Boy did I learn a thing or two after submitting my complete “three-books-in-one” e-book, The Prodigal Band Trilogy, to Lulu.com for publication and distribution! NEVER, and I mean, NEVER, indicate in any way shape or form that anything in your fiction is “based on actual events” or “based on true events”…or, perhaps, “based on a true story.”
Why? Because if you say anything on any copyright page or whatever that anything in the book/novel is based on any actual event, that (unlike the old days when one could write a novel “based on a true story” and call it “fiction”) apparently that is no longer the case.
In these days when it is so easy to “offend” someone–and I’m not just talking so-called “SJWs” here…does no one have the capacity to develop thick skin anymore? Is it against the “law” to develop thick skin these days? In these days when “getting offended” is the prevailing narrative, can a fiction novelist such as myself get into trouble for putting actual “brands” into my novels?
Here are some of the “brands” I have used in my three published books and copyrighted with the Library of Congress:
Musical instrument companies Fender and Gibson–Gibson guitar and Fender bass.
Car companies–Bentley, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, BWM, Mercedes-Benz, Lamborghini and others.
And other brands. But guess what? NONE of these brands appear in The Prodigal Band Trilogy. Why? Because I could be sued for LIBEL! Because someone at one of the instrument “brands” might get “offended” that I used a competitor’s brand in my book! After all, any use of any brand could be construed by someone as being “negative.”
Gee, will someone get offended because one of my band characters is bisexual? And, when he repents of being bisexual, will an actual bisexual be offended?
And then you have record labels and media outfits. Back in the late 90s before zillions of indy recording artist labels came about, I could take an actual record label that had been around since the 1960s and change the spelling of it a bit–no problem. For instance, I could take the actual Atlantic Records label (that Led Zeppelin among others used) and fictionalize it into “Atlantis” and no big deal. Well guess what? Atlantis is now a record label! Found that out on a site called “Discogs” which lists EVERY song by EVERY recording artist on EVERY label that has EVER existed (and even lists VINYL records for sale! Would you believe they still make VINYL records?). So then I had to change that label name to an actual FICTIONAL label name! It only took me two days to figure out what the fictional record label would be! I spent two days on this! Another record label I used had to have its spelling changed as well, because the actual label had a couple of “discogs” listed! I had never heard of this label, but never mind…
And two more days on changing the names of the media conglomerates I mentioned in my novels! Thank God I’m not a best selling author–I’d have been sued a zillion times by now!
Finally, EVERY real person known to be a real person had to be expunged from the e-book. AND I COULD NOT EVEN MENTION THE BEATLES, THE BAND MY FICTIONAL BAND IS FASHIONED AFTER! No Elton John, no Jimi Hendrix, no Jimmy Page, no Kurt Cobain, no actual rock band, no actual pop star (I even removed the late Michael Jackson! Just because…).
No actual business, government department or agency, non-profit org, no actual religious group except for the fact that major religions exist, no actual churches, no mention of actual books, records, movies, works of art, buildings. And no mention of actual presidents, prime ministers, royalty. Even historical figures are taboo..but I did mention William the Conqueror aka William of Normandy. Will that have to be expunged also?
And I am NOT BLAMING LULU.COM for this! I am not blaming Lulu.com for me having to take two weeks to revise my manuscript. Lulu is only doing what any wise online company would do in the day and age of zillions of “libel” suits for no reason. One of my fave news sites has been sued for using a photo without “attribution” to the photographer EVEN THOUGH THE PHOTO CAME FROM A COPYRIGHT-FREE AND ROYALTY-FREE WEBSITE! Because suddenly one day the photographer figured he or she would null the copyright and royalty free status of the photo…just because!
That is why my e-book cover art WILL use a photo that I took in 2009 of a July 4th fireworks show at an actual amusement park at night. Since I can no longer trust actual photographers anymore!
So, my advice is this: before sending any manuscript to Lulu or Kindle or whatever for print or e-book publication, use your fave search engine to see if the company you think does not exist actually does exist. I mean, there are only about a million media outfits these days! Need a record label? Make sure discogs.com doesn’t list it anywhere! If there are only one or two listings, DON’T USE IT! If you need to use an actual well-known person or celebrity, make sure that person is dead! Dead persons cannot sue for libel!
Finally, since you will likely use the name of an actual person who actually exists, make sure you indicate that “names of real people, real places, and real things are used only for fictional purposes.” Instead of using “brands,” use generalizations: car instead of car brand name, hotel instead of actual hotel name, guitar instead of Gibson guitar, etc.