KingMidget's Ramblings

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What It Costs to Include Lyrics in a Book

… If you try to do the right thing.  What follows is a new note I’m adding to Weed Therapy.


            You are holding in your hand the second version of Weed Therapy.  The original version, purchased by six souls, was the way I wanted to tell this tale.  In Chapter 23, Kelvin thinks back to his wedding and remembers the song he wanted to sing to Holly that day.  Originally, I included the lyrics from that song because they are critical to understanding how he felt about Holly way back when.

            I made some efforts over the months to acquire permission to print the lyrics.  The week before I published Weed Therapy, I finally made progress reaching a representative of the artist who recorded the song.  The artist was fine with it but indicated I should contact Sony since they hold the rights to the song.  So I did.

            To be able to include the lyrics in this story, I would have had to pay $150 to a corporation.  The artist wouldn’t have seen a penny of that.  And what was that amount based on.  They estimated I would have a “print run” of 500 books.  I pointed out to the Sony representative that I’m a self-published writer and most such writers are lucky to see 500 sales.  But even if I reached that total at the prices I had set for the book, I would produce $1,000 in revenue, of which they would expect 15%.  For the lyrics of a song spread over three pages of a 218 page book.

                Sony’s response.  Delete or pay.  I would love to think I’ll sell enough copies of Weed Therapy for the cost to make sense, but I just can’t do it at this point.  This is the cost of doing the right thing.  Of seeking the legal right.  Corporate greed wins. My apologies to you that the version of this story you hold in your hands is not the one I intended.


I had this great idea for The Irrepairable Past, what I expect to be my next novel.  Each chapter would begin with a few lines from a song that fits the mood of the chapter.  I guess not.

I think I need some of Father Santos’s tea and homespun wisdom just about now.

28 responses to “What It Costs to Include Lyrics in a Book

  1. oliviaobryon July 18, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Interesting– what about song titles/artists? I imagine that’s okay?

    • kingmidget July 18, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      A title and/or artist should be OK. But I’m not even going there. One of the points I made in my emails with Sony was that the only that could happen from my inclusion of the lyrics is that it might generate some interest in the song and produce some people interested in downloading it. And I have to pay them for the privilege of “publicizing” the song?!? Nope, The title and the artist’s name are now also gone from the novel.

  2. kingmidget July 18, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Reblogged this on and commented:

    To Share A Lesson I Learned Today. Sometimes doing the right thing is the wrong thing to do. I should have just published the book with the lyrics and skipped getting permission.

  3. tjtherien July 18, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    A Very Colbert Christmas covers this in a more humorous light though there isn’t much that is funny about greed…

  4. M E McMahon July 19, 2013 at 1:13 am

    I would think that YOU should get the revenue for promoting the lyrics in your book…not the other way around. Free publicity is usually is considered desirable. Maybe your character could just hum the tune?

    • kingmidget July 19, 2013 at 6:14 am

      That’s exactly the point I tried to make to them. It’s their loss. As I said in my email last night when I confirmed for them that I had deleted the lyrics, they not only lost out on their fee, but they also lost out on the free promotion of the song that would have occurred with the lyrics included in the song.

  5. Jade Reyner July 19, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Thank you for this! I have used some song titles and artist names in my books but not lyrics, however, it would be great to use a segment of the lyrics at one point in this current book. As I am not quoting the whole song and I have clearly stated where they came from (the performer is no longer with us anyway but they’ve not been dead for 70 years), I just presumed that that would OK. Obviously from what you have said here, that would not seem to be the case??

    • Kate Sparkes July 19, 2013 at 4:46 am

      Great post here, but I’m so sorry to hear that the book can’t be published as written. 😦

      As far as I can tell, Jade, using lyrics can get you in the same trouble as taking lines from another author’s work, even if it’s credited. I only remember this because I’ve wanted to do the same thing. If you look in the front matter of books that have done this (I’m thinking of a few Stephen King novels), you’ll see that there’s clear copyright permission from the song’s publisher.

      I’m sure it would go unnoticed for most of us, but there’s always that hope that our work will be a success, and then someone would notice for sure.

