I am not a lawyer, but I do recommend that you work closely with one to help you sort out your individual concerns or issues. Your editor should also have an excellent working knowledge of media law and may be able to provide you with great advice and counsel. In this article, I define libel, defamation, right to privacy, and ways to protect yourself and the rights of those whose name or likeness you use in your book.
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I write this assuming you are a writer whose book has sold to a publisher and now you are working with your manuscript—writing, researching, gathering facts, honing your key concepts, and all the other necessary goodies that make for a best-selling book.
This post may not apply to the author who was well-coached and managed by a fantastic agent, where everything on my list below was presented at the time of initial query.
- Table of contents
- List of tables, charts, graphs, or images
- Photographs, graphics, or other images
- Print licenses for song or poetry lyrics; long quotes from books, websites, and news articles; use of charts, graphs, or photographs; or any other copyrighted material
- Full sourcing (or citation) information for all borrowed and quoted material including author, title, publisher's city and state, publisher's name, publishing date, page number, and/or web link
- Signed releases from subjects mentioned by name or likeness in your book (changing a subject's name is not enough)
- Endnotes or footnotes
- Index list
- About the author page
In a previous post (Trials, Traumas, and Tragedies, Oh My), I went on and on about the difficulties of writing (and editing) a book based on your personal testimony. I mostly focused on the importance of getting the subjects in your story to sign a release form. So after all that, I knew it wouldn’t be right for me to talk all that noise about releases and not talk about how to draw up a quick and easy release. Here goes a simple list of things to put in your release form.
I once edited a book that had about fifty subjects who all needed to be hunted down so that they could sign a release form allowing this one author to talk about how he interacted with them in a significant way and their lives changed for the better. The author had no knowledge of libel or the risks he was taking by mentioning both public figures and private citizens. So, yes, the chore fell to me.