≡ Menu

For Anyone Interested in the Publishing Process: Getting Permissions


Last week I wrote a quick post about how the manuscript for the book got accepted, which meant that I could finally stop writing.

For those of you interested in the publishing process, the next hurdle to leap over, crawl under, or skitter around is to obtain permissions for the quotes I use in the book, even if they’re two words long.

Essentially, it means that you figure out the book, magazine, or film where the quote originally appeared, and you write to their permissions department and ask for them to sign off.

It can get a little tangled.  For instance, I’m using something by George Orwell that has been reprinted a bazillion times, but it originally appeared in the English literary journal Adelphi, which went the way of the dodo in 1955.  So, who to turn to?  That’s the game.

I’m currently chasing down permissions for pieces by Mark Twain, Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, Beverly Cleary, Tom Clancy, some authors who did lots of writing about gallant horses, Warren Buffett, some stuff buried in the letters of Edmund Wilson to Nathanael West, and so on.  It’s a very weird chain of reading.

This wouldn’t be that daunting of a task, unless of course, you wrote the book that I wrote, and you started making a list of the all the books that you discuss or casually mention, and that list ends up being about 140 line items.

Some of it will fall under fair use, so it’s not as bad as it sounds, and plenty of them are in the public domain. But for much of it, it’s one of those things that depends on other people’s schedules, and that’s the kind of stuff that makes me antsy, because I can’t make things move more quickly.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • cinderkeys September 20, 2012, 11:44 pm

    What’s the line for fair use? As far as I know, this isn’t laid out anywhere; does your publisher have its own policies?

  • Ara Bedrossian September 27, 2012, 6:20 am

    Interesting information. No wonder I hear that a book is a lot of effort and your expectations as an author need to be managed.