I'm in the process of writing a life story/non-fiction book that has numerous real life issues and me being real and raw and truthful with what I have dealt with in my own life. I don't want to embarrass or call out anyone in my life but would like to still tell my story to help others! How do I go about this? Can I publish anonymously by chance instead of just changing names, etc?? Those around the people may be able to identify them by relationship so I am concerned about this. Thanks

  • 2
    Why shouldn't you just change the character names? You can always imply that all characters are fictional and any similarity is mere coincidence.
    – Chaotic
    May 11, 2017 at 19:03
  • @Chaotic After this post I don't think claiming that characters that the OP has acknowledged to be based on real people are fictional would stand up in court if it ever came down to that. Better to change all the names and put in a disclaimer saying that the following is loosely based on real events, with names and other details changed to protect the anonymity of the participants.
    – GordonM
    May 12, 2017 at 8:17

3 Answers 3


The problem is not the author of the book, but the events and characters portrayed. If you anonymously write, for instance, about your schoolmates with their names and physical description in a setting that is recognizable as the real one, no matter who the author is, the people portrayed will be recognized. Period. It will happen.

"Publishing anonymously" might protect yourself, not the people you write about.

That said, there can be solutions. Sometimes changing names and settings can be enough. But a good writer, in my opinion, is able to modify the real events in order to maintain the core behind them. It does not matter if Jane cheated on Ralph during high school: what you want to tell is a story about cheating, and the emotions it uncovered. That you can do by any means, not with a chronicle of what happened.

Pardon this rough simplification, but I hope it helps.


Short answer: NO.

Long answer: The publisher is the legal entity responsible for paying the production costs, for arranging distribution, and the like. Thus, the publisher is always known, at least to those who need to know for business purposes. This part of the answer is not a matter of law; it is practical.

If your book bears no information regarding who is responsible for it, then how would anyone be able to obtain a copy? Where would they inquire?

Now, it is theoretically possible that a known business could stock and distribute your book, without revealing the origin of the book. Certainly they can do so for the author's name, if you are using a pseudonym. Nevertheless, the true name could be discovered, if legally necessary. After all, the copyright can be traced back to somebody, and the real author's name is stored somewhere in an industry database.

The only way you could effectively conceal the origin of the book would be to print it yourself in your basement, without telling anybody, then skulk around in camouflage in the middle of the night, dropping off copies without payment. Even then, most businesses nowadays have outside cameras to discourage burglary. You are being watched. As a point of law, which surely varies according to jurisdiction, doing this secretive routine may or may not be illegal, even if the book's contents are not illegal.


You could try.
But if someone wants to sue you it is easy to track down the true author.

And just changing names will not be sufficient protection either.

You need to see an IP lawyer before you publish such a work.

  • When you say "changing names", do you mean using a pen name, or changing the character's names? Edit to clarify. Jan 29, 2021 at 1:14

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