If you're reading this, you're probably some form of a writer. The extent of your writing may be your personal blog, but you still write publicly.
Did you know your writing could lead to this?
If you've published (or are planning to publish) a novel, it's important to be aware of the legal risks you face. Here are a few things every writer can do to avoid being sued:
#1 Avoid reading unpublished manuscripts
Critique groups and beta readers are essential to any new author. However, you have to be careful when reading unpublished manuscripts. An author could claim that your new book was stolen directly from something he or she wrote, even if you read it years earlier. Many successful novelists refuse to read unpublished manuscripts for this reason. (And others...)
#2 Copyright your work
Known as the "poor man's copyright," some people have found that the best way to prove a manuscript was theirs is to mail it to themselves. However, this method has been proven ineffective. Your work is copyrighted as soon as you create it and, as this post points out, it is highly unlikely someone will successfully steal your work and get it published before you can, so such measures will likely be unnecessary.
#3 Change names and details
It can be very freeing to write about the real people you've known throughout your life, whether you're creating fiction or nonfiction. However, as the author of The Help found out, people tend to get litigious if they see a little too much of themselves in your characters. Know that if you make your characters too identifiable, you may find yourself in need of an attorney once your book is publicly available.
#4 Use copyright-free images
If you're creating your own book covers, you likely already realize the importance of using commercially-available images. There are many authors who know more about it than I do, but it's important to make sure your book cover images are free for commercial use.
If you're still concerned about lawsuits, professional liability insurance could provide that additional layer of protection you need.
What are you insecure about this month?