A word of advice…if you don’t ask, you don’t get

‘The Sisters’ is scheduled for release on Thursday 26 February 2015, which means that I have been busy making sure that everything is ready for the big day.  I’ve been working with Big Splash Creative on my book trailer (which is so cool). I’ve also been finalising the details for the marketing campaign (giveaways, reviews etc).  All of this means that I have been in a writing limbo.  With the exception of writing emails and revisions on a short story, I have not done any actual writing.  At first it was a bit frustrating.  Anyway, I had a word with myself and got over it and I’m enjoying the calm before the storm of my next writing project.

So, whilst I’m here, waiting patiently for publication day and watching bad tv, I thought that over the next few weeks, I will share a few words of advice/tips/caution for the indie writer.

Here is the first one:


Firstly, I’m not talking about the copyright of your fantastic book.  I’m talking about your desire to quote the first verse of The Rolling Stones, Paint it Black or Marvin Gaye’s, Trouble Man, because it is an integral part of your story or it perfectly shows the state of mind of your main character Bob who has just found out that his wife has run off with the money that he stole from his boss (sorry, I got carried away).

Please resist the temptation to publish your book with the inclusion of the entire lyrics of Purple Rain because you’re either:

  1. Hoping that Prince will never find out; or
  2. Hoping that Prince will read your book and be so overwhelmed with how brilliantly you incorporated Purple Rain into chapter seven, that he actually pays you a six figure sum and offers to take you on tour.

I promise you the end result will not be pretty.

Many moons ago, I worked for the BBC in the Talent Rights Department.  My job was to basically make sure that we had copyright clearance for the programmes that we produced, sold etc. It costs money to use someone else’s work and it costs even more money if you use their work without permission.

But it’s only one line, I hear you scream.   It doesn’t matter whether it’s one line or two.  Unless you’ve got a lot of money and quite like the idea of being sued; do not quote any song lyrics unless you have permission.

You can use the song title to your hearts content but actual lyrics. Nope.    If you absolutely must have the lyrics to  Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ in your book because it nicely sums up the mood when your main character wins the lottery,  then I’m afraid that you’re going to have to find out who owns the copyright and contact them.  The copyright holder may just be an individual or a company.   You may ‘get lucky’ and receive a quick response or you may be bounced pillar to post for months before someone gets back to you.  Its better to ask for permission and be refused or to use without permission and be sued.

The rule of ‘permission’ applies to anything that you want to reproduce i.e. poetry, photographs etc.  There is the get out clause of ‘fair use’  but generally if you’re writing a novel, citing ‘fair use’ is unlikely to get you very far. If you’re writing a 25 page critique of Public Enemy’s ‘Harder than you think’ then you can probably get away with arguing ‘fair use’.

If you are waiting and waiting for a response, then my advice is to keep on waiting or highlight the relevant lyrics and press delete.  If you don’t ask, then you don’t get.  You never know, Bob Dylan may write back and say “yes Tom, you can use two lines from ‘Lay, Lady, Lay’ in the funeral scene in chapter 42.”


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