How to get permission from copyright owners

Copyright title typed on a vintage typewriter

Ah, permissions. This is one of the knottiest areas of publishing for writers who are trying to do things right.

When do you need to ask permission to use a quote, or a graph, or a poem, or a photo in your book? How do you find the rights holder? What constitutes “fair use?” And what do you do if you can’t get permission or won’t pay the licensing fee?

For answers to these and related questions, check out Jane Friedman’s comprehensive blogpost, including a sample permissions letter. In one short post with links, she has put together an excellent resource for writers.

And what happens if you ignore this step? If you’re lucky, you’ll get a cease-and-desist letter from the copyright-holder’s lawyer, and you’ll have to pull from the marketplace any books that have already been printed. Penalties increase from there–and can include a day in court. Don’t overlook this crucial step in preparing your book for publication.

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