Back in early February, I wrote about my experience with seeking out permission from publishers to use various lines of poetry and lyrics in my novel, Truest.
By now, I’ve heard back from all the licensing departments, and I wanted to give you the final results:
One line of an E.E. Cummings poem: free.
Two lines of a Billy Collins poem: $290 for the first run of 10,000 copies of Truest, after which I’ll need to reapply. I agreed.
One entire E.E. Cummings poem: $560. I eagerly agreed, as several scenes hinge on this poem.
Two lines of lyrics from a Pink Floyd song: $1000 for five years, after which I’d need to reapply. I declined. These lyrics were going to be the novel’s epigraph, and while they’re beautiful and fit the novel perfectly, I thought $1000 was too much to pay for two lines that don’t appear in the actual manuscript.
All told, I paid $850 for permission to use what I wanted in my novel. In a perfect world, I’d have also used a line from C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength and the refrain from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, but with frazzled nerves and empty pockets, I took them out without changing the story.
In the end, my advice is to use material from the public domain or else make it up yourself. I’m doing both in Mill City Heroes.
P.S. I read a YA book recently that used quotes like they were breadcrumbs. While I read, all I kept thinking was $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. This author’s eyes have been opened. 🙂
So did you not inquire about the copyright for the C.S. Lewis line? I’m just curious since I would like to include a quote of his in my book that I hope will be published one day.
You’re right. I didn’t even pursue the Lewis quote. Since it could be dropped without changing the story, I did.
I had no idea about this, and never really thought about it before you brought it up, but it is very interesting. It was also mentioned at a writer’s festival I went to recently. The author talking about it advised to make it up yourself as well as it can be costly and the author has to pay for it. Thanks for sharing the figures, it is a real eye opener. I haven’t put any poems or song lyrics in the book I am about to query, but it’s good to know for the future.
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im self-publishing a book and we refer to disney as an influence (and their movies, etc).
as long as we don’t quote the movie or lyrics or claim ownership of any of the characters (we refer to “Beauty And The Beast” a lot), its safe, yes?
Yep! Sounds like you’re totally good!
thanks so much for your prompt reply and for your candor.
i enjoyed reading several of your blogs after my search for this specific answer 🙂
Oh that’s so sweet of you! Thank you!!
OK I have a question, What about quoting from an online dictionary? What kind of permission do I need to get for this? Thank you for all your good information.
Hi Cindy, I’m no expert in this, but anything previously published should be used with permission. I’d guess this would be free, but you’d still want to contact the publisher for permission.
Hi, what about naming a character of mine after a famous pop culture character?
Like someone asks his name, and he tries to make up a name, and the only thing he can come up with at the moment is of a famous cartoon character. And so, a few times throughout the book he would be called that name.
Shouldn’t be any issue with this! ❤️