from manuscript to bookstore -- the publishing process

Answering a question while waiting for reviews
Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Read/Post Comments (2)
Share on Facebook
Yes, folks, the reviews for ABSENT FRIENDS are starting to come. Bantam wants to wait until they're in physical form, not just e-form, until I blog on them, on account of there's many a slip, etc. But from what I've seen on the Random House site (and thanks, John, for pointing that out -- I didn't know they were doing that, showing you that the author is just a cog in a complicated wheel at this point in a book's life) both the Booklist and Deadly Pleasures reviews are very good. That's an enormous relief, and a thrill. I'll say more when I know more.

Meanwhile, Ashley had a question:

"I was wondering about the legal issues surrounding mysteries inspired by real events or people. There's the ever-present Law & Order and their "ripped from the headlines" stories, and in the DVD released with Michael Connelly's newest book, The Narrows, he talks about his first novel being inspired by a real-life, unsolved bank robbery. How do authors know where the line is when basing things on real life? Are there guidelines? How great is the risk of being sued?"

This is a publishing blog, not a writing blog, but the argument can be made that legal-issue questions are publishing questions, so let me take a shot.

There aren't guidelines as such. And authors do get sued. The firefighter in ABSENT FRIENDS, in fact, is based on an FDNY captain I knew who died on 9/11. Based in personality, not in real-life detail, and that's crucial. (Not that I expect to be sued, but I don't want to be seen to be usurping someone's life.) If a book is inspired by a real-life case, that's legit. If when you write the book you use the real name of the guy who was police commissioner when the real crime occurred and you say he was involved, that's WAY over the line. If you invent a different guy, maybe put the crime in a different city, that's probably not a problem. I say "probably." If someone feels you're writing about him and feels you're making him look bad, he can sue. Whether he can WIN is a little more complicated. The libel law is basically "no harm, no foul." If you say the police commissioner was a complete genius who worked as hard as he could to solve the case but the bad guy was very lucky, can the commissioner win a suit? Probably not.

In the case of Law & Order, while the crime is "ripped from the headlines," the solution is almost always very different from the real-life solution to the real-life case. That's how they solve the problem.

Hope that helps.

Read/Post Comments (2)

Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Back to Top

Powered by JournalScape © 2001-2010 All rights reserved.
All content rights reserved by the author.