If I write a book about what I do for a living, will I get in any trouble?
February 28, 2006 8:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of writing a business book. My dilemma is that the topic would be about what I do in my current day job.

Let's say (for instance) I 'train' people in something very specialized for a living. I'm very good at it and I think people would be interested in my experiences to help them 'train' better themselves. Nothing proprietary would be revealed; mostly just process, lessons and 'tips to be successful'. I could use a psuedenoum as the author name if need be. My issue is around ethics and legalities. Am I in any muddy/gray areas here and if so am I likely to get nailed?
posted by pman78 to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It depends on your contract of employment. Consult an attorney before starting it. My guess is you're probably in the clear so long as you don't breach the terms of your contract.
posted by unSane at 9:17 PM on February 28, 2006

Well, that depends. Did you sign a confidentiality agreement? If not, I don't see any legal problems; if so, consult a lawyer and prepare to save that book until you're otherwise employed.

However, I don't see any ethical problems at all, if you're not sharing proprietary information. Physicians and psychiatrists routinely write both fiction and non-fiction about their jobs, while still performing their duties as physicians and psychiatrists.

As long as you composite any real people you might need as examples, your burden of confidentiality can't possibly be any greater than theirs.
posted by headspace at 9:18 PM on February 28, 2006

PS Pseudonyms do not offer you *any* legal protection whatsoever. Ethically it is up to your guts.
posted by unSane at 9:18 PM on February 28, 2006

re: headspace's answer, a confidentiality agreement can extend well past the period of employment. So if your contract entails anything like this you need to consult an attorney even if you wait until your are otherwise employed.
posted by unSane at 9:20 PM on February 28, 2006

I'd think the issue you should worry about more than confidentiality is whether your contract dictates that your employer would own such a book were you to produce it while you were employed by them - not just during working hours, but in your free time while you work for them.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:33 PM on February 28, 2006

I think this would depend wildly on your industry and company. I would think that there would be two potential problems for something like this. One would be if you were to disclose confidential information--obviously you aren't going to do that. The other would be if your book would in some way compete with your employer. That might be where you'd have your problem--but I can't really tell either way from this post whether that would be the case.

I work in publishing, and people write books and articles about that from within the industry all the time! But whenever I think about taking on outside work that's at all related, I just look over my company's compliance guidelines. There are people I could ask about details if I wanted to, too. You don't really give any clues as to whether you work for a corporation or what your employment situation is. If you do work for a corporation, there should be some sort of definition of what they consider conflict-of-interest available to you.

I really don't see how your company could in any way own your book unless you're using their brand name as a brand for the book ("The Q-Tip Guide to Training Swab Assemblers"?). If, however, your contract (if you even have one) has some strange clause like that, then no, you probably don't want to do that.
posted by lampoil at 7:31 AM on March 1, 2006

IANAL, but I think this could be seriously problematic for you, for two reasons:

- Confidentiality: Depending on how generic the "process" you're planning on revealing is, the company may lay claim to it.

- Non-compete: If your company is getting income from your training others, and you turn around and start selling a book that potentially results in lost business, you'd be in trouble.
posted by mkultra at 8:20 AM on March 1, 2006

IAAL, and I work in employment matters. This type of question is complicated enough to require analysis based on the actual facts. Basically issues such as the type of information and any employment contract or agreement you may have signed are important. The employee manual at your work may also be important. Best to consult an attorney. A good place to start to look for one is the National Employment Lawyers Association.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:58 AM on March 1, 2006

thanks all for the help. I will 'lawyer up' on this one to see what my options are and how I might proceed. Canada might look at this a bit differently than the US.
posted by pman78 at 7:22 PM on March 1, 2006

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