Short Saturday: Being Careful

A friend of mine wrote a book about something that happened to her—a true story. A memoir. She found a publisher for it. The book was given an ISBN number, a cover, edited, presented in the publisher’s spring catalogue and put up on all the major retailers’ sites …

And then it wasn’t. The publisher withdrew the book, and it never went to press.

Why? Here’s what my friend says:

If I publish that you have 101 speeding tickets and you don’t, that’s libel. If you sue me, I will lose.

If I publish that you have 101 speeding tickets and you do and you’re a private individual, that’s invasion of privacy. If you sue me, I will lose.

If I publish that you have 101 speeding tickets and you do but you’re a public figure, I will probably win the lawsuit you might file but I’ll have spent a fortune defending myself.

Major publishers carry insurance against the risk of libel and invasion of privacy lawsuits. Small and medium-size publishers typically do not, and it turns out that the coverage is, for all intents and purposes, impossible for an individual author to obtain.

That’s right. It all came down to the difference between public and private figures, and the concepts of truth and an invasion of privacy.

If you’re writing memoir—and even if you’re writing what you know in a novel—you should take a look at this brief and readable article for some pointers.

Tweet: It all came down to the difference between truth and an invasion of privacy.
Tweet: Is telling the truth an invasion of privacy? Maybe.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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