When I was a kid in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, my parents always had the record player going. My mother loved musical soundtracks, do-wop, and her Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy record (which I stole when I moved out. Love me some JMD & NE). My father liked Johnny Cash, Roy Clark, Roy Orbison (guys named Roy, I guess), and Frank Sinatra. And one of the pieces I was tortured by was the above song, written by Irving Berlin, and here performed by Mr. Sinatra. I like me some Frank, but not this one. I can’t stand it.
And another thing I can’t stand is authors using other people’s song lyrics in their books.
This is going to be my annual “you can’t use other people’s song lyrics in your book” post.
And, just like in days of yore, some folks will disagree with me.
But, the legal aspect is quite clear.
Though there is usually no issue with inserting a title “They were rocking out to ‘Duke of Earl!'” there is an issue with using the actual lyrics, which may or may not have the title within them, doesn’t matter.
Yes, permission can be obtained, if you can track down who actually owns them, but song lyrics move around a lot. They get bought and sold, and finding the owner can be quite the (unpaid) job.
Then, if you find them, and you are able to figure out how to request usage, and you get permission, you will have to pay a per-book fee. So, if you sell 100 copies of your book, you have to pay the song-usage fee 100 times.
And you may think, Well, if it’s so hard to find who owns it, I can probably get away with it.
It seems that the very same people who own the songs and don’t want to particularly be found so that you can lease them are quite assiduous about trolling for their lyrics, so yeah, you can roll the dice, but that lawsuit could be expensive and stop distribution of your book.
And here is one final way to think of it that I hope helps, because songs, especially those we have a personal connection to, are so evocative for us that it can seem like nothing BUT the lyric we want to use will do.
So think of it this way:
A lyric is another writer’s writing; it’s like a poem.
In the book that you are writing, do you really want to stick in a hunk of another writer’s writing? Can you imagine if I wrote a story, and, part way through it, I wanted to just stick in part of your story? I mean, you wrote that, why do I think I can just use it?
Lastly, you’re a writer. Surely you can imagine some song lyrics if you need to.
Sorry to be “that publisher,” but it bears repeating, no, you cannot publish your book with someone else’s lyrics inside it. There is no “fair use” way around it.
Although one of our more… ahem… unconventional titles, this book has been selling like boardwalk fries at our local bookstore this summer. They sold over a dozen copies in one week. And we thank them for their amazing and continual support! We love Browseabout!
Have you read it?
Does your work appear in this book?
Have you reviewed it?
If you haven’t read it you are missing out on a great collection of humor and pathos. And, c’mon, one of the most unusual covers you’ve ever seen.
It’s not too late to review this off-beat classic:
Last time I wrote here, one of the things I discussed was my writing workshop “crew.”
Do you have a writing crew?
If not, it may be time to “create” one.
Not that you need a local writing workshop. But you do need a group of fellow authors that you keep in touch with, can be via email only, and you need to agree to help each other out.
Are you old enough to remember the shampoo commercial, “And she told two friends, and she told two friends, and so on and so on?”
Why do you need this group? You need to write reviews for each other:
If your poem appears in a chapbook, or an anthology.
If his art appears in a magazine or collection.
If her short story shows up in an anthology, or he publishes his memoir, the “review-crew” should get on it, with all of you leaving reviews for each other.
This costs you nothing. Just a little bit of time. And, in the case of Goodreads, each time you review a book, it links to all the other reviews of the book, and, say a person named Steve reviewed the book prior to you, all the people who follow Steve will get another email to tell them that you have added to the conversation. Think about the wide net you can cast this way.
If you’re really willing to put in a coordinated effort for each other, you could even come up with a “standard” review for each of you, altered to suit the individual leaving the review, but make it easy for the group to do this for each other by automating it as much as possible.
This does mean, in the case of Amazon, that you may have to buy the book on Amazon to be able to leave a review there. It isn’t always the case, but it is sometimes true. And that could end up costing you the price of the book or anthology.
And, so what?
This is the cost of doing business.
