A few days ago I gave a copy of Heartshire High to Rebecca, one of the reviewers at Aussie Owned and Read. Since she is based in Australia I sent her an e-version of Heartshire High (shipping a copy would probably take months), and within two days she wrote back saying she likes the book already, but then posed the disaster question: "Are the mentions of lyrics actual lyrics of real songs?" Why, yes they are.... I was thinking how clever it was to include lyrics and if I ever had an audio book made, I would get the music to play along side the words. "Just need to be careful that they are in public domain and you have permission to quote them in this book". WHAT?!
Turns out that songs and lyrics written after 1923 are not for public use, and they carry a copyright to the words (but interestingly not the title, which can still be used). If you want to use lyrics then you have to find the owner of the lyrics (singer, group or producer) and ask for permission - sometimes they say yes, sometimes no, and sometimes the lyrics come at a cost. So I spent hours first researching this in a rising state of panic, and secondly combing through Heartshire High to remove all lyrics and anything else I could be sued for! After reading about use of lyrics I found out that usually publishers deal with obtaining rights, but an interesting article explained the issue with self-publishing:
Just because you’ve made yourself the publisher, doesn’t mean you have the right to make up your own copyright law. Self-publishing has, in many respects, freed authors to express themselves as they wish. But it has also added greatly to their responsibilities. Today, self-published authors must not only write, but also market, sell and obtain rights permissions.
This is one reason self-publishing is harder - I am solely responsible for the book, there aren't editors, proofreaders, a marketing team or a publisher telling me what to do, or doing the work for me; Heartshire High is my baby and so I need to pay extra attention to potential issues that arise with it.
Long story short, I am forever grateful to Rebecca for checking with me that I knew about this. I did not and she may have saved me from a lawsuit for copyright infringement. It seems a ridiculous law but this has been an important point in my self-publishing journey. I need to keep reading, keep learning and keep connecting with readers and other young writers. Rebecca and the other writers, reviewers and authors in the YA facebook groups have been incredibly supportive of my journey with Heartshire High, and they are always sharing tips and ideas with each other. To come into contact with this amazing online community of writers and YA readers is the reason I gave up on the traditional route and chose self-publishing. Connecting with a community and with my readers directly is an understated but important aspect of writing, and will definitely contribute to making me a better writer in the long run.
I am now in the process of uploading the updated manuscript to the publishing platforms and instead of doing it with a frown, I am smiling because I am grateful for all the help I have received from the YA reading community!
I'm a high school senior who loves to read, write, read about writing, and write about reading. My first novel, Heartshire High, is out now!