Protecting Identity in Non-Fiction Writing

by Bill

If I protect the identity of people and corporations by altering names and some facts, will non-fiction publishers refuse to consider such a manuscript if these facts are not germane to the subject?

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Mar 18, 2010
responding to Alex
by: Bill

Your comments are well taken, but I have an analogy that may help shed light on my predicament. Suppose I were a doctor (and I'm not) and I had developed a novel approach to diagnose patients who lie about their symptoms, medical histories or environmental factors. My proposed method to impart the power of the approach is to tell a series of true stories to convey the magic of the process. First, the doctor is legally bound to not disclose the patient's name. The patients would be reluctant to provide their consent. The preacher's wife who does not disclose the extra-marital affair would not sign a waiver for publication. The mother who still grows marijuana will not want her doctor blabbing to the world about her illegal activity. Will it hurt the story if the preacher's wife is called Jane instead of her real name and that she has four children instead of the two she really has? These adjustments will protect both me and the subjects. In my capacity I am legally bound to not disclose these subjects and they are in positions where they will not give consent.

Mar 15, 2010
by: Alex

I think that it may be necessary to at least share your sources with an editor that accepts your manuscript for publication. How else can they fact check?

Also, I think it depends on the type of book you write. Is it an expose? If so, it doesn't make sense to keep the sources hidden.

Is there a particular reason you aren't willing to share your sources, even if only by initials or pseudonyms?

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