Stuff You Pay For

A client of mine was reading over his contract with a Big Six publisher and he emailed me wondering, If my book needs an index, do I really have to pay for it myself?


And how much would it cost?

“Depends, but most likely in the neighborhood of $500 to $1200. Don’t worry, the publisher will front the cost and take it out of your royalties.”

And that got us started discussing “author costs” – about which most writers are blissfully unaware. So let’s talk about those for a minute.

Yes, the index is, believe it or not, the author’s responsibility. You can hire a professional indexer or DIY (but it’s specialized and tedious work, so I wouldn’t recommend it).

In addition to that, it’s the author’s responsibility to pay for:

Permissions to quote poety and song lyrics. This can be prohibitively expensive, especially songs, so if you’re writing a novel of 50 chapters and planning to place a song lyric at the top of each one, you’re probably going to want to scrap that plan. You may not even think it’s worth it to pay for permission to quote one song lyric in your book. Costs vary so I can’t give you a quote but usually at least a couple hundred dollars for a line or two from a song.

Photos: All photos must have permissions, and the photographer may want to charge for the use.

Artwork: If you have any kind of art, including line drawings, charts or graphs, you’ll need to pay any associated costs. (This doesn’t apply to children’s picture books, which deals are structured differently.)

Cartoons: These can be pricey, but some people like to use them in non-fiction books to underscore a point.

Basically, if there is anything in your book that you did not create, it’s up to you to procure legal permission to use it and pay any associated costs. Kind of a nice thing to know in advance, huh?

Later I will do a more extensive post on permissions in general – this barely scratches the surface! There are many things you can use without permission; additionally, there are many things that require permission but don’t require payment. Let me know if you have questions so I’ll be sure to address them.

P.S. I’ve already answered a lot of questions in the comments.

(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Joyce on February 15, 2014 at 7:46 AM

    Rachelle, if I mention a song name, is it the same as song lyrics? Do I have to work something out then?

  2. Jude Villani on November 4, 2012 at 7:23 PM

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  5. Wings on July 20, 2010 at 12:31 AM

    >ok, i am going to sound extremely stupid in this next sentence..ready?

    What is an index?

    Do you mean an index index like such and such is on page 3 or is this something else entirely…

  6. Russo on July 18, 2010 at 12:26 AM

    >I love this blog-I always learn something new. Thanks for the info.

  7. Timothy Fish on July 16, 2010 at 1:25 PM


  8. DeadlyAccurate on July 16, 2010 at 8:20 AM

    >When I have characters quoting the Bible, I've always gotten the quotes off, and since I know specific translations could still be copyrighted, I always picked the KJV quotes. Would I need permission from that site?

  9. Timothy Fish on July 15, 2010 at 7:51 AM

    >Daniellelapaglia, copyright law makes some special provisions for performances where money is not made directly or indirectly. And “the purpose and character of the use” is one of the things the courts are supposed to consider when evaluating fair use, but whereas the law states very clearly what performances are not copyright infringement, it is just a consideration when looking at fair use. While someone performing God Bless America at a veteran’s hospital isn’t likely to reduce the copyright owner’s ability to make money, making the words and music available for free on the Internet might.

  10. daniellelapaglia on July 14, 2010 at 11:13 PM

    >Thanks for the info, Tim. I guess I was considering it more like a cover band vs. a record deal. People can sing any song they want on stage, but if they try to record it and sell it, it's a whole different ball game. One is a tribute, and one is a theft.
    – Danielle La Paglia

  11. Timothy Fish on July 14, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    >Daniellelapaglie, that would be like stealing a diamond necklace from a jewelry store and telling the judge that you shouldn’t go to prison because you didn’t sell it. Instead of looking at what the offending party makes from the theft of copyrighted material, the courts tend to look more at how much money the copyright owner might have made, among other factors primarily related to damages to the copyright holder.

  12. Deleyna on July 14, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    >I have several poems from a friend that I use throughout my novel. I have her permission to use them, but we've never discussed payment. Assuming some future deal, I'd like to be fair to her. What would fair look like?

