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View Full Version : Publisher says to remove trade and company names.



triceretops
12-28-2006, 04:32 AM
I realize that removing trade, company and organization names from a story protects the publisher and negates dating the script. But does that mean remoing everything, or replacing them with generic names? The below passage stumps me because I want to use the network names. Should I remove them and just say "The major networks?"

I like to use specific automobile manufacturers names like 76 Toyota Landcruiser, and Hummer. MUST these also be generic?

I have changed names like McDonalds to McFarleys, and Adidas to Appolo--and hundreds of others.

The whole of Devonshire Avenue looked like a news media convention. A few of the larger network station vehicles were as big as double-wide mobile trailers. They were all there: ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and the foreign press, asking for comments, information and photo ops.

Tri

Puma
12-28-2006, 04:49 AM
Tri - I think there's a gray line in this issue. Part of the reason they want names removed is because of possible libel suits and also the question of paying for permissions to use the names. I doubt either of these would be the case with the major networks (unless you're casting them in a bad light). My suggestion would be to ask the publisher for some clarification. I honestly can't see a writer changing the name of The New York Times - might as well change the name of Times Square too. It could get a bit ridiculous. Puma

PeeDee
12-28-2006, 04:52 AM
I see writers all the time who use McDonald's, Car company names, and so on. Neil Gaiman lists every car's make, name, and year that Shadow drives throughout American Gods, and that's a fair number of cars.

on the other hand, I so oftne get away without naming anything. I just have them go to a restuarant and get a really terrible burger that they wouldn't evne consider putting in their mouth, except when they're hungry.

triceretops
12-28-2006, 05:08 AM
Thanks, guys. My urban fantasy is a mess, loaded down with all these things. I have my characters going to Churchill Downs, and even changed that!!! Now I'm afraid to use Valdez Alaska, Alaskan Airlines, American Airlines, clothing brand names. I've literary changed over 250 trade, manufacturer, company and organiztion names.

For Instance:

Then the largest charities descended upon him: The National Hospital, American Respiratory Society, U.S. Cancer Research Association, National Diabetic Institute, Society For The Visually Impaired, Doctors With Wings, Children’s Rescue Organization, Grant A Dream Foundation and other notable organizations.

I mean, c'mon. Can you recongize the organizations in the previous paragraph that I changed? This has got me all gun shy, and now I'm afraid I've ruined the whole book. I even made reference to Stephen King's The Stand, then went back in there and removed it.

The action takes place in my home town of Hemet. I change THAT name to Juliet.

It's the fine line I'm confused about here. I don't hold any in a bad light except for McDonalds, with I obviously had to change.

Tri

veinglory
12-28-2006, 05:18 AM
Writers constantly use real names. Classic Bond drives a Saab, scenes are set in chain stores, chick books are full of real clothing brand names, the outright negative 'Supersize Me' dosumentary wasn't about McFlarneys. I think fake brand names would be irritating and distracting to the reader. I have had one epublisher insist on such changes and for a short story I didn't fight it--but it's silly. As if my hero wearing a Digimon T-shirt will see them sued into bankruptcy.

jamiehall
12-28-2006, 05:44 AM
Writers constantly use real names. Classic Bond drives a Saab, scenes are set in chain stores, chick books are full of real clothing brand names, the outright negative 'Supersize Me' dosumentary wasn't about McFlarneys. I think fake brand names would be irritating and distracting to the reader. I have had one epublisher insist on such changes and for a short story I didn't fight it--but it's silly. As if my hero wearing a Digimon T-shirt will see them sued into bankruptcy.

As long as you're using the name, not the image (that's why movies need to get permission) it's okay for writers to use the real brand names, except in those cases where you're casting the product or company in a bad light. If you use an actual car name and the brakes on your hero's car fail and kill his wife, it had better be because the villain messed with the brakes, not because the manufacturing was shoddy. If the employees at your restaurant are conspiring to put bits of roadkill in with the burgers, it had better not be an actual restaurant name.

