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Simple, Solid Legal Advice for Aspiring Authors

  • February 26, 2021

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Legal Advice for Aspiring Authors

Whether you plan to pursue it as a career or are dabbling in it for fun, writing can be a fulfilling and even lucrative undertaking for those with ample creativity and determination. If you're an aspiring author with hopes of publishing original work, there's a lot to consider as you create and edit your content. Writers need to be aware of several legal issues that could cause problems after publication. Keep these tips in mind to help you start out on the right foot.

1. Choose Your Words Wisely When Writing Controversial Subject Matter

If you've got your sights set on covering hot-button topics that are highly debated, don't assume you can claim free speech for sufficient legal protection. Legal experts like John Branca emphasize the importance of understanding libel and the repercussions it can bring, whether the defamed party is living or not. In order for something in your writing to qualify as true libel, it must:

  • Be published and seen by a third party, which includes social media posts and emails.
  • Be presented as a fact rather than an opinion.
  • Contain enough details to identify the defamed party (You do not have to mention the targeted individual or organization by name to still be guilty of libel).

If you're planning on focusing on non-fiction, you'll want to do your due diligence to avoid potential legal issues with your work. For some authors, libel insurance may be a worthwhile investment.

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2. Familiarize Yourself With Copyright Law

When you mention anything in your work that isn't 100% original, you could find yourself dealing with copyright infringement. Any text, lyric, reference, image or even brand name mention could get you into trouble, no matter how you choose to portray a person or organization. Fortunately, your publishing company can offer a lot of guidance on which references are acceptable and which ones to avoid. Learning about copyright law can help you not only form your content, but protect it as well.

3. Consider Hiring an Attorney or Agent

When you're ready to pitch your ideas to a potential publisher, you'll want to go into that meeting prepared to protect yourself and your best interests. Hiring a professional who helps you sort through the details of contracts, timelines and agreements can help you seize a great opportunity and avoid potential pitfalls. They can also help you set realistic expectations for your first potential book deal while giving you more peace of mind as you negotiate the details.

Conclusion: Legal Advice for Aspiring Authors

No matter what you choose to write, take steps to protect yourself and your work. The right approach can help you enjoy better success and fewer legal headaches as a new author.