Questions Self Publishing Authors Ask: Parts of My Book are True, Can It Still Be Fiction?

Throughout the month of July I will be discussing topics that often come up for self publishing authors.  Without an experienced agent, you may have found that it’s tough to find the answers to your questions about rights and permissions.  These posts are designed to help answer some of the questions you may have and will direct you to other sites where you can get more information on each topic.  Come back each Wednesday this month for more informational posts to help you in your self publishing journey.  If you have additional questions, please send us a comment and we’ll add it to our list of topics to cover in the coming weeks.

This week I will address the question: Can my book be fiction if parts of it are true? Sometimes authors aren’t sure which genre their book belongs in. Some writers loosely base their books on their life but add details to make the plot or characters more interesting. Other writers write about their personal life experiences and only change character names. Here is what you need to know when deciding whether your book should be fiction or nonfiction.

  • Changing the names in a memoir does not necessarily protect you from a lawsuit if the characters are recognizable as real people.
  • If you are labeling your book as a memoir but names have been changed, be sure to disclose this.
  • If the book is not as truthful as possible, it is not a memoir. It is a novel. This means if you’ve added details such as extra characters or another plot line, it is fiction.
  • If you write a book that is inspired by your life events and you want readers to know these events really happened, label the book as fiction and note in your author’s biography that the book is inspired by real events.
  • If you are writing a biography, it is essential to verify all facts for accuracy. If you aren’t certain the story is truthful, let the person be your inspiration for a novel.

To learn more about whether to label your book as fiction or nonfiction, check out these two great posts:

The Line Between Fact and Fiction

Fiction Or Nonfiction? Memoir Or Novel? Know What To Call Your Story Or Book

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at

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