At Booklocker.com, we often receive books from authors who have quoted song lyrics in their text, usually without permission. Sadly, some authors have quoted song lyrics extensively throughout their books and must do major rewrites if they can’t obtain permission to use the lyrics. Obtaining permission can be a frustrating and expensive pursuit. And, you must obtain permission to use them.
If you do use song lyrics and manage to contact the copyright owner, you’ll probably be asked to fork over several hundred dollars for the right to publish a few lines from a song. One list I saw quoted a man who’d been asked for $600 to publish some Beatles’ lyrics. Poetry is also a problem. One of our authors asked the copyright holder of a T.S. Elliot poem for permission to publish the poem in his book, and they wanted $500 in return.
So, what’s a poor author to do? Well, the solution is quite simple.
You can either create your own fictional singer and write your own song, your own lyrics, or your own poem to portray the feeling you’re trying to convey to your readers, or you can simply name the artist and title of the song you want your reader to start humming. For example, instead of typing,
When Margaret’s grandmother turned on the radio, she immediately frowned when she heard B.J. Jenkins singing, “…oh, my, you’re noticing age at last; Oh, cry, cry for the past.”
You see, I made up B.J. Jenkins, and I took the lyrics in that sentence from a song I wrote when I was in high school. Since I’m trying to convey a specific feeling to the reader, I’ve provided exact lyrics…but ones written by a fictitious character. Had I wanted the reader to start humming a popular song in their head, I’d have simply said, “When Margaret’s grandmother turned on the radio, she immediately frowned when she heard Jim Croce singing, “Time In A Bottle.”
With poetry, you must create your own original poem, but you can also create your own famous, fictional poet and put that person’s name under the poem. And, hey, if your fictional poet becomes known for the beautiful poetry in your book, his (your) next book can be a book of poetry!
Using quotes is tricky and I often tell writers they should contact an attorney if they’re are even slightly concerned about a lawsuit. So, for fiction, why not create your own quote, spoken by your own fictional person of notoriety?
After all, you’re a writer. If you can write fiction or non-fiction, you can certainly try your keyboard at spinning song lyrics, a bit of poetry, and some notorious fictional quotes. It’s actually quite fun!
Have a great day, everybody!