View Full Version : legalities involved in non fiction

07-15-2005, 03:53 AM
Although I have written most of my adult life, I have never persued being published. But...isn't there always a but?...I recently stumbled upon an idea that I cannot shake.

This idea is in regard to personal experience with a VERY large company for the past year and 1/2, and my book would deal with the side they do not want you to know. The side you only learn from the inside.

I believe it is very important for this information to be made available to the public, as the only thing you ever find on the bookshelves is *Yay Team* for them. Anyone who has been on the inside knows the real story. Anyone who is swayed by their glossy image would only learn these truths the hard way, like so many of my friends and I have.

Where on earth would I even begin researching exactly how and where to cover my backside in persuing this? The last thing I need is to write it...get published...and then wind up being sued.

Thanks in advance for any information or guidance

Cathy C
07-15-2005, 05:03 AM
If you're talking about a "whistle-blower" book, then yes, there are a number of legalities involved in various aspects of the law. So much depends on the TYPE of company (publicly traded vs. privately held, sole proprietorship, etc., etc.) and the information you intend to reveal. You might well be touching on aspects of trade secrets or slander/libel issues against principals of the companies.

If the information can be verified to be true and not merely your personal opinion, then there are a number of federal statutes that will protect your right to blow the whistle.

I would STRONGLY recommend that you consult with an entertainment attorney in your area before you go public with this information. But if the company is presently in the news, it should be soon --- heaven knows that publishers LOVE to jump on a hot story. If you don't know any entertainment attorneys, I can suggest a couple. PM me if you'd like the names of a few. Keep in mind that they aren't CHEAP, but would be well worth the money if it turns out to be a hot topic that sells for a five or six figure advance.

Good luck with it! :)

07-15-2005, 07:01 PM
You also need to be sure you didn't sign a confidentiality agreement of some sort. If you did, what are the limitations? Again, as Cathy suggested, see a lawyer who knows this business.

Rob :)

07-15-2005, 07:04 PM
Thank you for that info. I do have another question. Since I have never really put together a book, so to speak, I am having trouble compartmentalizing it all. I sit here and my fingers run like mad telling my story, but when I go back and re-read, I find many things I think would be better told in their own chapters. This book is turning into my life story with this complany which is partly what I wanted, but I am afraid it will be hard to follow. Can anyone suggest a more structured method for breaking this story down into manageable units? My husband suggested a timeline approach.

07-15-2005, 07:08 PM
Oh, I didn't sign any confidentiality documents. This isn't what you would call *trade secret* info. It is more like the information you should have received prior to investing your time and money into making it profitable, only to find out that hardly anyone is making a profit. I also hope for it to be a guide to the inner workings of the company. This is also not secret information, but it is not offered up front by the company. All the information is there, but hardly anyone finds it on their own. At least not in time to make any use of it.

07-15-2005, 07:09 PM
It depends on what you want to tell, I think. If you want a narrative, setting up a timeline is a good idea. However, if you want to address specific subjects with regard to the company, you might divide up the book differently. Here's a thought: find a book that may be similar in subject matter to what yours will be and see how it was put together.

Rob :)

07-15-2005, 07:12 PM
Well, that just makes too much sense for me to have thought of it! I have always heard that if you want to have success in any endeavor, follow the path of the successful. Thanks. That is a terrific idea!

07-15-2005, 07:14 PM
Oh, I didn't sign any confidentiality documents. This isn't what you would call *trade secret* info. It is more like the information you should have received prior to investing your time and money into making it profitable, only to find out that hardly anyone is making a profit. I also hope for it to be a guide to the inner workings of the company. This is also not secret information, but it is not offered up front by the company. All the information is there, but hardly anyone finds it on their own. At least not in time to make any use of it.
This sounds like you weren't so much an employee as an "owner," or "independent contractor" or really "self-employed." I think this changes the nature of your potential book, somewhat. Still, you should check out the legalities with someone.

Rob :)

07-15-2005, 07:14 PM
Just write the book and tell the truth. Just remember that opinions are not truth The attorney you need will be the one that works for the publishing company you submit the book to. It's his opinion that counts, and not the opinion of an outside attorney you might hire.

Unless you plan to self-publish, hiring an attorney is simply a waste of good money.

07-15-2005, 08:21 PM
Sounds like this is a multi-level marketing system, or something similar, along the lines of Amway, Herbalife, or Primerica Financial. If your story is about how you didn't make any money working for them and found that a lot of other people weren't making money either, it does not sound like it would be something they could sue you for - at least not without having it tossed out of court.

07-15-2005, 10:43 PM
Madscientistmatt: I do realize it does sound like a MLM scam, but actually that is not the case. Let's just call it a *venue*. You are correct in that neither I nor my friends are employees, but rather we pay for the ability to use the venue.

