INTERN is back, after a delightful and adventuresome pilgrimage to her ancestral homestead, aka grandma's house, for Thanksgiving. It was nice and low key and most of the crazy belligerent long-lost relatives who cornered INTERN for a chat were too deaf to understand her responses to their questions, so she was able to get away with pretty much anything:
CBLLR: "Why don't you get a real job?"
INTERN: "The moon!"
An eye-opening thing INTERN learned this week:
Techie Boyfriend, who invented a neat tool a little while ago, and has been staying up late reading about the patent application process. Like book publishing, the whole concept of patenting something can push some powerful emotional buttons: "If I don't get this published/patented, someone can steal my idea!" "If this goes through, I can get rich off the royalties!" "The world really needs my idea!" etc.
With book publishing, you send in your query for the price of postage stamp and it gets read and processed at no further cost to you. Editors and agents and their interns read your pages for free and if your ms gets declined, you're only in the hole emotionally and not financially.
In patenting, though, you pay out the eyeballs for every step of the process. First, there's a $75 fee just to get your application in the door. Then, once your application makes it to the top of the pile, it's another $300 for some monochromatic civil engineering type to read it. Then, it's another couple hundred bucks for somebody at the patent office to search through other patents to make sure your idea hasn't already been taken. Then, the patent folks will probably find something to quibble about in your wording and you'll have to hire a lawyer to fix your patent application for several thousands of dollars.
If you make it that far without a snag, it's another several hundred bones to have the damn patent issued. Oh yeah, and even after the patent is issued, you have to pay a "patent maintenance fee" that starts at $700 and goes up every few years just to keep the rights to your patent.
Sounds an awful lot like a vanity press.
The funny thing is, the U.S. patent office was *supposed* to level the playing field between small-time inventors and big companies, and make it so the big guys couldn't rustle the little guys' ideas. Except now it's prohibitively expensive for most people except in big companies to afford a patent.
So, people, be glad you're only trying to publish books and not trying to patent groovy electronic action figure robots who act out your books. Publishing is at least still *sort of* accessible to everyone. Right? Right? ...