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Writing Books/Fiction legal question


Does writing a book as fiction protect the author from all libel lawsuits?  If the author uses the words "based on true events", does that protect even if there are identifying characteristics?

Thank you so much!

Hi, Dawna,

Unfortunately, not even writing actual fiction will protect an author from all lawsuits. Anyone can sue anyone, for anything. What you want is to avoid is a SUCCESSFUL lawsuit--where you lose the suit.

The closer you get to creating a character that is similar to a real person in the text, the better the likelihood you could lose. See, if you're profiting from someone else's misery (or even from their success), you could be deemed to have harmed them. If you worry that a particular person could sue for a negative treatment of the person, the best thing to do is write the book and then have an attorney review it to see if you've created a "cause of action" that could lead to a successful suit. There are a lot of attorneys around who do this sort of thing. You can find one in your area through a legal directory website called Martindale-Hubbell ( )

Hope that helps!  Good luck!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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