Publishing a 3rd-Party Book: NDAs

I got a comment on the recent series about publishing a 3rd-party book about your company’s products that said:

I’m not sure about where you work, but almost everywhere I’ve worked, such a book would either violate my non-disclosure agreement, or any profits I earn on such a book would belong to my company under the terms of my employment contract.

Great question! Let’s talk about this. In fact, I’ve written so much that I’ve got several blog posts to add by way of answering this question.

When you write a book for publication about anybody’s product whether you work for the company or not, you’ll be privy to internal information that will be covered by a non-disclosure agreement. If you’re writing about a new release of a product, it’s almost certain you’ll need to sign an NDA because what you find out before the product is released will be valuable information to the company. But the important part is that none of this will be going into the book.

The things that are covered by the NDA that you need to know are things like:

  • What the new version of the product does before it’s released (but after it’s released, it’s not a trade secret)
  • How many people use the product and what percentage of those upgrade to a fancier product? (This information doesn’t go into the book, but it’s important to know to help focus the book and to pitch it to the right group.)
  • Are there similar products in the company being developed that may affect this book? Can you do a similar book for a “lite” version that may be about to be released?
  • What sales/marketing pushes are coming up that you can piggyback on? (Once the push happens, it’s not a secret either.)
  • Is the company about to buy another company that would have products that are supporting/competing with this one?
  • Is the product you’re suggesting to write about going to be discontinued soon?

As you can see, this information is vital for planning the book and writing it, but it’s not something that ever needs to go explicitly into the finished book.

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