If your publisher wants you to change every single brand name in the entire book, I think a talk to clarify things is in order.

janetbellinger
12-28-2006, 06:41 AM
I've used a few brand names but not many

johnzakour
12-28-2006, 07:57 AM
I use car names all the time. For instance in my current book my hero is driving a 1986 Cherry Red Ford Mustang.

There are also certain names I use as I feel they are in "public domain": Bill Gates, Oprah, Steven Hawkins. Of course since I write pulp SF, I actually write about clones of these people.

For companies I always sci fi up the names. For example I have EnterCorp, HTech and ExShell. I also used Pineapple Computer once.

The only things my publisher (well their lawyers) have me avoid with a passion are song lyrics. That's okay because it's fun to make up my own lyrics to famous songs.

maestrowork
12-28-2006, 08:26 AM
I'm surprised that your publisher would ask that. I don't know if I understand, unless you're defaming these companies... Writers use real names and trademarks all the time in fiction.

KCH
12-28-2006, 08:43 AM
Based on the few examples you've given us--and your own admission-- you seem to be awash in brand names. Cutting down the sheer number even more than you already have might be advisable irrespective of any legal concern. The danger is that a reader starts to get impatient with all the mental cataloguing of details that may or may not turn out to be important.

If the brand name adds nothing, why bother with even a faux replacement? But if a particular brand name is essential to the piece, or adds something meaningful to character voice or sense of place, then fight for it.

As for the passage where you've changed all the charity names, I agree, it doesn't work. I think you can evoke the feeling you're after without the contrivance. Something like: "Then the charities descended upon him. Foundations. Trusts. Societies. Each with needs and stories more gut-wrenching than the next. And all with their hands out." Or something to that effect.

maestrowork
12-28-2006, 08:46 AM
Hmmm... I agree. The following sentence does seem excessive, like a laundry list.


over 250 trade, manufacturer, company and organiztion names.

For Instance:

Then the largest charities descended upon him: The National Hospital, American Respiratory Society, U.S. Cancer Research Association, National Diabetic Institute, Society For The Visually Impaired, Doctors With Wings, Children’s Rescue Organization, Grant A Dream Foundation and other notable organizations.

triceretops
12-28-2006, 09:11 AM
Great comments. I do use brand or trade names to evoke personalities and preferences, so I have removed a lot of them. However, some are essential to the plot. I dunno. The publisher IS foreign, so to speak and I'm not sure if this has anything to do with it. But I think my email to them is in order. I'll see if I can find a comment from them and list it. We'll see if it makes sense to the others on the board.

Attached is our LOI or Letter of Intent to publish your prose " Felcity Fortune." Please review carefully and follow the instructions on the LOI. The editor has advised a new title as she felt that this does not suit the story, at this time I have used the title of Felcity Fortune in the LOI, however please give some thought to a new title, the second comment risen in regards to using charity names such as Make A Wish Foundation, written permission for using these names will need to be obtained from you or you will need to 'make up' charity names that are similar but not trade marked.

There were other comments listing various brand names in an email, but I can't find those right now. I do know about lyrics and had to remove a Sinatra song from the text, having not wanting to pay for the permission to use it.

As far as Make A Wish Foundation--I didn't know that such a charity had to be contacted for permission to use their name in print. This is news to me.

Tri

benbradley
12-28-2006, 09:20 AM
FWIW, I get suspicious when I see real brand names in fiction, especially if there seems to be no good reason for having them. "Product placement" comes to mind, and no doubt a lot of people don't like paying to buy an advertisement, or something that looks too much like an advertisement.

Now that I think about it, I recall some news story where an author was actually soliciting brand names to be placed into a novel.

triceretops
12-28-2006, 09:49 AM
Yeah, I can dig what your saying. Sometimes it works the other way and starts a trend. Wasn't it Reeses Pieces that took off so well as a regard of their placement in the ET movie? Of course, I don't do anything like pound a brand name into the reader's head. They're only mentioned once in passing.