    A % of royalties? A certain $ amount? She's currently unpublished, but I'd like to think that after people read her poetry they'll want more…

  13. daniellelapaglia on July 14, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    >I have a question. I haven't read every comment, but I have read Rachelle's answers and I didn't see this one in there.

    What about quoting song lyrics in a short story on a blog or some similar forum where the author of the story isn't being paid. Can the author still get in trouble for quoting those lyrics, or does it only come into play when the author sells that story?

  14. Timothy Fish on July 14, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    >Lauraroege, my take on it is that I first don’t post any under copyright unless I am confident that what I’m doing falls within fair use or I have obtained permission. If there are posts that you aren’t sure about, the easiest option is to delete the post, but since you don’t want to do that, I would first suggest looking at the fair use guidelines for the relevant copyright law. If you still aren’t sure, contact the copyright holder with a copy of the post(s) identifying the copied material and express that you believe it falls under fair use and would like to know if they disagree. It’s quite possible that they’ll say they have no problem with it. If that’s not the case, you may still have the opportunity to pay for the right to publish the material. If they disagree and don’t give you the opportunity to pay for the rights, your best option is going to be to remove the post unless you have desire to go hire an attorney to prove that your use of the material is fair use.

  15. Marcia on July 14, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    >The index is normally covered in a contract clause. Mine required me to either prepare an index or ask the publisher to do so with the cost to be deducted from royalties. I did my own. That's not for everyone, but it worked out well and I'm glad for the experience.

    We often hear there's more money and opportunity in nonfiction, but when you consider the cost of indexing, photo permissions, research (not that fiction doesn't require it also), greater impact of competition, and the need for platform, that's not always true.

  16. lauradroege on July 14, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    >Timothy Fish- Thanks for weighing in on this. With the post quoting Les Mis, I used about 13 lines. When you consider how long the musical is, this is a pretty small percentage; the lyrics are used to back up what I'm saying and to show the effect it had on me. But I'm still not sure if this counts as "fair use".

    So what do I do with the posts that have used song lyrics? Delete them? Try to pay for it now? It would be painful to have to delete the Les Mis one, because it really spoke to a lot of people. THoughts on this? TImothy? Rachelle? Anyone?

  17. Rachelle on July 14, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    >RedHeadedQuilter: In what case? Most cases.

    Your work-for-hire experience doesn't count in this discussion since everything is different in a work for hire situation.

    Your other book – all I can say is, lucky you that you weren't responsible for the index! Your publisher must have a different policy than most.

  18. RedHeadedQuilter on July 14, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    >I've written two non-fiction books (#2 is currently undergoing the penultimate edit) and in both cases the publisher has taken care of the index. At no time was it mentioned that it would come out of my royalties. In fact this second book is work-for-hire and I will get no royalties – just an up front payment.

    So in what case would the author have to pay for an index?

  19. Linda Godfrey on July 14, 2010 at 8:52 AM

    >One way to save on index costs is to do it yourself if the publisher is willing. I have indexed 5 of my books and blogged about my adventures in indexing on my WordPress blog at

    It's not for everyone but works particularly well with smaller or niche publishers.

  20. Timothy Fish on July 14, 2010 at 7:18 AM

    >I may not have been clear in what I just said. Fair use and public domain are two very different concepts. Things in the public domain are all those thing that do not have legal copyright protection for any of various reasons. Fair use has more to do with the concept of freedom of speech. While copyright protection is important in order for authors to make money from their work, the use of copyright protection to silence those who disagree must never be allowed.

  21. Timothy Fish on July 14, 2010 at 7:07 AM

    >Lauradroege, fair use is not clearly defined, so even a lawyer (which I am not) may have trouble giving you a clear idea of what it is and is not. There are a number of factors involved. One is how much of the original work you copied, but another is how much of the new work is actually new work and how much is from the original work. As an extreme example, suppose someone copied a paragraph from a book. In amount copied it would probably fall under fair use, but if the only new work is a statement, “Enough said!” then it may not be considered fair use because the blog is just using the content rather than saying something that needs the material to support it.

    Who said blog posts are supposed to be convenient and quick to write? Writing is writing and that includes obtaining proper permission. It may be inconvenient, but it will save time and money later if we don’t have to go to court.

