I’d like to talk about blogging for the next few days. Blogging is alleged by many to be a great way for a novelist to market himself or herself. It’s also alleged by a shrinking (but still vocal) minority to be a colossal waste of time. It’s just possible that it’s both. I’ll be interested in what you think on the subject.
- The best blogging techniques.
- How to get traffic to your blog.
- How to turn your blog into money.
I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it’s still free.
My friend, Mary DeMuth, who often posts comments on this blog, has launched a new blog, “So You Want To Be Published,” just in the last few days. I had a look just now, and there’s some very good info there for pre-pubbed writers. Mary is giving away three copies of her e-book on how to write a nonfiction proposal to folks who leave comments on her blog. I’ve already got this e-book and it was quite useful to me in writing a fiction proposal — I found some of her formatting ideas to be a step ahead of the format I was using. In general, of course, a fiction proposal has a lot of differences from a nonfiction proposal, so I’m been encouraging Mary since November to write an e-book on fiction proposals too.
I want to wrap up one last question that carried over from last week before we move on to talk about blogging.
I have a question about a project that’s been (as you put it) composting for several months. In narrative nonfiction, memoir, essay, etc. (Think Gretel Ehrlich’s “The Solace of Open Spaces) how do you deal with stories about people, dead or alive? If, for example, you have a great tale about Joe Schmo that might embarrass or infuriate him (or family members, if he’s dead). Change the name? Seek permission/approval? Write it factual and hope?
Randy sez: First, I am not a lawyer, so nothing I write below should be construed as legal advice. I think I have just covered my hindquarters so now I can tell you my opinion without being sued if I am wrong.
As I understand things, you cannot libel a dead person. And in general, if you tell the truth about a living person, then it’s not libel. In the US, the libel laws are pretty toothless, and writers have great leeway in writing about people. This is NOT true in many other parts of the world, notably Great Britain, where the libel laws are much tougher on writers. If you have any question about whether you are libeling a living person, you should consult a lawyer with experience in libel law.
Libel is not the only issue, of course. Invasion of privacy is also a serious problem. As I understand it, you are not allowed to expose your next door neighbors to public embarrassment, even if what you say is true, and even if they are dead. Private citizens have the right to privacy, and they have a right to NOT have their sins exposed in public. If they have broken the law, call the cops. If it’s a matter of “moral turpitude” (whatever that is) or even something merely embarrassing, you’d better keep your lips zipped. Unless they are public figures.
Politicians, rock stars, athletes, and other Important Folks lose most of their expectation of privacy when they become famous. (This is the hazard of being famous.) And be aware that the more famous you become as a writer, the less expectation you have of privacy. It’s a good idea to not only “be legal” in what you write, but treat other people the way you’d want to be treated.
Back to Parker’s question: If you can get permission, then you are likely to be OK. If you can’t get permission, then change the names and change any other identifying characteristics that might enable readers to guess who it is. If you can’t do that, change the story enough so that the person is unrecognizable. If you can’t do that, drop the story.
Again, I’m not a lawyer, so don’t take my opinions as legal advice. Ask a lawyer with experience on the question. I am sure at least one lawyer reads this blog, so here’s hoping we’ll hear from him/her on the question.