After you figure out that you need permission for a quote or graphic and determine who to ask (usually the publisher), it’s time to make the request. It can take months to track down a copyright holder and secure permission, so the “time to start” is close to completion of the first draft.
How to Ask
A simple email often does the trick. Sometimes a contract-like form full of specifics is needed. Those are more common in commercial works. At the least, the author/artist will want to know what you’re using and why. Depending on the nature of the use or the nature of the copyright holder, they might ask for payment.
What Detail to Give
If more detail is requested, you’ll be looking at these sorts of details (in order of likelihood):
- Exactly what will be used
- What it will be used in:
- Title, author, publisher
- Date and length of publication (e.g., page count)
- Distribution (territory and format; include derivatives and promo materials)
- Price and size of “print run”
- Duration of permission request (how long the product will remain “in print”)
- Exclusive or non-exclusive use
- Nature of use: criticism, supporting argument, illustrating a particular concept, etc.
What Detail to Get
Get it in writing, first and foremost. An email will suffice. Make sure the permission is explicitly granted. Use a form or contract for added assurance. Keep these in the project archives, especially to help the team working on the next edition.
- Confirmation that they are the copyright holder
- Explicit permission—in writing
- Acknowledgement details—they specify how they would like to be credited and the exact wording
- Payment nothing, maybe a copy of the product, maybe cash