Tri

Birol
12-28-2006, 11:24 AM
Yeah, but Reese's Pieces in ET probably was product placement. I bet they paid a significant percentage of their marketing budget for that.

Bartholomew
12-28-2006, 11:54 AM
Brand names stay until someone forces me to remove them. The company gets free advertizing, and world building becomes that much easier.

maestrowork
12-28-2006, 06:58 PM
Product placement is a huge business in show biz. I know, a friend of mine is a sales manager of one of those firms. In fiction, however, you don't get paid a dime by these companies. ;) A few real products or org names do help with the setting -- a Coke is usually better than just a "soda" or a fake brand -- but make sure you're not overusing them. My character would take a Guiness but the next time he's just drinking "another beer." There's no need to mention brands, etc. every chance you have.

James D. Macdonald
12-28-2006, 07:17 PM
Reese's Pieces were substituted in ET because the film maker couldn't get permission to use M&Ms. (What do you get when you put a monkey in a blender? Rhesus Pieces.)

Tri, what's the name of this publisher? What kind of advance are they paying? (I had a publisher once who wanted me to rename most of my main characters. They were paying a $20K advance. Dude, I like the new names better!)

Overuse of tradenames is an easy trap to fall into. You generally don't add a thing to your story by specifying that your character drank Minute Maid Orange Juice in place of orange juice. You can slow down your reader by saying "'76 Toyota Landcruiser" as he tries to remember what the frip one of those looks like, and wonders whether it'll be on the test at the end of the chapter.

In the example you give above, listing the names of the various networks (IMHO) adds nothing at all to the scene.

Susan Gable
12-28-2006, 08:11 PM
For Instance:

Then the largest charities descended upon him: The National Hospital, American Respiratory Society, U.S. Cancer Research Association, National Diabetic Institute, Society For The Visually Impaired, Doctors With Wings, Children’s Rescue Organization, Grant A Dream Foundation and other notable organizations.

Tri

Tri, that's way too many examples. I got bored. I liked the suggestion someone made to say things like foundations, etc. Or you could go with: Children's charities. Disease of the month charities.

That long list just made me skim ahead, skip right over it.

But I don't think Make-A-Wish would come after you if you used their name in a "good" way.

Too much of anything is a bad thing. A couple of real brands here and there can be okay. Too many isn't.

I did once go round with my editor over my Texan hero doing a "banter" with the heroine over his use of the word "coke." Yes, little c. You see, in Texas, all soda is coke. The waitress will ask you what kind of coke you want. ("You want a coke?" "Yes, please." "Okay, what kind do you want?") I thought it added authenticity to my character. I had to take it out. <G> He wasn't allowed to use coke to mean soda. (Or pop, depending on your regional preference. <G>) I suppose that would make Coke unhappy since it dilutes their brand. (Always use a CAPITAL letter to indicate a brand name. That's the rule.)

Susan G.

maestrowork
12-28-2006, 08:21 PM
LOL, Susan. Reminded me of the one time I forgot to capitalize Coke, and my editor said to me, "Do you want some heroin with it, too?" LOL.

James D. Macdonald
12-28-2006, 08:35 PM
At one time Heroin was a trade name.

Popeyesays
12-28-2006, 08:49 PM
My urban fantasy, doesn't over-use brand names, I don't think. At one point the main character swaps her Range Rover for a new Hummer, she drinks Dos Equis (largely because it's set in southern Arizona where you can hardly take a step without tripping on a Dos Equis bottle and shops at Saks and Abercrobie and Fitch's (she's an archeologist and nees bush clothes). I also mention the Triple T Truck stop outside Tucson because it's a landmark.

I hope I don't get zapped for it. It adds local color--Oh Yeah! I name the towns Benson, Douglas, Bisbee and Tucson, I don't think those name are Propietary in that sense.

Regards,
Scott

Susan Gable
12-28-2006, 09:44 PM
At one time Heroin was a trade name.

Now there's one I didn't know. So what's the generic name for Heroin?

Aspirin used to be a trade name, too, right?

