Today we have The Wild Rose Press author Monica Epstein, discussing song lyrics and their copyright, and her new release, Where There Is Will. This was a really neat post, so I hope you enjoy!
May I Have Permission? To Use Song Lyrics, That Is
By Monica Epstein
WHERE THERE IS WILL began as a short story about a middle-aged woman trying to boost her self-esteem by betting a young man that she could find twenty songs on her MP3 player that he liked. (Desperate, I know. I think she and I were going through a midlife crisis at the same time.) Much of the story involved discussion of contemporary artists and specific songs, with only a smattering of details that suggested what led to the demise of the heroine’s self-esteem in the first place.
As the tale evolved into something much bigger than a short story, music remained an underlying theme. In fact, the original manuscript (then titled MUSIC SHOWDOWN) had the hero, Will, and the heroine, Michelle, exchanging an MP3 player back and forth, each sharing songs, specific lyrics included, that bore significant messages to the other or to their relationship, which was growing from friendship to love.
So what would it take to gain permission to use song lyrics?
The more I researched, the more I learned it wasn’t feasible to quote a multitude of songs. But there was one song I didn’t want to let go. I went as far as applying for copyright permission, figuring that any publisher taking a chance on a brand new author (me) wasn’t going to foot the bill for copyright permission. The application included questions like, “How many copies of the book does your publisher plan to print?”
Publisher? What publisher?
I made up a number.
I also had to include a book synopsis and the context in which the lyrics were used. That is, I had to submit not only the text that used the lyrics, but also the page before and the page after the lyrics. I suppose this ensured that I wasn’t writing anything nasty about the song or I wasn’t misrepresenting the song in any way, such as claiming a character wrote it.
A few weeks later—much sooner than I expected—I got their response. For $75 (not an unreasonable cost), I could run a total of 500 copies, both print and e-book combined. Before even considering if I would settle for so few books, I read the deal breaker: “ebook permissions granted provided that the document is password protected and available digital rights management software be embedded to prevent pages from being copied, pasted, and/or printed.” That requirement was too limiting.
This story has a happy ending, however. My final rewrite, the one I did based on the suggestions of my Wild Rose Press editor, took the story in a new direction—one that made the song lyrics obsolete.
The lyrics might not be in the book, but they’re still on my iPod. :-)
WHERE THERE IS WILL by Monica Epstein
Genre: Women’s fiction/Romance
Word count: 88,000
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication dates: World-wide release April 11, 2014 (Currently available for Kindle)
Blurb for Where There Is Will...
When she moves to London following her divorce, Michelle Loeser has no interest in looking for love. She needs to focus on surviving without her ex’s six-figure income, coping with a severe fear of heights, and rebuilding her confidence. And if she keeps her promise to her best friend, she’ll pursue her passion for writing too.
Will Sheridan found his passion early in life. At age eleven, he was cast in the starring role in a film series. Now, at the age of 25, he’s a celebrity at a crossroads in his career. He has no time for women who don’t understand his priorities.
When Will offers to help Michelle acclimate to the unfamiliar city in exchange for cooking lessons, she figures what’s the harm? But jealous fans and coworkers, eager paparazzi, and a distrustful mother see it differently.
Excerpt from Where There Is Will:
Because we had a product release to the American market fast approaching, I stayed late at the office, picked up a bite to eat before boarding the Tube, and headed straight to Caryn’s for mah jongg. I walked into her flat and knew something was wrong immediately by how quiet my friends were. “What’s happened? Or have you been talking about Will and me?”
Penny turned to Amanda, who looked at Caryn.
I settled my gaze on Caryn. “Well?”
“We have, but there’s more to it.” Caryn faced Amanda.
“Will you three stop looking at each other and tell me?”
“I’ll tell because I saw it,” Amanda volunteered. “I was watching an entertainment news program while eating dinner.”
Penny snorted. “A gossip show.”
“Call it what you like,” Amanda said, “but the point is you and Will were mentioned.”
I brushed my hair away from my face. “What did they say?”
“They showed a picture of you and Will entering your flat, and one of him leaving it the following morning.”
“How could you tell it was the following morning?”
“The one with both of you was definitely taken at night. It was dark and the street light was on. The one of Will alone looked like it was taken in daylight. And he was dressed the same, so I figured it was the next day.”
I shrugged. “So what? That’s no worse than the towel picture.”
“There’s more,” Penny said.
I dropped into a chair at the table.
Amanda continued. “They mentioned your name, what you do for a living, where you live and work, and that you’re a forty-five-year-old divorced American.”
“I won’t be forty-five until the end of next month,” I corrected, although it wasn’t important. “How do you think they found all this out about me?”
“I imagine it’s public record who rents flats where,” Caryn said. “I can call the management company to see if anyone has inquired about you.”
“Maybe they followed Will and me. We were together last night. They either saw us at the restaurant and followed us to my flat, or they had been following Will all evening—from the studio, to my place, to the restaurant, and back again. Seems like an awful waste of time.”
“Those pictures can be worth a lot of money to them,” Amanda pointed out.
“Do you think someone camped out in front of your flat all night?” Caryn asked.
“That’s a frightening thought,” Penny said. She gave my arm a comforting pat.
“I think you should tell Will,” Amanda suggested. “He should be on the lookout for someone following him.”
“But now someone could be following Michelle too,” Caryn added.
My stomach was as tight as an overstretched rubber band. “Will warned me there would be issues if our relationship was out. He’s always been so careful not to do anything in public that might be construed as personal.”
“Except for running around in a towel,” Amanda mumbled.
My glare caused her to smile. “I was trying to lighten things up a little. And for the record, I’m glad you gave in to your desires. How was it?”
“Amanda,” Penny said, “our friend’s private life was revealed on telly, and you want to know how the sex was?”
“What’s wrong with that?” She turned to me. “Well?”
“It was wonderful, fantastic, better than I dreamed of,” I said offhandedly. “But I’d still like to know how the reporter found out so much about me.”
Caryn put her arm around my shoulder. “It’s unnerving, but I’m sure you’re not in any danger. Isn’t that right, ladies?” She turned to the others for backup.
“That’s right. They’re not out to harm you,” Penny reassured.
Amanda remained quiet, and Caryn gave her the eye.
“I don’t think they intend any physical harm,” Amanda began, “but, undoubtedly, there have been instances where harm has been done by paparazzi.”
“We’re not talking about blood-thirsty paparazzi,” Caryn growled. “Let’s not scare Michelle. Can we play now?”
Penny and Amanda began shuffling the mah jongg tiles. I joined them, but my mind wasn’t on the game. Now I understood why Will liked to keep his girlfriends out of the public eye.
I took the Tube home from Caryn’s like I always did, but this time I was more aware of my surroundings: the Indian woman dressed in a sari, a cute little girl beside her; the man wearing the herringbone ivy cap, reading the newspaper; and the two teenage girls covered in tattoos and piercings, talking too fast for me to determine what language they were speaking.
As I walked the short distance to my building, I kept glancing over my shoulder, feeling like someone was there. By the time I engaged the deadbolt, it felt like someone was playing the bongos in my chest.
Despite sleeping alone in my apartment every night without any concerns, tonight I placed a chair against my front door and kept my phone within easy reach, just in case.
Available now only on Amazon!
World wide release date 4/11/2014
Monica Epstein writes about topics that appeal to women likeherself—over 40 and nowhere near ready to throw in the towel and call it a life. Her first novel, Where There Is Will, is published by The Wild Rose Press.
A mother of three, Monica lives in a suburb of Washington, D.C. with her husband, their teenage daughter, and a small collection of hats and fascinators. She dreams of being the Queen of England in her next life.
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