This is the cost of a latte, or two.
And you already do it ALL THE TIME anyway. Yes, you do:
For example, my neighbor may show up at my house with her son in tow and say, “Grant’s band is selling car washes for a fundraiser.” And I, on the spot, buy a $25 car wash, when I would normally never pay $25 for a car wash, because they are my neighbors, and it is the cost of doing business, and so they buy cookies from my daughter during the Girls Scout cookie frenzy each year (which, by the way, is no joke; those troop leaders do not play). And the fire department is selling chicken salad, and your mother’s church is having a bake sale for the homeless, and your job is adopting a family for Christmas.
You do these things all the time.
And yet I cannot tell you how many people we have published who have never bothered to post a review, for their own book, or any other (and yes, you can review an anthology in which you are an author, just talk about one of the other authors).
There is, among some of the authors I encounter in this business of mine and in the many and various FB writing groups, an attitude of, “You should do this for me, because I am an author, and you should never ask anything of me in return.”
And yet, aside from the neighborhood harmony we create when we buy a car wash from the young guy next door, we absolutely, I believe, should have a “we are all in this together” attitude, and, if I may cliche again, the belief that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
When we help each other out through reviewing, we help ourselves out, too. It’s a matter of literary survival.
About 15 years ago a friend of mine was endlessly asking me to follow her podcast. I admit freely that I had no idea what that was and was very “technology resistant” to figuring it out on my own, so I didn’t, and she, rightfully, wondered why the heck I wouldn’t support her. And that was wrong of me (especially as I love podcasts now!). I mean, how hard was it really to do that? But, she could have facilitated this by teaching me how to find and follow a podcast. It was not enough for her to have it, she had to make sure I could do what she was asking me to do.
BUT, this is why you have a little posse, a group that makes a pledge to support each other in this way, and helps each other navigate Goodreads and Amazon and the like. And you help each other write a quick review that basically says, “You will love this book! Buy a copy.” And you give a deadline, and you check in that you have done it, and you make sure that everyone gets a pass on doing it sometimes, but that most of you do it most of the time.
But what if Amazon or Goodreads does block your review because you are a contributor in the anthology? Do you have a spouse or a sister or a cousin who can leave a review for you instead? You write it, he or she submits it? Can you buy that person a copy of the book?
IS THIS CHEATING?
Not if you think you’re a good writer and you write well. And not if you think the people in your writing posse review club are good writers and they write well. If you think you and they don’t write well enough to deserve a review…. well… that’s a problem for Carolyn Hax.
And here is another way you pay it forward.
Your friend publishes his/her full-length book. Another friend is in an anthology. You buy a few copies…of both.
AND THEN you give them as presents to folks in your life who are hard to buy for.
You give a copy to your local library.
You put one in a gift basket for that silent auction at the middle school.
And what about that local book club you belong to? Are they reading your book and your friend’s book? If not, why not? Have you asked them to? Are they supporting you? It is, really, a small thing to ask, but if you have a mystery book club and you or your friend managed to get a publisher to publish your mystery, then why would they not read it? Maybe they cannot read it until next year, okay, but they put it in the rotation. And then you help them leave reviews.
None of these things is going to transform you into a New York Times bestseller overnight, but I don’t know how else you’re ever going to even begin to head in that direction, or how the indie publishers who do this work on a shoe-string are going to keep being there to give no-name authors the chance they deserve.
So, if this is a serious thing for you, you want to “make it” at this, you’d like to at least make enough $ someday for a nice vacation or a monthly car payment, you have to start digging away at this notoriety problem we all have by taking your eyes off of your manuscript long enough to help each other out.
BY THE WAY: It’s never too late to leave a review. You can start a whole new conversation by the review you post today.
#1. Develop a group of like-minded authors who solemnly promise to give each other reviews in a timely fashion.
#2. Buy books and give them to your local library and as gifts, etc. (or buy yourself the cheap Kindle version so you can post a review).
#3. Ask that any reading groups you belong to read your/your friends’ books.
#4. Create a budget for book purchases.
