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Writing Books/Nonfiction - Using People's Names


I am writing a non-fiction book - a biography of sorts about a family member.  I don't want to finish the project and then have him, or other people in the book, tell me I can't use their names.  Should I get them to sign releases of some kind now?  Can any of them, particularly the principal figure in my book, tell me I can't publish a book about their lives?

Hello Doug:

No one can tell you anything about your book at this stage (later on, your publisher might, of course). It is YOUR book, and only you can choose whether or not you will use this name or that name, this content or that, this location or another.

If you tell lies about people, you are asking for trouble; if you don't, you don't have to worry about releases.

Write your book as you want to write it, and don't worry what other people say.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high scores over 1350 questions.

And good luck with your writing!  

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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