Jamesaritchie: That is the latest advice my husband offered as well. He believed publishing houses would have thier own attorneys for that type of thing and that it would be in thier best interest to ensure I wasn't treading on dangerous ground.

Robiae: You are also correct. I am actually considered self employed, although it does feel most days like I am an employee. A very poorly paid one, at that!

The facts I want to bring out are already there for anyone to find. But they are not offered up in any way by the company. It is up to each individual to dig, and dig deeply to find them, usually quite by accident. It is the conflicting information we are given, and the general devil may care attitude within the corporate offices that not many know about until it is too late. My book will likely not prevent anyone from using this venue. I do hope, however, that it would help a person to arm themselves before being sent into bankruptcy. That is where a friend of mine just landed this past week due in part to this company's serious lack of accounting skills as well as their lack of accountability in how they use the information we provide them. Every time one of us tries to make contact regarding a concern, we are redirected to another department who, in turn, redirects us yet again. Anyway, I am spending all my writing time here instead of in wordpad. Thanks for the help.

~~Carole :)

07-16-2005, 04:43 AM
HI Carole!

It's a tricky situation to write about a company when you're still employed there! Just today I ran across an article that might interest you:


Good luck!


07-20-2005, 12:41 PM
Howdy, Carole!

The plot sounds very much like an old "King of The Hill" episode. Peggy Hill gets a job at the company that makes the beer Hank and the gang have been slugging down since they've been slugging down beer. Only thing is, Peggy has signed some sort of an agreement with the company not to reveal anything she learns or comes across on the job.

Of course, hilarity ensues when there's an apparent beer shortage in the States, and Hank squeezes some information out of Peg; and all the boys take a trip to Mexico and stock up down there. When they get sick thinking it was something they ate, Peggy learns the beer was actually tainted and no bueno.

More hilarity ensues as Peggy has to go in and right all the wrongs - Those between her and Hank; and those between her conscience and the beer {burp} company.

Well the whole point is: It just may help to visualize your events like a cartoon episode and write it all out from there; or do so in the style ala Woodward & Bernstein in 'All The President's Men' - Or some sort of combination of them both.

Write in small bites; then just connect all the dots from there.

Whatever you do though: Good Luck!

07-20-2005, 11:02 PM
Thank you, A RainbowWarrior! That is a very interesting viewpoint! Something I am learning as I write is that the tone seems to morph occasionally and I have thoughts about changing how this is all presented. My husband seems to think it would be best told as a story of me, and what happened when I became involved with these folks, and that is actually how I started it all. Occasionally, though, I do see other ways. I suppose it will all work out in the end.

I motivate myself by remembering that I really do have information that is not available to anyone outside this company, and that my experience has been a horrific one. One that is never talked about, but that many people on the inside are fully aware of and have experienced. There is a draw...a strange draw that keeps folks from leaving. I am trying to define it, and so far I just can't. It reminds me of my childhood home, southern West Virginia. Everyone I knew from my school days has either moved away from there or is doing very poorly if they stayed. Those of us who did move away are continually drawn back. We know it is next to impossible to earn a good living there, but many of us do go back at least once in our adult lives to try. There was a homey innocence in that area when we were children, and the poverty and drugs, which are rampant now, were not an issue then. This is the same feeling I get about this company. There is something hopeful and shiny about it all that keeps the rest of us trying method after method to make it work properly.

Anyway, once again I am spending time rambling here instead of writing. BIC, right Cathy?

~~Carole :)

08-01-2005, 02:01 AM
Bearing in mind that I am not am employee of this company and I did not sign any confidentiality agreements with them, I wonder what is ok regarding the use of information from their website and flyers?

There are so many information pages where I have found so much conflicting information that I would really like to be able to say:

If you click on the bla bla tab and scroll through to the bla bla section, you will find this tidbit:

Then I would post a small quote from the site or flyer. Literally anyone can access this information. Would that make any difference? I just think it would really help to show the conflicting information and lurking problems with this company. If I am only able to describe a policy rather than show the actual policy, it would seem much less valid in my opinion.

08-01-2005, 02:36 AM
Me thinks you think too much, Carole!!

If you've gotten your hands on an opponent's play book or Top Secret National Security Files -- Sure, I'd say a tad bit of caution was um PRIMARY!! :Hail::Ssh:

But here, if you're playing Erin Brockovich from Whistleblower Anytown USA,:guns:
then I'd let the legal beagles at Story Production City work it all out.

Just keep writing!

Hope this helps!

08-01-2005, 05:32 AM
~*laughing*~ Hubby tells me to listen to him, especially since he gave me the same advice! He always tells me :Lecture: that I make up things to worry about, and I guess this is no exception!

Thanks a bunch!