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Can you tell me please if I can use real names and places when writing my non-fiction book or if I should refer to my doctors as Dr. A, Dr. B, etc. and places as City A, Hospital A, etc.  I'm new to this and will appreciate any other tips you can give me.  Thanks!

Although I'm not an attorney, which is the type of expert who should be answering this question, I do believe that if you are writing a nonfiction book and tell the truth and can back it up, then you don't have to hide names or change the names. This is especially true if you're not saying anything harmful about the people and/or places. If the book contains information that any people or companies might consider harmful to their reputation, however, they have the right to sue, whether you've told the truth or not, but if it's the truth and you have documentation to support it, chances are you'd win in court. The drawback is that you would have to defend yourself; no publisher will go to court for you.

Consider contacting the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (just Google the name) to get a more detailed determination based on your specific situation and documentation, etc.

My big writing tip would be to sound like the expert in the book and always sound strong. No one wants to read a book that sounds like whining and complaining. If you have a shocking or educational, well-documented story that could help others, and if it is told in a strong, forthright way, full of scenes and dialogue best recollected from memory, it will have a potential market.

As an editor, I also suggest using a professional editor after you have polished the book as well as you can. You'd be amazed what an extra pair of eyes can find, and a good editor will also give suggestions on how to make the book even stronger and more marketable.

Meanwhile, subscribe to my free newsletter for writers by going to and clicking on the box for The Writers Network News.

Best of success!
Bobbie Christmas
Zebra Communications

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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