Wednesday, 14 March 2018

#WednesdayWords - Getting permission to use song lyrics in fiction, by Katie O'Rourke

This Wednesday, Katie O'Rourke talks to us about getting permission to use song lyrics in your novel.

By Katie O'Rourke

🔸 I've always heard that getting permission to use a musician's lyrics in a book is impossible. Everybody says so. Barring a huge publisher with deep pockets and a bunch of lawyers or a close personal friendship with Bono, it's best to avoid it.

🔸 So I emailed Ani Difranco's management knowing it was a long shot. I've been a fan of Ani's since I was seventeen and I have all her albums. Her lyrics have been the soundtrack to my life and the lines I've quoted from her song "Overlap" are essentially the thesis statement for my new novel, Blood & Water:

"I know there is strength in the differences between us
And I know there’s comfort where we overlap."

🔸 After sending the email request, I began to emotionally prepare to delete the quote before publishing. Honestly, I didn't expect I'd ever hear back.

🔸 But then something amazing happened: I did hear back! First for more specifics on the terms of the request and then to approve the request.
When writing your own request for song lyric rights, here’s the info you should probably include up front:

Book title:
Expected release date:
Expected print quantity:
Print formats:
Territory of release:
Term of rights request:

🔸 Most of the answers are self-explanatory. For those that aren’t, I used google. I am not a lawyer and I can only tell you that I asked for “nonexclusive rights with no time limit unless or until the copyright owner revokes the permission.” For the expected print quantity, I found differing advice. Some said a low estimate was more likely to succeed while one site said to go with a number beyond your wildest dreams. I went with 10,000. If I sell more than that, I’d be thrilled to renegotiate terms.
In fact, her management asked for a complimentary copy, and I've begun to have fantasies that she'll read the book, love it, and we'll become great friends!

Book blurb:

🔸 Tucson, Arizona is a place for runaways. Everyone came from somewhere else and has a story about what they left behind.

Delilah arrives on her brother's doorstep with a secret. She hasn't seen him in five years. He ran away from their family long ago for reasons no one talks about and she still doesn't understand. The stress of raising his teenage daughter alone sometimes makes David envious of his deliberately childless friends, Tim and Sara, but they're runaways too, harboring secrets of their own. Blood & Water tells their stories and traces the deep connections between this unlikely group of friends.

This novel is about family, in its various manifestations: the one you're born into, the one you choose and the one you create.

* * * * *

Katie O'Rourke has permission to share the lyrics included in this article.

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