    Kathryn Magendie, the works of Shakespeare and Mark Twain are in the public domain, so you could have copied the whole original piece and not needed to obtain permission. Of course, one should still give proper credit or it is plagiarism, which is taboo even when it isn’t illegal.

  22. Kathryn Magendie on July 14, 2010 at 6:26 AM

    >Interesting discussion here! I have never used song lyrics, until this recent book, and then I've put in a few "old mountain songs or hymns" lyrics – and boy did I do some research – finding I'd feel most comfortable with things written in the 1800 or very early 1900's, and then, those with so many varied versions, the original was hard to find.

    Of those, some were re-recorded by "famous people" like the Carters and Cash and Dylan, but, they don't own the copyright -that's how I understand it – they didn't write the lyrics, some one in the 1800's or 1900's did, so I am "safe" using them – even so, it's daunting to use song lyrics, there's always that uncomfortable edgy feeling, which is why I normally never would use them.

    I have quoted pieces of books – Tom Sawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird, with no problem- just a few lines is all.

    Using Shakespeare and Ovid quotes is fair use – far as I know – fair use …etc

    On the subject of what author's pay for: I know that many authors, even those in the Big 6 arena, have to pay for their traveling expenses in most cases . . .

    And last, many people do not know that authors have to buy copies of their own books – we do get some copies upon pulication, but, after those are gone, we purchase our books-at a discount, but we still purchase them, and we don't receive royalties on books we purchase ourselves, of course . . . don't know if these things are "across the publisher board" or not.

    Great Discussion!

  23. Cassandra Frear on July 13, 2010 at 10:39 PM


    I apologize for seeming to be so touchy. I wasn't as upset as I sounded. I meant it half-jokingly, but I realize now that I didn't come across that way.

    I won't rant here again. You have my word on it. This was very unprofessional of me.

    Thank you for your patience,


  24. Deborah J. Thompson on July 13, 2010 at 10:15 PM

    >Great post. Thank you. What about quotes if you give credit to the author of the quote?

  25. Claire M. Caterer on July 13, 2010 at 10:08 PM

    >This is why I write fiction–and fiction that isn't quirky enough to need an index. Or a verse from a Paul Simon song. (Okay, I did use one of the latter in a novella I wrote in high school. Didn't publish it, though.)

  26. lauradroege on July 13, 2010 at 8:16 PM

    >This is an issue that has been stressing me out recently. In my blog, I love to quote various song lyrics. I always credit the lyricist, give the title, etc.

    Recently I used some lyrics from the musical Les Miserables as part of a personal story; a certain song in the musical really changed my thinking, and I had to quote a number of lines to really drive home my point.

    Was I supposed to get permission to do this? Pay $$? Or was this "fair use"?

    If I have to get permission to use the lyrics in a simple blog post, that really makes me feel inhibited in what I can post and is highly inconvenient; after all, a blog post is really supposed to be a relatively quick thing to write! But I also want to give credit where credit is due and do the legal/moral thing.

  27. Rob Roush on July 13, 2010 at 8:01 PM

    >Rachelle, thanks for another great post. You are a wealth of information.

  28. Katy Kauffman on July 13, 2010 at 7:35 PM

    >My big question is using music in books and classes. I need to research a non-commercial license for using music in classes. But using lines from songs in books…wow…maybe $200?? I love lyrics, but that is a lot to pay. What I think would be cool is to work with a songwriter to write your own songs and lyrics. Any ideas?

  29. kathy taylor on July 13, 2010 at 7:06 PM

    >Thank you, Rachelle. And thank you, public domain.

  30. Katrina L. Lantz on July 13, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    >This is seriously useful stuff! Thank you very much, Rachelle!

