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Were I asked, I would tell any aspiring writer: “Never use song lyrics in your fiction.”   This is a real pity as it means populating literature with characters who will never listen to, nor replay in their minds, the riffs of jazz, the heart-break of  ballads or hard hits of heavy metal.  Symphonies might do, but no opera.  Permissions rights people are slow, difficult, expensive, and even incomprehensible.

This is a recent exchange of emails, through my permissions person, four months after first requesting permission to use two lines from a Smokey Robinson classic.

Thank you for your email dated August 2, 2010.
  
As your deadline has approached (we had offered a tentative publication date of June), the author will need to remove the lyrics from “Tears Of A Clown” from the publication as approval has not been granted.

But the question remains; will permission be granted later?   Should we wait and hope, or was this a permanent clear-cut denial?  The reply to this question was:

Thank you for your email dated August 3, 2010.

 The request has not been denied regardless, however I can not guarantee any sort of a time for a response to arrive.
Sincerely…

This is the lyrical world of permissions we live in.   Did you know that when you write a book, you must program half a year’s delay to your publication, if you need permissions?  Let this be a warning.