The need for permissions to use quotes and material from others is often misunderstood by new authors (and some experienced ones as well). Not getting this right can prove to be a very costly mistake.
Some of the confusion comes from experiences the author may have in academic writing. In academic writing it is common and even expected that you will cite other works. Permissions are not usually required as long as you attribute the quote properly and give credit in either a footnote or bibliography. The requirements and protections of copyright in a commercial endeavor are completely different. And if you sell your book, it qualifies as a commercial endeavor.
In a standard author/publisher contract, the author warrants (promises) that he or she is using all original material or has permission for anything not original. If the author violates that clause, the author may be liable to pay legal fees to defend the case and to pay the publisher for books that have to be destroyed and lost profits. When the author self-publishes they bear the whole responsibility.
Copyright owners are not required to allow someone else to use their words; they can say “no” outright, they can place limits the permission, or they can charge for the permission. It is important to note that a lack of a response to a request is not considered as permission to use the material. If an author is unable to get permission to use the material, they would be well advised to come up with another approach to convey the information. Legal challenges to the use of copyrighted material without permissions can be extremely costly to defend.
These are a few of the areas that may require permissions:
- Quotes from other books, articles and even blogs
- Photos and graphics not of your own creation
- Song lyrics and poetry – be particularly careful of this as music producers vigorously defend their copyrights
- Interviews and even case studies – for interviews (something spoken), it is best to get permission before the interview is done, so there is no question about how you can use it
If you are using a Professional Author Assistant as part of your Author Dream Team you can ask them to coordinate permissions for you. Here are some of the things that can be managed by the Author Assistant:
- Review the manuscript and note areas that may require permission
- Research to identify the owner of the copyright for materials that need permission
- Develop and send out permission request letters
- Follow up on requests and keep track of responses
- Develop a system of filing permission documents so that permission can be proved if needed
- Assuring that materials used by permission are properly credited as required by the permission
Publishers often have their own forms that they will request the author use to document the permissions. If the author is self-publishing they will need to develop their own. The Professional Author Assistant Training and Certification program has several sample letters and tracking worksheets to use in managing permissions. You can download a sample of a letter to request for permissions to use a quote from a book or article here:
Helping to organize permissions is just one of many services that Professional Virtual Author Assistants provide to authors. If you’d like to learn more about the work of Professional Virtual Author Assistants download our free report.