PUBLIC FIGURES AND LIBEL: “I want to write a tell-all book about a celebrity I once knew. Can a public figure sue me?”

PUBLIC FIGURES AND LIBEL: “I want to write a tell-all book about a celebrity I once knew. Can a public figure sue me?”

Q –

I grew up with someone who is now a well-known celebrity. I want to write about a book about this person and it won’t be flattering. He can’t sue me and win, right, since he’s a public figure? I’m certain he will sue and that’s okay but I need to know that I’m going to win. And, my publisher will have to pay my legal fees and any judgment against me if he does win, right?

A –

I’m not an attorney and this isn’t legal advice. You need to consult with an attorney looooong before you spend time and money on a project like this.

While your book might be juicy, and might sell some copies, you might want to reconsider. If these incidents happened years or decades ago, what proof do you have that they actually occurred? If the court battle turns into a he said/she said type of scenario, you might lose. And, I suspect juries might be more inclined to side with a celebrity rather than with a celebrity’s childhood friend who chose to capitalize on their past friendship and, in the process, betrayed that old friend.

How much money do you have in the bank? If you’re sued by a celebrity, he or she likely has far more money than the average person and they can spend more on legal fees up-front. You could go bankrupt in the process…long before you ever step foot in the courtroom.

While it’s true that celebrities have a tougher time in these types of lawsuits, they can win and the damages can be astronomical. There’s a great article on this topic RIGHT HERE.

I’m sorry but your assumption that a publisher will foot your legal bills made me chuckle. First, a large, traditional publisher has fact-checkers and legal departments. Unless you have proof of all the incidents that you claim occurred, they aren’t likely to offer you a publishing contract, especially if you’re not a well-known author or celebrity yourself.

Publishing services that self-published authors use to publish their books are, for the most part, exempt from legal liability for libel, defamation and invasion of privacy because the manuscripts are not vetted for legal liability. Those firms are simply used as a printing and distribution service by the author to get their book on the market. The exception, based on a lawsuit against one large publisher, is when the firm knew up-front that the book might contain legal liability issues.

You might be tempted to profit from publishing a book based on a past relationship but the money, stress, and time involved, to say nothing of the harm to your own reputation in the process, probably won’t be worthwhile in the end.



7.625 STRATEGIES IN EVERY BEST-SELLER - Revised and Expanded Edition

At this moment, thousands of would-be authors are slaving away on their keyboards, dreaming of literary success. But their efforts won’t count for much. Of all those manuscripts, trade book editors will sign up only a slim fraction.

And of those titles--ones that that editors paid thousands of dollars to contract, print and publicize--an unhealthy percentage never sell enough copies to earn back their advances. Two years later, most will be out of print!

Acquisition Editor Tam Mossman shares seven essentials every book needs to stay in print, and sell!

Read more here:


BOOK PROPOSALS THAT WORKED! Real Book Proposals That Landed $10K - $100K Publishing Contracts - by Angela Hoy

Peek over the shoulders of highly successful, published authors to see how they landed publishing contracts worth $10,000 to $100,000! An enticing yet professional book proposal is the key!

BONUS! Successful ghostwriter, Anton Marco, shares his secret for landing ghostwriting clients. Don’t miss Anton’s real ghostwriting contract at the end of this book! It provides an example of what he charges and the payment terms he requires from each client.



3 Responses to "PUBLIC FIGURES AND LIBEL: “I want to write a tell-all book about a celebrity I once knew. Can a public figure sue me?”"