Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Know anyone at Times Books, Henry Holt, and/or Macmillan?

OK, so I deleted the original post that used to reside here. It was a desperate attempt on my part to crowdsource contacting a publisher about a permissions request.

For those of you who have never attempted to contact a large publisher about using a brief excerpt of their work, it can be harrowing. Usually they have webforms asking for a ton of information, or an email address for you to submit your request to, but with no other way of contacting them in person (e.g., a phone number). It's a lot like applying for jobs, except that instead of getting employment, you get permission to use a quote.

Anyway, I wanted to excerpt a small passage from a Times Book book, which falls under Macmillan, whose website directed me to Henry Holt, who handles their permissions (according to their website). So I emailed Holt all of the info they asked for, and waited and waited and waited. They said 8 weeks, but it had become 12 weeks without a reply. Hence the desperate cry for help that was the original blogpost.

On the bright side, I finally did reach someone at Holt who could help me with my permissions request. Unfortunately, their response was that they did not have the rights to the book I wanted to excerpt, and that (for some inexplicable reason) I needed to contact Random House instead (even though it is a Times Book book, which falls under Macmillan, whose permissions requests are supposedly handled by Holt...arrrrgh!).

Naturally, I checked Random House's website and (unsurprisingly!) it says a minimum of 8 weeks for replies to permissions requests, and they explicitly state that they will not expedite any requests.

So I have given up. I will not use that excerpt after all.

You would think that publishers would *want* people to quote their books, as it is likely to garner them some attention and interest, and therefore potential sales. And if the excerpt is large enough, they can ask for a fee to excerpt the passage and make money that way. The passage I wanted to quote was only slightly over 100 words, but I would have gladly paid them a reasonable fee for the rights to excerpt it.

But no. Apparently large publishers do not want to make money or garner interest for their books.

And I have come away from this episode resolved to never ever again attempt to use a significantly-sized quote from any author whose book is published by a large publisher. This saddens me because I want to give credit to people where credit is due. I want to cite people's actual words rather than paraphrasing them (and thus possibly distorting their original message). I want to give readers enough of a quote so they appreciate the full context, rather than just giving them small snippets and sound-bites in order to comply with "Fair Use."

Anyway, thanks once again for everyone who helped me with this, I really appreciate it!

Best wishes, -julia

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