Did That TV Show Just Kill My Book?


Dear Cathy…

Brace yourself, because you’re not gonna like my answer: I think you’ve been beaten to the punch. It doesn’t matter that high school music departments have been doing West Side Story for years. One of the most popular shows on television is basing a good portion of its season on its fictional high school’s production of WSS. The burden is now on you to distinguish what makes your book different from what’s happening on TV even though you wrote your story first. Comparisons will be made. You made the comparison yourself in your pitch—albeit without full knowledge of just how on the nose you were. Some editors may be wary about potential difficulties, others may be intrigued by the possibility of piggybacking on a popular show. The concern there is that even though Glee doesn’t have a lock on WSS, the people behind the show have a propriety interest in the franchise and may be active about protecting it. Defending against claims is the author’s responsibility, not the publisher’s. The legal wrangling could be costly and stressful to you even if you prevailed. It would be wise to have an experienced publishing attorney vet your manuscript to judge the amount and significance of the similarities and assess your risk. See, I told you: I’m a total bummer. Sorry I can’t paint a rosier picture.

The Editor


  1. Cathy, what about stressing the “Glee meets Romeo and Juliet” aspect? Doesn’t West Side Story have some very obvious parallels to R&J? I don’t know, it’s worth a shot, if you think it might work. Best of luck to you.

  2. Thank you, both of you. Yes there are obvious parallels to R&J in WSS, and so I will spend some time thinking about it. I might also simply invent the name of a new play with a similar plot …

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