  31. Timothy Fish on July 13, 2010 at 5:51 PM

    >Luke Evans, the advance is just an advance on royalties, so from the publisher’s perspective, the advance and the indexing fee are both coming out of the same bucket. The question arises because it isn’t clear whether the publisher will pay the full advance and then add an addition advance to pay for the indexing or if the publisher will pay the author the advance less the $1,200 the author owes the publisher. Then the agent adds another level of confusion because the author never actually sees the $1,200 because the published has paid the author in services. Because it is part of the royalties, we assume the agent is entitled to her cut. Had the book earned out, we could take the sum of the royalties and multiply by 15%, but since it didn’t we only have the advance. Assuming the publisher paid the full advance and also paid the $1,200 from royalties, the author/agent team have received a check for $30,000, but the publisher’s records show a $31,200 advance. Because the $1,200 is supposed to come out of the author’s pocket, the agent is justified in claiming 15% of the $1,200, but because the author never saw the $1,200 the agent would be taking money out of the author’s pocket by doing so. While there may not be a “right” answer here, it seems like there is a different best answer depending on if you are a writer, an agent or a publisher.

    US Copyright law, as I understand it, is such that everything published before 1923 is in public domain. Anything published between 1923 and 1977 may go into public domain as many as 95 years after the publication date. After 1978, the greater of life plus 70 years and 12-31-2047, unless the author is a company, in which case the copyright is good for up to 120 years from the creation date or 95 years from the publication date.

  32. Raethe on July 13, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    >Luke Evans: Copyright is currently author's life plus seventy-five years. I believe.

  33. Ken Baker on July 13, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    >Rachelle, great information. Thanks for posting it.

  34. Luke Evans on July 13, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    >@rachelle, thanks for the post. I've a short story where I quote a line from a CS Lewis book. It seems that is okay, since it was only a couple lines of a book, but I'm curious — when do copyrighted works expire and enter the public domain? I've heard different responses to this.

    @timothy, I believe (and someone correct me if I'm wrong) that if the publisher says they'll take it out of the royalties, that's what the author is paid from profits of the book selling, and does NOT include the advance.

    I'd also guess that if it's the publisher that insists on adding photos, cartoons, etc., it's the publisher that will pay for them. Usually, however, it's the author that adds them.

  35. rosemaryinwheat on July 13, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    >I've been using a Procul Harum lyric as inspiration / a working title on a novel.

    I had a feeling I might be changing it when I'm finished. This confirms it. Love the lyric, but not that much. 😉

  36. Kelly Freestone on July 13, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    thanks for the help.
    Good to know.

  37. Timothy Fish on July 13, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    >Okay, so an index is a pretty standard thing that most of us realize people using a book for research will want, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise when the publisher asks for one, but suppose we’ve signed the deal, taken the $1,200 of the top and it looks like we’ll make it until the publisher comes along and says, “You know what? What would really make this book great is a picture of a kitty cat at the first of every chapter. And we need chart correlating the data from the TPS reports. And I saw this great Dilbert cartoon that would go great on page 56. Oh, by the way, my niece is a great artist and needs money for college. We should put some of her work in here.” At what point does the author have the option of saying, “Look, if you want it in there, you pay for it!”

    And I have another question. You said that the publisher would take the $1,200 out of royalties. Suppose the advance is $30,000, of which we would expect the agent to get $4,500. Suppose the book doesn’t earn out. Is the agent’s cut calculated on the original $30,000, on $28,800 because the author wasn’t paid the $1,200, or on $31,200 because the publisher advanced the index on top of the original advance?

  38. Autumn on July 13, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    >This is very intresting, and something I think many new authors don't consider. I'm in the midst of final edits of a novel for a small publisher, and found out the hard way how difficult permissions can be to obtain. If the song is popular and not in the public domain, heaven help you. I ended up excising the single line I used in a chapter and even dropping the few song titles I mentioned to avoid any risks. Not famous, not rich (though someday, I hope!)… can't afford to pay for words that aren't mine.

  39. Kara on July 13, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    >Wow, I never thought about this. Thank you for sharing this information. And the Bible is copyrighted, hadn't thought of that either.

  40. elissa on July 13, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    >helpful post! I'm in the process of trying to clear quotes for my novel, and I have my fingers crossed it won't cost me so much that I have to take the quotes out!

  41. Mari-Anna on July 13, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    This was such an useful post! Thank you! It was news to me that it is the author's responsability to pay for these additions. I'd be interested in reading more about using lyrics in the contemporary Christian music genre. How expensive are those? How about if there would be an accompanying CD of the quoted songs? I'm willing to pay some but there's a limit what I can do. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!