#5. Help people who may not know how to post a review post reviews for you, and help them write one.
#6. Keep the reviews short and sweet. “I loved it; you’ll love it too.” “Fast and fun read.” “Great way to spend a day at the beach!”
Thanks so much for your interest in DPP and for reading this blog. We love publishing people who the big guys ignore, and we thank you for helping us do what we love to do.
Virgina Watts has a new poetry collection available (see image above), The Werewolves of Elk Creek. Virginia also has a short story in Instant Noodles V1I2. And there will be a short story collection from Virgina through DPP in 2023. And she has an interview at The Writer’s Journey. Virginia Watts, if you’re interested in indie writing, I think you’re going to be hearing that name a lot more often. So buy a copy of that book! It’s a poetry book, with werewolves in the title… C’mon! You need this book!
If it is, grab a copy of Banana Seat Summer to read while you wait for the parade to start!
REVIEWS OF BSS:
Love this story of the two young guys growing up in the 70s/80s. It’s so fun reminiscing and growing with these rascals. It also has a poignant turn. And if you don’t know what tick-tacking is, find out now, so you’re ready when Halloween comes! Perfect summer read, goes perfectly with the beach!
Banana Seat Summer by David Yurkovich is a great trip back to my youth. It revels in small town incidents and showcases boys who are all about comic books, television, and candy in the seventies. I remember constantly checking the spinner racks for new issues of comics I just had to have. I recall splurging on candy at the local little store. Yurkovich infuses each chapter with a rush of nostalgia and a devout respect for the wonder and carefree openness that is part of being a child.
The novel is a collection of stories detailing the one summer in the quaint lives of the two leads, Mike and Jeremy. Their endeavors ring true to the reader because the situations they get in harken to so much of what it means to grow up in a small town.
Another aspect I greatly enjoyed is how the story featured such little technology and dwelled on what the characters would set out to do instead of how passive the youth of today are with being so plugged into their phones and their gaming systems. Building a clubhouse, confronting a bully and even trying to sell Grit newspapers are all tales explored in Banana Seat Summer.
It really brought m back to a simpler time, where a bag of plastic green army men could fill an afternoon with endless battles whether under a porch, in a rock garden, or near a slow-moving stream (just a few places where I staged battles myself).
And boy am I left with a hankering for a Charleston Chew after devouring this great read.
Milton, DE – July 1, 2021: Devil’s Party Press of Milton, DE, will release its summer issue of Instant Noodles, an online literary magazine featuring original works by both local and national writers, artists, and poets. The new issue, Hot Fun in the Summertime, features thirty original works around this theme, and will be available beginning July 1.
In curating the magazine, DPP publisher Dianne Pearce sought to capture the essence of the Sly and the Family Stone single, Hot Fun in the Summertime. “Growing up in the ‘70s, going to the beach every year, one of the things I recall most about the summertime was hearing that song, feeling the heat of the summer days, and having a great time,” Pearce noted. “The literary selections for the new issue of Instant Noodles reflect those feelings, and are penned by award-winning writers both local and nationally. The art is something special; it captures that ‘70s feel and helps make the entire magazine the best beach-read you’ll find this year.”
If you think summer is hot now, just add this to your reading list! Just named an Eric Hoffer finalist!
REVIEWERS HAD THIS TO SAY:
“Mosquitoes and Men, puts an evil new twist in the old adage that you can’t go home again. In Faustus Madigan’s case, you shouldn’t go home again. When this prodigal son steps through the door to his southern family home for his father’s funeral, after a twenty-five year absence, he tumbles into a past he thought he escaped, and, in this case, it’s more horrific than the main character ever imagined.”
“Beautiful read. Thoughtful characters fully developed. Plot for days without losing interest. Genuine insight and compassion written with great wit and detail.”
“Polo lets the lyricism of the South flow through his pen. I truly did not want the writing to end.”
“I gave up sleep because I couldn’t put it down!”
And both the Delaware Press Association and the Eric Hoffer awards agreed!