How to Write a Tell-All Book & Name Names

Writing nonfiction can be quite challenging in all aspects. Being in love with the subject, determining why your message is so important, and publishing can all be factors in writing a tell-all book that includes people's names. Planning and research is key in writing a book; you must know where you are going and stay excited about your subject. You must also know the distinct legal claims that come along with your use of someone's identity in the state or country where you reside and obtain permission to avoid violating privacy.

Research your subject thoroughly and gather information via the Internet, library, journals, photographs, and interviews. Decide what type of tell-all book you are going to write. Memoirs are more memory than fact and often concentrate on a specific period of someone's life. An autobiography is a wider range of events during a person's life written in a logical, chronological order. A biography is an author's account of someone else's life. Midge Gillies of The Guardian states, "Traditionally, this has taken the form of a straight narrative arc from birth to death. Recently biography has started to take on more exciting and imaginative forms than this traditional 'cradle to grave' approach." Find your style and stick to it.

Hire a writing coach. Author Bobbi Linkemer advises, "If you are working on your first book, guidance and support from a knowledgeable source is a gift. But, even if you have done this before, a book coach can make writing a nonfiction book smoother, more organized, and more efficient." Determine what role you would like your coach to take on during your writing process. Will they guide you through the book? Be a teacher or maybe your partner? Does your coach need to stick with you during the promotion of the book to be your personal cheerleader? A coach can even become the editor of your manuscript and help you polish the draft that goes to the printer.

Get permission. If you are using people's names or excerpts from existing text, don't wait until the last minute to find out if you will be granted permission. If refused, you'll have to rewrite the book. In Midge Gillies' article "Choosing Your Subject" she advises, "You can't quote a 'substantial' part of a copyright work without permission but what constitutes 'substantial' is open to debate. Four lines from a short poem might be 'substantial,' whereas several sentences from a novel would not be." Copyright is a tricky territory. The advice of a professional is advised and something you may want to discuss with your writing coach to determine options.

Obtain a literary agent or entertainment lawyer. Some states or countries prohibit the use of another person's identity for the user's own personal benefit. Two legal claims that could hinder your tell-all work of nonfiction could be invasion of privacy through misappropriation of name or likeness and violation of the right of publicity. Literary agencies and entertainment lawyers will know and understand the law in terms of the use of names in your book and can help you obtain the documentation to avoid lawsuits when publishing your manuscript.

Hire an editor. Writing and publishing a nonfiction book happens in stages, during which an editor will no doubt become your best friend. A developmental editor can help you plan and organize your material and visualize how the book will fit convincingly together. The developmental editor is there to help realize your concept and vision for the book. Content editors focus on style of writing, how the book flows, language and accuracy. Copy editors are our grammar gurus. They check punctuation and typos in your manuscript, and proofread all of the pages before they go to the printer. These roles are essential in developing and writing your book.


Participate in writing exercises or join a writing group. Both are useful tools in exploring your subject.

Things You'll Need

  • Writing coach
  • Literary agent
  • Entertainment lawyer
  • Editor
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