This is why trademark holders get antsy about folks misusing their trade names. <G>

Susan G.

Shadow_Ferret
12-28-2006, 10:11 PM
My urban fantasy, doesn't over-use brand names, I don't think. At one point the main character swaps her Range Rover for a new Hummer, she drinks Dos Equis (largely because it's set in southern Arizona where you can hardly take a step without tripping on a Dos Equis bottle and shops at Saks and Abercrobie and Fitch's (she's an archeologist and nees bush clothes). I also mention the Triple T Truck stop outside Tucson because it's a landmark.



Heh. In mine, my character just drives a Pontiac, I don't even mention the model. They eat Hamburger Helper, in an effort to show that he's a rather overwhelmed single father. He uses Play-Doh, although I might change that to modeling clay. And I think when he orders a beer in a Mexican restaurant, he merely calls it a cerveza, but it might be Dos Equis too. And he eats at a local sub shop called Suburpia. I don't feel I overwhelm the reader with brandnames and only use them when it serves a purpose.

PeeDee
12-28-2006, 11:19 PM
I tend not to use them, simply beacuse a lot of the time, it doesn't occur to me. It might not be a bad idea, I could fill in rural Minnesota with realistic markers and products as a counter-point to the oddity of the Centaur and other creatures who have surfaced. But then...no, I probably won't.

I'm still puzzled that your publisher wants to pull it all, Tri. That seems strange to me. Have they said why? Have you asked them?

DeadlyAccurate
12-28-2006, 11:21 PM
My books that are set in the near future have made up trade and company names. I can't very well have the CEO of McDonald's authorizing a hit on one of his fellow execs, after all, or letting Sony and Nintendo of America engaging in a street war that kills innocent bystanders (though if they did, Sony's explosions would look better and Nintendo's would be more exciting.) My corporations, vehicles, and guns all have made up names.

My modern setting books use real names, though I try to do it only when it would sound natural. I wouldn't say, "Hand me those Nikes," but I would say, "Give me a Dr Pepper."

PeeDee
12-28-2006, 11:26 PM
.......after all, or letting Sony and Nintendo of America engaging in a street war that kills innocent bystanders (though if they did, Sony's explosions would look better and Nintendo's would be more exciting.)

Hah!

And Microsoft would have just released eXPlosion 3.8, now with faster blowing up times....but it still won't explode properly. And anyway, they're on the wrong street, and two hours two early.

Del
12-29-2006, 12:06 AM
I hope I don't get zapped for it. It adds local color--Oh Yeah! I name the towns Benson, Douglas, Bisbee and Tucson, I don't think those name are Propietary in that sense.

Regards,
Scott

I've been to Bisbee, cool place (Old Bisbee). I guess from Tucson they just wizzed right past Tombstone, huh? :)

I doubt a municipality can do a thing no matter how you mention their name. They are public property.

------------------------------------------------------

I used a real newspaper in my book. It was just a mention in reference to them reporting an occurrence in the story. To be on the safe side I emailed them for permission. The woman I emailed wrote back casually, stating she asked around and no one found any harm in it. I keep a copy of the email in the story file.

I used a fictitious TV news station. The reporter there didn't just report the news but exploited it. I simply referred to them as The 27 News Team. There are Channel 27 News Teams but not in the city I used, or even in that part of the country. Am I supposed to pick a number no one is using? And how would I discover that no one was using it?

I used Burger Buddy for a fast food place once. I think it said more than had I used McDonald's or something else real.

I used '63 Mercury Comet too. Commonly referred to as 'the Merc'. It clunked and tapped but it was also 13 years old. I actually owned that car and wrote it how it was. She had to drive something. I'm not Dr. Seuss. I couldn't put her in a multicolored, three seated Amazemobile.

I think with regard to Trademarks, if you use one in a fashion that can be construed as negative you had better be able to prove that what you wrote indeed happened somewhere, sometime. Mostly I think it is safer to make up a product.