  42. Monnrella on July 13, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    >@Rachelle: Thank you for addressing my question! That helps tons.

  43. Susan Panzica - EternityCafe on July 13, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    >This post was most helpful. I did a bit of research into this as I want to include a line from a Disney movie which is also a lyric in a song. Disney and many others use a company ( to handle all these requests, and they said that my work needed to be closer to publication before they could consider the request. They have a Frequently Asked Questions page on their website which is very helpful.

    Rachelle, as you said, all you need is Google and a phone (and I'd add an email address), and you can find out much of what you need to know.

    Thanks again!

  44. A.C. Townsend on July 13, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    >Thank you for sharing this information.

    ~ Angela

  45. Beth on July 13, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    >Thanks for the post, Rachelle. I have never seen this addressed anywhere, whether in blog or book. Good to educate authors on these points, which could be very important.

  46. Beth on July 13, 2010 at 11:00 AM

    >Thanks for the post, Rachelle. I have never seen this addressed anywhere, whether in blog or book. Good to educate authors on these points, which could be very important.

  47. Amy Sue Nathan on July 13, 2010 at 10:20 AM

    >I enjoy reading this blog and coming away with answers to questions I didn't even know I had!

    It's bonus knowledge!

  48. K.L. Brady on July 13, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    >I found some questions from an online self-help article that I wanted to use in my novel. I emailed the company through their contact page, sent them a certified letter, called their 800 number which sent me in circles, even posted on their facebook page asking for permission and no one ever responded–this has gone on for months. What can you do if you've done your due diligence in attempting to get permission but the requestee doesn't respond?

  49. Rowenna on July 13, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    >Probably a silly question, but what about (old) folk songs with no known author? Can the artists who recorded specific versions of the song claim copyright, or music historians who recorded them in books? Or are these pieces truly public domain?

  50. Nicole on July 13, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    >A few years back I used the title and lyrics of the chorus Famous One to conclude my novel, uh, The Famous One. Per 1000 copies, the cost to use the lyrics was $40 (which I paid for). I think it's a bit more now.

  51. nightwriter on July 13, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    >As a journalist, I understood you could use approx. 50 words from an article and 250 from a book. That's what I used when quoting sources in my articles. Still valid?

  52. Faith Imagined on July 13, 2010 at 8:49 AM

    >Yikes! I need to keep this in mind! Thanks for sharing!

  53. Liberty Speidel on July 13, 2010 at 8:42 AM

    >Oh my goodness! Maybe I'll rethink having a bit of Frank Sinatra in my current WIP. It's not much, though the song may be in the public domain–I'd have to check.

  54. John Smith on July 13, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    >Wow, I didn't know that. I learned something new today, and the day just started. Thanks for the great post.

  55. Teenage Bride on July 13, 2010 at 8:19 AM

    >This post was interesting and to the point. Thanks for the information. I had often wondered about what did and did not require special permission to be used. Now I know.

    Thanks for the insight.

  56. Timothy Fish on July 13, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    >Something some people may not realize is that the most commonly used Bible translations (other than the KJV) are still under copyright and require copy permission. Many include a page spelling out what is allowed. Usually it is along the line of you can quote from it with proper reference given, but you can’t quote large amounts (more than 500 verses for NIV) or have the quotes make up more than some percentage of the work without explicit permission.

  57. Rachelle on July 13, 2010 at 7:59 AM

    >You don't need permission to mention a name of anything. People, brands, restaurants, stores, books, movies, songs, anything.

    People and businesses have NAMES so that people can USE those names. It's not something that requires permission.

  58. Monnrella on July 13, 2010 at 7:56 AM

    >Thanks, Rachelle! Very interesting and helpful, as I was curious about this point because in my YA contemporary fantasy novel, I mention the titles of numerous 80s songs during a themed homecoming dance. Question, though: What about things like restaurant names or stores?

    Thank you!!

  59. Sharon A. Lavy on July 13, 2010 at 7:45 AM

    >Interesting questions posted here. I am eager to see the answers.

