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Question
I'm wanting to write a book about my employment and the treatment I received during my 7 years of employment at a certain firm (State agency). I don't know where to start and don't know if I will have to change the names of the persons and/or agency involved. Can you please provide some assistance? Thank you.

Answer
Dear Eve,

I edited a book about this same subject once (federal agency, etc.), and the author did name all of the players. Whether he went on to publish it, I don't know. He chose to do this, naming every source and every situation (this was on a State level), and I only took it on because contractually I had absolute indemnification.

As long as you don't "put words into their mouth," individuals can't claim libel, which is simply injury to a person's reputation -- as long as you write diplomatically and fairly about events that occurred, while still making the point you want to make. And the points you make must be true, not your opinion. If you have written documentation to back this up, you're pretty much on the "safe" side, but you're going to need a good editor to make sure you're being totally objective -- it's hard to see that yourself when you're feeling personal anger/resentment, etc., at the person(s) about whom you are writing --

However, before you even get to that point, you must first consider this: Are any of these people elected or non-elected public figures or public officials? Regarding libel, there's the "public official rule," the "public figure rule," the "limited purpose public figure rule," etc., and these are just a few -- and they vary from state to state -- I'd consult with a legal expert re: intellectual property on this point -- this is about as far as my knowledge on the subject goes, since I'm just an editor. Also, these laws are often updated, and I certainly don't follow that, either.

Even if you use pseudonyms for these people and this situation, again, depending on how you want to publish/publicize this, you're still going to have to be extremely careful in not making it blatantly obvious to whom you're referencing -- this can be cause for a lawsuit, if, again, you make everyone and everything otherwise perfectly identifiable -- IF you're not careful about how you write it.

And of course never write anything that you know to be false, just to make the person (this refers to slander) seem "mean," or that in any way defames them wrongly. Whether they "deserve" it is not relevant in written form, etc. On this, as well, I'd consult an attorney who specializes in media law and/or intellectual property.

You are wise to ask about this, however, because there are several issues regarding this kind of authorship that do require a great deal of journalistic and legal attention. I hope this helps and that you can find an outlet for your expression.

All Best,
Catherine Van Herrin  

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Catherine Van Herrin

Expertise

I am an American-born, native English speaker with a BA in English and more than 26 years of professional editing, writing, and proofreading experience. I have edited several books and book-length manuscripts. References and titles available upon request.

For further work or assistance with larger projects, see my profile here, with 190 excellent reviews: WordChannel Professional Reviews, Ratings

I can use British-English or American-English, and I am very familiar with Chicago and AP style.

Experience

More than 26 years' U.S. publishing industry experience, editorial (print). I provide crystal-clear, clean grammar; strict attention to style, consistency, flow, logic, accuracy, and spelling, and I work quickly and efficiently.

I do not format or provide technical assistance in publishing books. I use MS Word only.

If I can help you further, contact me at the website above (create a job request) or write to me at ceg33@myway.com. My rate is $0.008 per word. Send requests/inquiries to ceg33@myway.com. I accept currency only through PayPal, with 50% of the total at project initiation; the balance is due upon project completion.



Organizations
Editorial Freelancers' Association, USA

Education/Credentials
AA, Liberal Arts, Anderson College, Anderson, South Carolina. BA, English, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia. Post-graduate concentration: Post-war Irish poetry and early 18th century English fiction, Angelo State University, San Angelo, Texas.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked with authors in the UK, Canada, the US, and several other countries. References and titles available on request.

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