from manuscript to bookstore -- the publishing process

Trademarks and real life
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From Justine:

"I'm curious, if a word is trademarked, like "Thermos", do you have to get permission to use it, or put the little trademark symbol next to each use? Similarly, if you're writing about a real place (such as an actual fire station but with made-up characters), does the standard disclosure in the front of the book cover that, or do you have to change the number and name, as well as some distinguishing characteristics? I've always wondered how all those thrillers set in CIA offices, or the White House, for that matter, work this."

First, trademarks: you don't need permission, but most publishers' legal departments insist on upper case and would be happier if you used the little symbol but don't require it. They also don't want you to use certain words generically even though they've entered the language. My compromise is to use them in dialogue but not narration. (" 'I'll make you a Xerox.' She stalked to the copier.") or (" 'Do you have a Kleenex?' He handed her the whole tissue box.") In ABSENT FRIENDS, the upper case on Thermos seems to emphasize something incidental in a heavily emotional scene, and so I tried to come up with an alternative. But though it's narration, it's such a close 3rd person that I had to go with what the character would have called it, and that was the right word. I trust the reader to know what's going on and slide over the upper case.

About real places, my general rule, shared by most writers I know, is: if the place is only a setting, like a restaurant your characters are eating in, go ahead and use a real one; just don't say they got ptomaine poisoning from their lunch. If the waiter is a psychotic con artist, better make a restaurant up. In AF, the two most important fire companies, where actual action takes place, are inventions. Two others that are mentioned in passing, as places my guy served in over the years, are real. About the White House, there's a general principle which is sort of the Big Lie of publishing: if you say the councilman from the 15th district in Brooklyn is a murderer, whoever holds that seat when the book comes out will sue you, especially if there's any physical resemblance to your character. Therefore you make up a district. If you say the Governor of New York State is one, everyone knows it's fiction and that you can't make up a state, so it's not a problem. Unless the Governor in your book is so exactly like the sitting Governor that it could be libel. The exception, so I hear, is that Las Vegas casinos hate to be mentioned by name for any reason and will sue if they can. That's too bad because I just set a short story called "Passline" in the Tropicana. We'll see.

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