  60. Rachelle on July 13, 2010 at 7:45 AM

    >CFD: You never need permission to mention a title of anything – song, book, movie, whatever. They are not subject to copyright. That's why you see books and even movies of the same name.

    T. Anne: You can reference a song without getting permission. It's the lyrics that matter.

    Anonymous 1:56 AM: Ack! Don't delete your quote! I never said anything in this post about quoting from another BOOK. It's totally different, and as long as your quote isn't pages and pages long, it most likely won't require either permission or payment. I'll be more specific in my later post.

    Cassandra Frear: Are we all over-reacting today or what? I didn't say "worry about every little reference to something." I said QUOTE FROM A SONG OR POEM. Or Use somebody's artwork or photo. That's very different from referencing something.

    This is not about "mentioning something." It's about using somebody's intellectual property. Chill out, girl!

    Jim 4:36 AM: Look at it this way. If you quoted 100 words from a 100,000-word novel, that would be one-tenth of one percent of the entire work. It's a very small portion, and can be considered a "fair use." But it you quote just 2 lines from a 10-line song, you're now using a full 20% or one-fifth of the work – a very large portion of it. That's not "fair use" and the songwriter deserves credit and possibly, payment.

    (Please note that "Fair Use" is not a fully spelled out rule or doctrine, there is no specified word limit, and it is open to wide interpretation.)

    Susan 5:35 AM: The "how" of getting permissions is complicated but in this day and age, everyone has Google and a phone. You have to find out the copyright holder, get on your computer and track it down.

    Suz Rocks: You're talking about Fair Use. Just make sure you're not using more than about 200 words from a single source and you should be fine. The rules are fuzzy and your publisher will give you their guidelines.

    Sandra 6:08 AM: A movie is more like a novel and can be quoted without permission with the same guidelines above – make sure you're not quoting half the movie in your book.

    BK Jackson: Um, they're called "indexers." They use a variety of means of indexing – some use indexing software and some don't – but I don't think I can give you a full course on indexing here in the comments, sorry.

  61. Kelly Combs on July 13, 2010 at 7:42 AM

    >Am I familiar with this post?!?! Oh yes, the song lyrics at the top of each chapter. My book idea self-destructed after this one. Thank you so much for your help & direction on this one!!

    No book ideas in the works for me. My love of music was my inspiration, and I hope to perculate a new idea at some point. But for now, just enjoying learning the ropes. Thanks for all your write.

  62. B.K. Jackson on July 13, 2010 at 7:29 AM

    >Interesting! I've always been fascinated by the index thing. A well done index makes me jump for joy. And I've also gnashed my teeth over some poorly done indexes in books. Who are the mysterious people who do indexing anyway and how do they do it?

  63. steeleweed on July 13, 2010 at 7:28 AM

    >Titles are not copyrightable – you could call you next masterpiece "The Sun Also Rises" without being sued. (What bookstores and readers would think is something else again). You could even have a (fictional) character disparage "A Farewell To Arms" without getting into trouble. If you were writing non-fiction and claimed Hemingway did not really write it, you might have problems (unless you could prove it).

    When I need a bit of poetry or song lyrics for chapter headings or in the text, I simply write it myself. Are there novelists out there who can't/don't write poetry?

  64. Author Sandra D. Bricker on July 13, 2010 at 7:08 AM

    >Hmm. This brings up an interesting question (albeit lousy timing). I have quoted some famous movie lines in a recent book. When I asked my editor about it, she said she didn't think it would be an issue. Now I'm wondering if that's the case and perhaps I have something new to feel anxious about. 🙂

  65. Timothy Fish on July 13, 2010 at 7:04 AM

    >Cassandra Frear, during the creative process all you really need to be concerned with is making sure you properly identify the source of all your quotes—book name, author(s), page numbers, publisher, etc.—which you would need to do anyway, copyright or no copyright. It’ll save you time later if you’ll also record the e-mail address and/or mailing address for the copyright holder, but after the creative stuff is done is the time to worry about obtaining permission. At that time, you just need to send letters to each copyright holder identifying the material you would like to copy and asking for their terms. There’s work involved, but nothing so difficult that it should stifle the creative process.

