sells 500 copies in its lifetime. Assuming the book sells for $20 (€19.21) apiece, that equates to a $10,000 total (€9,605), and the author doesn’t receive that amount. 

They still have to pay back the advance, if any, and give the publisher and agent their cut.

Needless to say, the risk of losing tens of thousands of dollars just to slap their name on a book they didn’t write is probably not high on an editor’s to-do list.

3. Most Manuscripts Just Aren’t Good Enough

It’s a harsh reality, but most books simply don’t make the bestsellers list. Authors need to sell between 5,000 and 10,000 books in a single week to wind up at the top of one of these lists. Considering that most books sell significantly less than that, the odds aren’t good enough to risk stealing the work.

Editors know firsthand that most manuscripts aren’t going to make it very far. In fact, a survey showed that only 13.4% of authors (out of 9,000 respondents) who submitted their manuscripts were successfully published.

Transforming a raw manuscript into a best-selling novel takes a lot of work, and it takes far more than just writing. After stealing the work, editors would have to promote themselves, market the book, attend events and conferences, and become involved with other book-related tasks that provide no income at all.

It just wouldn’t be worth the time, especially when they could earn more in less time by performing their regular editing duties.

Beyond that, editors are usually very, very busy. They don’t really have the time to spend sifting through manuscripts in hopes of finding one they can steal for their own gain.

4. They Could Technically Write Their Own Book

After putting in years of work attending school, studying, passing exams, getting a degree, and landing your dream job, would you jeopardize all of it just to write your name on someone’s manuscript?

Chances are, the answer is no.

Editors are highly-skilled and experienced. With their talent and connections within the publishing industry, they could easily compose a successful, high-quality book of their own. They simply don’t need to steal.

5. The Reward Is Low

According to, the median income of an editor in the United States in 2022 is $73,027 (€70,146.08). The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that authors earn, on average, around $69,510 (€66,767.83) per year. As it currently stands, editors earn more than the average author.

Not only that, but most books only make a few thousand dollars, if that. This is especially true for first-time authors.

For the sake of fairness, let’s assume that an editor does steal an author’s work. Once they pass the work off as their own, they’d need to do a considerable amount of additional work to ensure the book’s success. If the book isn’t successful, it’s a lot of wasted time. 

On the other hand, if the book does sell well, it won’t sell well forever, so what does the editor do when the hype dies down? It’s unlikely that they could produce another book to the exact same standard, considering they didn’t even author the first one.

So, do they steal another book?

As you can see, the thought sounds pretty ludicrous, as it’s not a lucrative, long-term plan. There’s little to gain and far too much to lose.


Editors are highly unlikely to steal your book as the risks are too high. Not only that, but they could write their own book using their expertise.

Of course, that’s not to say that it’s impossible for an editor to steal your book. There are desperate people out there willing to do crazy things, even if only for minimal reward. It’s just not as common as people want to believe.

So, don’t refuse to send off your manuscript in fear of an editor passing it off as their own. Be brave and put your work out there! Make sure to send it to people that you trust, who have a good reputation!