If you’re writing a book (and, statistically, you are), the first thing you need to sort out is how to cover yourself from possible litigation. Ever since a Small Tree Finch took Charles Darwin to court for false representation in 1839 (and won!), authors have had to place careful disclaimers at the beginning their books in order to avoid costly and embarrassing payouts. And it’s not just nonfiction writers who need to be careful. Indeed, who can forget 1957’s most famous literary scandal, when Ayn Rand was sued by her own bank account after the publication of Atlas Shrugged? In short, if you want to write a book and keep all the filthy lucre you’re owed for your genius, you’ve got to know how to write a Publishing Disclaimer.
Because I care about you, I asked an expert publishing lawyer (who, due to a pending lawsuit, I cannot name) to provide five common examples of disclaimers you can use in your own work. They refused to do so, and so I have been forced to do it. Both you and your piggy banks can thank me later!
1. THE CLASSIC
“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.”
Simple, understandable and to the point. For authors of fiction books containing less than, say, 50 words, this is fine.
2. THE RECOLLECTOR
“I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity in some instances I have changed the names of individuals and places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics and details such as physical properties, occupations and places of residence.”
Perfect for memoirs, autobiographies and just about any published work that lets you hang gnarly shit on people you know and totally get away with it.
3. THE DILUTER
“Although the author, editor and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at press time, the author, editor and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.”
This one is gold for self-published authors. Pretending you have an actual editor and publisher shifts two-thirds of the blame to non-existent entities, and as all those episodes of Scooby Doo have taught us, you can’t legally prosecute a ghost.
4. THE HEALTH AND WELLNESS
“This book is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.”
Perfect for those of you who wish to publish your perfectly legitimate but medically distant opinions on why hundreds of years of scientific research and practice is dead wrong. This disclaimer covers all lawsuits arising from your work in such truth-adjacent subjects as homeopathy, reiki, and psychic healing. If your claim that removing sugar from your diet can cure terminal illness turns out to be false, then point those lawyers to the get-out clause above straight away and laugh all the way to the bank/ building society/aura-based feudal barter system!
5. THE ALL-ENCOMPASSER
“What you are holding in your hands, herein referred to as The Artifact, resembles a book only insomuch as you, hereafter referred to as The Reader, deems it so due to varying external factors such as visual and textual conditioning but does not constitute a legally-binding reality outside of being a pulp-based product impressed with ink markings and bound with a gum-based adhesive to which any meaning will be deemed to have been the sole responsibility of The Reader and as such The Reader is liable for any injury—physical or psychological—that may arise from the content of The Artifact (including—but not limited to—personal emotional variance based on a meaning taken from the ink markings or strain caused to the eye, wrist or any other part of the body due to use of The Artifact) and The Artifact and its producers (from whom The Reader dissolves any knowledge of by coming into contact with The Artifact) are hence exempt from any prosecution including subpoenas, writs and libel suits.”
This little beauty lets you write whatever you want without fear of any reprisal. In fact, if you put this at the start of your book, your readers legally have to pay you damages if they get a paper cut.
So get those creative juices flowing without having to worry about the long arm of the law slamming a typewriter down on your legs when you least expect it. Of course, if none of these examples work and you’re somehow upset by this, then I’ll see you in court! Seriously.