  66. SuzRocks on July 13, 2010 at 7:03 AM

    >What about references used in non-fiction books? As in historical or scientific sources- you don't have to pay for using their book as a source do you?

  67. Bernita on July 13, 2010 at 6:38 AM

    >One solution is to write your own poetry and songs, or use something in the public domain.

  68. Susan Helene Gottfried on July 13, 2010 at 6:35 AM

    >It comes up often on my various writers loops about permissions for song lyrics. We know you need to get permission and probably that we need to pay for it (actually, the talk is usually: the publisher will handle it, and it ends there), but it is a constant question, usually beginning with the HOW of the process. It seems to be an issue for the smaller presses and their authors.

    If you could talk about that, this music junkie would be quite grateful.

  69. Anonymous on July 13, 2010 at 6:15 AM

    >In the current era of "narrative sampling," etc. (I'm thinking of the young German author who was in the news a few months ago), I am glad for stringent copyright/permissions laws. It should not come as a shock to any seasoned writer that you would have to pay permissions fees for lyrics, poems, photos, etc.

  70. Timothy Fish on July 13, 2010 at 5:48 AM

    >Of course there is also that wonderful but fuzzy doctrine of fair use that is defined more by court cases than by copyright law. When in doubt, it’s best to get permission, but when we’re disagreeing with someone’s position, that person may not want to give us permission at any price. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t quote that person.

    And to those people concerned about the use of names and book titles, consider that copyright law applies as much to things like blog post and for that matter the comments to blogs as it does to a published book. I would suggest looking at this with a bit of commonsense. Can you imagine if we had to get permission to mention the name of a book every time we wanted to list the books we’re reading? I would say that we would have to e-mail the copyright holder, but we couldn’t because it would be illegal to mention the book in the e-mail.

    The point is that copyright law is not intended to limit free speech but is supposed to be a protection for writers like us. It isn’t there to protect us from things we don’t want people to say about us, but to protect us from them taking our work and reducing our ability to make money from it.

  71. James Montgomery Jackson on July 13, 2010 at 5:36 AM

    >I'm curious on the use of song lyrics where one crosses the line between "fair use" and rights infringement.

    For example, if a character starts humming a song, I assume naming the song and/or group causes no problem. If they burst into a single phrase of the song (probably from the chorus) has the line been crossed?

    ~ Jim

  72. Buffy Andrews on July 13, 2010 at 5:35 AM

    >Wow. An index? I had no idea. Thanks for the informative post.

  73. Lisa Jordan on July 13, 2010 at 5:29 AM

    >I'm so glad I have an agent who is on top of these things. 🙂

  74. Cassandra Frear on July 13, 2010 at 3:57 AM

    >One word. Bummer.

    How's that for honesty?

    I'm writing a book. I don't like to have to think about this in the midst of the creative process. I mean, I REALLY don't like it.

    The cost of every #@%&! reference to something should not nag at me or affect the artist process. It shouldn't! Okay, I'm not shouting. I'm just a bit worked up. It's early in the morning and I need some strong coffee. At least, I wasn't planning to use song lyrics or cartoons . . .

  75. Anonymous on July 13, 2010 at 2:56 AM

    >This is a very helpful post, Rachelle. Thanks. I have one quote from a classic novel in my book which I'm going to go back and delete now.

  76. Lucy on July 13, 2010 at 1:43 AM


    Thanks for this post! It's one I haven't seen covered before.

    On the subject of permissions: I'd like to know more about getting permissions to use poetry when the book it comes from is long, long out of print–but still in copyright. I would hope it would be less expensive?


  77. Megan on July 13, 2010 at 1:38 AM

    >Wow, really interesting.

    I guess most writers just assume that all those costs are covered by the publishers.

    And CFD, I think that mentioning a title is free, and you don't need permission for that.

    But don't quote me on that, I could be wrong.

  78. T. Anne on July 13, 2010 at 1:22 AM

    >Interesting stuff. I reference the song, 'Hey Jude' in one of my novels although I don't mention the Beatles or reference lyrics. Would I still have to pay permissions?

  79. CFD Trade on July 13, 2010 at 1:03 AM

    >Do you also have to pay for say a title of a book or a movie you mentioned in your novel?