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Is writing controversial books ever safe?

Posted on 2014-04-22
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Hi

Many authors, who I wont list have written books that resulted in their deaths. I am sketching out a fictional novel, that tackles a plot with highly controversial political and historical topics.

The only way I'd ever do this is personal publishing. Could vindictive individuals track me down if I never ever say what I did to anyone? If I use a pseudonym, will that do?
Thanks
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Question by:beavoid
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Expert Comment

by:_
ID: 40016731
Many authors have written controversial books, and are either completely ignored, or become the butt of jokes.
Subject matter and presentation (eg: fiction vs non-fiction), are big variables.

>> Could vindictive individuals track me down if I never ever say what I did to anyone?

Anything is possible. There's a lot of unstable people out there.
A pseudonym wouldn't hurt. It would at least make it harder to track you down. But it probably wouldn't stop someone that is really determined.
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by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 40016809
Have you ever looked yourself up in Google?  What about sites like Spokeo?  It is getting harder and harder to be invisible now if you are on the internet.  And of course organizations like the NSA and FBI have the resources to find you whether you use an alias or not.
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by:SunBow
SunBow earned 100 total points
ID: 40016978
>Could vindictive individuals track me down if I never ever say what I did to anyone?

This is crux for answer. While not knowing topic(s), or content, I presume it be sufficiently safe with a further condition.

For religious type zealots and offshoots (haters) there is lack of sufficient technocracy, they need a lot of help to locate target. But you did not mention religion. History should also be safer now, where it wasn't a century or so ago. Politics is another matter.

For fictional politics consider authors like Clancy, who ought to be able to rile up a wide range of those who are really determined. Perhaps yours is similar, and not more unsafe. Also consider those having wild conspiracy theories. Disaster movies.

While your unknown country of residence, let's presume it is sufficiently 'western' to have embedded concept for freedom of speech. In short, not so totalitarian such as NK. Presumably the work has supplemental content such as claiming no character meant to  represent real person or event. That's more safe but for desire to comment on real history that has real identifiable political figures making it rather difficult. At that end one could try including some science fiction, revealing similar alternate universe.

Whatever, I tend to think level safety, while wondering what gain there can be with any personal publishing. Who will read it, in your lifetime, besides you?  What is distribution model? That has to begin with you, very identifiable and trackable. Something to keep more 'hands off'. You going to print/package/advertise/ship - yourself.

I do not yet see a reason to justify attempt to do that if not in NK etc. Let others handle everything but the writing which is hard enough for cloak & dagger.

You would best be served I think by distance. That is pseudonym and more. Especially for the rest of your world. You must not repeat anything of book content elsewhere, that can tie you to it for you to increase level of safeness. Likewise, if you are known for certain opinion or text even here in EE (or email, facebook et al) then you need to exclude it from the book (or find worthy cloud). It should not speak like you, and a good publisher may well do that for you with their editing process (to clean it up for the masses).

More generally, try to consider who could be vindictive, what are their capabilities. What if you wanted to be vindictive, and what could defend from that. Can I find you by googling text from book? This is keystone:

>  I never ever say what I did to anyone?

A secret must never be told, or it won't remain secret. On lighter side, consider how many keep saying they are telling secrets. And as for wildness of internet, consider that if you use computer to assist in writing, it must be used off-net on removable media.

Note that electronic content can be tracked, while by select few, there cannot be some form of criminal acts (I cannot imagine what) which would increase attention given by vested interests.

Just remember that fiction is meant to be fiction, no pretending otherwise, and you should do all right. Names changed to protect the guilty (ha).
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by:speed_54
speed_54 earned 100 total points
ID: 40017106
Safe is a relative term. Yes you could be safe behind a pseudonym, but people like to know about the author, and if you hid behind one, how could you as the author be proud or recognized for writing a great book? You would always be talking about yourself in 3rd person terms, and ultimately a slip could give it all away. If you're worried about offending someone, don't be. People take offense at the smallest things.
You could however, cloak the whole thing as a sci-fi novel set on a world where there are being like us and set it in the future and leave the reader to draw their own parallels.
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by:Big Monty
Big Monty earned 100 total points
ID: 40018170
unfortunately in todays day and age it's very difficult to remain anonymous, especially in a digital manner. Using a pseudonym would help make things more difficult to track you down, but not impossible. Should your book truly take off on a mass level, people are going to be curious and someone will most likely find out about you (not necessarily in a "im going to kill you" sort of way, but rather a "hey look, it's THAT guy/gal and I know him/her!"

do you see this book as something that'll appeal to the masses? I'm not trying to discourage, but it's really really hard to become famous, no matter what line of work you do. If it was easy, EVERYONE would do it :)
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Author Comment

by:beavoid
ID: 40025198
Thanks. Has anyone ever been able to get a personally published book decently circulated?
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by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 200 total points
ID: 40025240
Has anyone ever been able to get a personally published book decently circulated?
No, not unless it gets picked by a major publisher.  I investigated what it took to get a product placed in the major book stores like Barns & Noble and I found out that there may be a number of publishers but there is essentially only one book distributor with a strangle hold on the market.  

Actually, if you were willing to front them thousands of copies of your book that they could return anytime they wanted and you were willing to wait for payment for the copies they sold in the last quarter or two...  Oh, and to get it picked up, you have to tell them how much advertising dollars you are doing to promote the book.  Because until you are a famous author that can guarantee sales, they will not be doing Any promotion for you.

I'm not trying to be discouraging.  There are just way too many personal books out there and the business belongs to the people who are already in it.  It's a hard way to go.
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Author Comment

by:beavoid
ID: 40025979
U'r right.
My parents, my brother and a dozen or more friends might  buy it. - maybe out of pity, even!
I'd have to hope they recommend it to many more people, each.
It's a moronically naive dream to go it without a normal publishing house. - could probably find testimonies to its futility, even if the personal publishers have a success story page.  ?
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by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 40026012
Quite a few people have "self-published" their books.  But they also sell them themselves.  Getting a book carried by the bookstores is very difficult.  Especially since book sales are going down anyway.  There are a lot of companies that will help you "self-publish" your book.  But here's an article about the costs: http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/05/the-real-costs-of-self-publishing-book/
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Author Comment

by:beavoid
ID: 40028054
Thank you everyone.

This is not a book that will appeal to the masses, or be a trilogy of trilogies! George still hasn't finished his - Star Wars! - Will in next five years.

Based on some earlier comments, I don't feel safe in revealing too much.

Thanks for that article on "Real costs...publishing. ."

I don't care about fame or recognition. I'd despise it. You'd have to know me to understand. How likely is a deal with a Barnes and Nobel manager to allow me to be shelved somewhere, if I supply the books, even for a slight monetary loss? My topic is valid, and compelling.

I can afford and definitely will get my book professionally reviewed, edited, cover designed and formatted.
I might just simply brazen myself into being read, after self-publishing. I can send many to many organizations I know would be curious?
Thanks
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Dave Baldwin earned 200 total points
ID: 40028226
I talked to Barnes and Noble about the project that I was involved in.  They would not (at that time) accept a book that did not come thru their distribution chain.  I think that because that's the only way it gets a barcode and get's entered in their computer system.  Many modern stores are that way.  The Only way they track products is thru the barcodes.  It won't show up in their computers at checkout without it.
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by:SunBow
ID: 40046068
*** Good Fortune ***
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