The Lightness of Being Not Sued

So the reason for my recent e-silence is I decided to take the bull by the horns-- in a metaphorical way, since I generally prefer to keep a safe distance from muscular, pointy livestock-- and independently publish my novel.

It's been a lot of work but a lot of fun so far, though my brain has not quite been able to balance it with blogging. For that, I apologize. I expect soon I'll be back on a normal posting schedule.

Anyway, the joys associated with self-publishing have been things like getting to choose a book size and seeing my content flowed in there looking all Real, and Grown-Up and Legitimate.

And also finally being freed from carrying around a double-spaced manuscript binder roughly the size of the entire Library of Congress.

The surprises are in going through the text and realizing those questions I'd had, which I'd imagined would be answered by a savvy publisher are now going to have to be answered by YOURS TRULY.

Today, I'm specifically referring to a scary incident with song lyrics.

I had a section-- and I won't give details so I don't ruin the surprise for any future readers-- which really depended on using four lines from a particular song. The section was one that, after editing it a bazillion times over the years, I still actually liked. (Which, any other writers out there will understand, that is huge. I mean, if you don't loathe your own work for a few hours every few days or so, you probably aren't working on it hard enough.)

So I thought I'd do a spot of research and just see how much of any song could be used under Fair Use.

And the answer is.... None. Do not do it. Do not even think about doing it. In fact, do not even think about thinking about doing it because the mighty hammer of the Music Industry will come crashing down on you like a telephone pole-sized drumstick to a tiny toy snare drum.

This left me in a hot, sweaty panic for a good five minutes or so. I mean, where do you go from there? Do you 1.) remove a scene which is actually important to the plot? Do you 2.) paraphrase, taking all the edge off the funny? Do you 3.) weep a little and dream of what could have been, if only?

Well, for the last day or two (after a shameful minute of option 3 up there), I sat down and started making up my own song lyrics. Song lyrics for a singer who, up until now, did not exist.

With my past experience as part of an equally fake heavy metal band (you may get some laughs from that tale here, if you haven't already read it) thankfully, this has not been as difficult as I had expected.

Plus, there's a certain heady elation in knowing one has dodged the Giant Drumstick of Doom. And I figure if I have prevented one other writer from finding it crash down upon his or her personal drumhead, I will have done my job.


June O'Hara said...

I meant to respond in a comment, but sent an email instead. Anyway, congratulations on your book and going outside your comfort zones to reach your goals. I find it encouraging.

Jaffer said...

I can see how difficult it would be to leave out such good fitting piece just because. But It's pretty cool you thought of an alternative !

And more cool that your book will finally be out !

So, is it going to be at Amazon or B&N ? Or at Independent Book Stores that also sell fair-trade organic coffee ? Or In front of the cash register next to the National Enquirer ?

Jenn Thorson said...

June- Thank you. It's definitely scary, but really exciting, too.

Jaffer- Yes, definitely, when you spend time trying to make it all fit together, it's frustrating when emergency changes have to be made. But hey, I learned what not to do in the future. So I won't make that mistake twice.

It'll be on Amazon, in both Print-On-Demand and hopefully e-book version. And I may approach some local independent book sellers and see if they're interested in any copies.

Babs-beetle said...

Congratulations on your book!
I'm nervous about mentioning stars (that Mo came into contact with) names in my book. They can't sue you for that can they? Well the stars that are now dead can't but I'm nervous.

Jenn Thorson said...

Babs- I didn't see anything on that, one way or another. Perhaps it's worth doing a search online, to reassure yourself? Anyway, I would expect it might be like businesses, where you can mention them and it's okay as long as it isn't in a vastly negative light that would impact their reputation.

meleah rebeccah said...

Oh, snap! Congratulations on self-publishing your book!

Babs-beetle said...

Thanks Jen. I think I will be OK. I don't say much, but I will do a search and see what I can find on the subject.

Kelly said...

It's great that you self-published your own book, Jenn. I'm sure it does have it's own rewards and headaches. I didn't know that about the song lyrics for sure but I kind of figured. Take care and have a dandy weekend!

Janene said...

Alas, killing your darlings. One of the hardest parts of writing. You know, I just realized I have some lyrics in my latest novel and I, too, am thinking of self-publishing (particularly after my agent took down his shingle and went into the publishing business). Now I've got to re-think what I've written. Dang! Thanks a lot, my dear! Still, better I think about it now instead of get a lawsuit later.


Deray said...

Copyrights are so wrong, sometimes :-P. But, if you can't lip-sing to a song and put your video in you-tube I guess you can't either use the lyrics in a novel, sucks. Anywho, congrats on getting your book out and about! I'm sure you'll let us know when we can get it, right?

Jenn Thorson said...

Meleah- Well, it's not done/out yet. But It's all now in the template, I'm going over it a second time, my best friend the journal editor is going to proof it, and I have an artist buddy who's doing the cover. I'm aiming for a September launch date.

Babs- Sorry I couldn't be more help.

Kelly-It's funny how many lyrics sites are on the web, it makes me wonder whether they're all potential lawsuits waiting to happen.

Janene- Ugh, a shame about your agent. Based on what you'd said, where he'd actually recommended you self-publish, that whole situation seemed strange. But glad to have helped about the lyrics! When you're publishing it yourself it ends up being seen in a whole new light.

Deray- It is really bizarre about that lipsynching issues, isn't it? I hardly consider Joe Schmoe singing to his cat on YouTube a big copyright's violation. But there ya go.

Yep, I'll make some announcements when the book is out. I'm targeting September.

Melanie said...

Can't wait to read your book. With or without the lyrics, I'm sure it will be great!

Robert Crane said...

to quote bob dylan (oops, i guess i can't, thanks for the heads up)!

hmmm ... okay, try this (they do it in ad songs all the time when they change a few notes), change a few words in the lyrics (most of us do that anyway when we sing) and then use the disclaimer, which i'm sure you are using anyway, that nothing you have written is intended to resemble blah blah blah.

wouldn't that work without that freakin' brutal exercise of chopping out brilliant writing because i've been there sister! oh! i've been to that lowly state!
(sorry jennson, got little self-absorbed there at the end)

wouldn't that work?

Jenn Thorson said...

Melanie- In rereading the lyrics I made up, I'm totally happy with them. So I think I dodged a bullet!

Bob- Well, as it's written out, it's not actually notes that needed to be changed. :) Anyway, I was able to capture the feel of the song without using the actual song. I ended up making up a singer entirely.

Thanks for your solidarity. :)