I used a song TITLE; California Dreamin'. You cannot copyright a title (too few words) and it was just a reference in relation to my characters' destination. (Poor girls. They never made it.) It should fall under fair use of trademark. Your character can order a Coke if it is indeed a Coke. And to write they heard California Dreamin' playing on the radio doesn't constitute any violation.

I suppose all this is moot until the book comes out. But I'm betting I'm safe. Besides Sony Beta Cam (News Crew), I think those are the only trademarks I used. Fewer is better.

James D. Macdonald
12-29-2006, 12:47 AM
The generic for Heroin is diamorphine. Bayer formerly owned the trademark on Heroin. They also owned the trademark on Aspirin -- but interestingly enough, didn't lose it from people using the name as a generic (as is often the case with trademarks -- see, for example, celluoid). Bayer lost the Aspirin and Heroin trademarks as war reparations for WWI.

maestrowork
12-29-2006, 04:12 AM
Cocaine and Heroin were both legal in the US until they're ... well, illegal. :)

Stacia Kane
12-29-2006, 04:38 AM
My heroines drink Coke, my heroes drive particular cars...they've stayed at famous hotels, too.

But aside from that I generally avoid branding, simply because it's usually irrelevant. As was discussed in a thread in Novel Writing, sometimes brand names or labels are telling instead of showing (like "he wore a Rolex" instead of "his chunky silver watch caught the light") or whatever. They drink beer, scotch or gin, not Grolsch, Laphroaig or Bombay Sapphire, because the reader doesn't need to know what kind they drink.

I've never had a problem with it--my publishers say the same thing--as long as it isn't derogatory or overused it's fine.

triceretops
12-29-2006, 05:13 AM
Thanks, I took out all those charity names--much better now.

I dunno, I guess it's just a judgement call. I've emailed the publisher. I suspect that they'd had some kind of fiasco in the past that's left them gun shy.

I do have to go in there and change some terrible stereotypes that I have in a remote lodge settlement up in Valdez Alaska. The men are all bearded fishermen, miners or small shop owners, and the populace does nothing but drink, fugg, and fly little airplanes. And the only thing beautiful up in the Great White North is the aurora.

Ooooh, that'll leave a mark, wot?

I also portray the FCC in a terrible, vicious light in the future. Time to change that org

Tri

PeeDee
12-29-2006, 05:17 AM
T
I also portray the FCC in a terrible, vicious light in the future. Time to change that org

Tri

Nope, nope, sounds like you got that one spot on. The worse the better.

(assuming we mean the Federal Censorship Committee. Bastards.)

Chumplet
12-29-2006, 08:59 AM
I'm hesitant to use team names in my WIP. We know the team is in Toronto, but I don't mention that they are the Toronto Maple Leafs. I don't mention the Air Canada Centre either, but it's very awkward and exhausting dancing around the names.

I tried emailing the NHL or the Leafs, but got nowhere. Maybe I should just put the names in and see what the publisher thinks. If I ever sell the damn thing.

I did, however, plug a local brewery and mentioned Creemore. Yummy stuff.

maestrowork
12-29-2006, 09:06 AM
In a way, I think it's a bit pretentious to make up a team's name. Everyone knows it's the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates. If I start calling them the Pittsburgh Miners and Sailors, I think it's just wrong. That's just me. :)

jamiehall
12-29-2006, 09:44 PM
I also portray the FCC in a terrible, vicious light in the future. Time to change that org

Organizations (especially governmental ones) are in a different class than brands and companies. Often, you can make fun of them quite badly without any trouble. If you want to write a novel where the FBI is in cahoots with the mob, you can probably get it published. Try writing the same novel, except it's the Pepsi corporation instead of the FBI, and you're in big trouble.

Especially as concerns governmental organizations, I think it's generally covered under our broad powers to make fun of and criticize the government.

aruna
12-29-2006, 09:56 PM
In cases like this an agent is worth his weight in gold. Have you spoken to yours?

In one of John Grisham's books (The Last Juror, I think) half the book is spent ranting against Wal-Mart. Except that it's called something else but everyone knows it;s Wal-Mart.