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Writing Books/Memoir Character Release Form


I am in the process of writing a memoir and am trying to find legal advice concerning the people in my book. I have been advised by an editor to seek an attorney's help further, but I don't want to go that route if I can help it.  I understand I need a form for the release of their names and/or likeness, otherwise it would be unwise to pursue publication without their written consent (they could sue). What exactly do I need on a release form to protect me and keep my characters true to the story that actually occurred?

Thanks for your question Katie.

Securing release forms for memoirs is not a common practice for several reasons.

1. It is difficult if not impossible to contact all persons.

2. It is a red flag to a potential signer that there is something negative about him/her in the book and he/she might not sign.

3. Release form or not, anyone can sue anyone for anything.

4. Writers are seldom sued and when they are they usually prevail because of First Amendment rights.

Someone suing would have to prove the writer falsely represented the facts to do intentional harm.

You have options other than release forms. You could:

1. Disguise the descriptions of persons shown in a negative light so the real persons are not identifiable.

2. Soften the story.

3. Include a disclaimer at the beginning of your book that the stories are the best of your recollection and that some names were changed and characters are composites.

In short, securing release forms is unnecessary and a waste of time.

I'm not a lawyer and my response is not to be relied on as legal advice. You should check with an attorney who specializes in matters of defamation and invasion of privacy.

Best wishes for every success.

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Wayne Groner


I can answer questions on all aspects of writing memoirs, biographies, family histories, and corporate histories including handling sensitive issues, interviewing, editing, self-publishing, and setting up a business as a memoir writer.


I have more than twenty-five years of experience as a radio and television news reporter, author, freelance writer, and workshop presenter. I present classes to nonprofits and professional groups, "How to Write Your Memoir or Life Story." I'm author of four nonfiction books. My latest book is A Guide to Writing Your Memoir or Life Story: Tools, Tips, Methods and Examples, available in paperback and eBook at Amazon. I'm past president of Springfield Writers' Guild (Missouri). My articles and book reviews on a variety of topics have been published in national magazines and on the Web. I was a senior-level college administrator for twenty-seven years, including nine years as a vice president, during which I wrote newsletters, brochures, magazine articles, and published and edited an alumni magazine.

Missouri Center for the Book, Springfield Writers' Guild, Greene County Historical Society, Christian County Historical Society.

Books: Witnesses of Hope, Faith, Love and Healing; Dumb Luck or Divine Guidance; The Pastor's Guide to Fund-raising Success; Levell-Drew Family History. National magazines including CASE Currents, Congregations, Ozarks Mountaineer, Your Community Hospice, Power and Light series of Sunday-school curriculum for adult learners.

Graceland College

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