      My question now is: If you set a book in the future and included a corrupted-by-time-and-memory version of modern song lyrics, what would happen then?

      • Jade Reyner July 19, 2013 at 5:22 am

        Yeah, I kind of had a feeling that might be the case 😦 I’ll have to a re-think, and just rely on readers knowing the words…

        Not sure about the future thing…it’s all a right minefield isn’t it?? 🙂

      • kingmidget July 19, 2013 at 6:19 am

        Thank you, Kate. All of your points are valid. As I said, it’s probably that if I had gone ahead with this and hadn’t asked for permission, nothing would have happened. But I wanted to do it the right way. As for the future idea … if you’re suggesting that the lyrics are slightly off, maybe that would work, but I’m betting they’d still come after you for a fee.

      • Kate Sparkes July 19, 2013 at 6:51 am

        I’m sure they would! No, not suggesting it would work, just wondering where courts would draw the line. 🙂

        And I’m with you on wanting to do the right thing, and I hate that dishonest people sort of get rewarded if they’re not caught. Plus, there’s always that hope of breakout success, right?

      • kingmidget July 19, 2013 at 6:53 am

        Breakout success. YES!!!! 😉

    • kingmidget July 19, 2013 at 6:18 am

      Kate has it exactly right. Stephen King is also the best example of this as he frequently has lyrics from songs littered throughout his books. Check the copy right page and you’ll see the reprint permissions. That’s what I was trying to do. I just never expected it to be as costly as it was. Costly, at least to me.

      • Jade Reyner July 19, 2013 at 6:59 am

        Grrr… it doesn’t make sense does it? It’s not as if you’re plaguarising, you’re quoting and it could only be beneficial to them! Makes no sense to me but as I don’t have the wallet of Stephen King, then I think I shall leave the lyrics out! 🙂

      • kingmidget July 19, 2013 at 5:47 pm

        Nope. No plagiarizing. Lyrics, title, and artist duly noted.

  6. Richard Leonard July 19, 2013 at 4:42 am

    I had a similar experience with a photo I liked for a book cover. I contacted the company who had it displayed on their website (not a stock photo), explained the situation. They were happy for me to use it and appreciated me “doing the right thing” etc. but would pass my request on to the photographer. Couple of days later: $500 please. Applying the same logic as you regarding predicted sales, I replied with a “No, thank you”.

    • kingmidget July 19, 2013 at 6:21 am

      Yes. Zoe Keithley who I mentioned in an earlier post would like to include a photograph of a particular location for her novel. She has seen pictures that she would like to use and contacted the photographers. She has been quoted fees above $500. So, we’re trying to get our own shot of the location. 🙂

      • sknicholls July 19, 2013 at 10:44 am

        That’s a great idea when you can do it. I once paid $12.00 for a pick to use on my blog. I think the piece was seen by about five people. It wasn’t even that great of a picture just something I did not have in my personal files that I wanted with the piece. I wanted to be honest and do the right thing. Do you know how many books I would have to sell to get $12.00? It is laughable the way the cards are stacked against authors. (Buy you guys are worth it.)

      • kingmidget July 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm

        Yes it is very laughable. I will never understand how they don’t get that I’m offering them free publicity for the song. On the other hand, there is absolutely no chance I would profit off of inclusion of the lyrics in my book.

  7. butimbeautiful July 20, 2013 at 12:09 am

    Hmm. I hadn’t thought that one through. One of my books has lyrics in it! Ooops. Probably nobody will ever notice though, and then they can have the whole of my earnings. Yep, 100% of zip!

  8. Bastet July 20, 2013 at 2:03 am

    copyright was seemed like a great thing when it was invented and many people think it’s to protect intellectual property and most people thin that it’s to protect writers, composers etc…not quite so. It’s really very sad.
    I’ve done a few classes on copyright over the years…this is just a cursory article on the vast subject:

    • kingmidget July 20, 2013 at 7:31 am

      Yes. Even worse than what they wanted to charge me is the fact that the artist who created the song wouldn’t have seen a penny of it.

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