Ask the Editor: How Do I Get Pictures and Permissions For My Book?

Filed in Ask the Editor by on March 28, 2013 4 Comments

Book Permissions | Xulon PressQuestion of the year, right? Well, it feels that way to us.  Here at Xulon Press, we consistently hear this question, so we decided to blog on it for you and for anyone else who might need it in the future. These are the basics of photo permissions and although it can seem daunting at first, it’s pretty straightforward. However, the best way to avoid the possibility of legal issues with images in your book is to create them yourself or commission what you want from a photographer, illustrator or designer. Still, with the millions of images you can easily find in an Internet search, we want you to have this helpful information.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office (, photographs are generally owned by the photographer who originally took the shot. In some cases the owner is the photographer’s employer. With the oceans of images existing in the world, it is often difficult to determine who the legal owner is. Many of the more famous images out there have been copied legally, which means the original photographer has rights to it, but there are also individuals who own copies. Some images fall within fair use laws, just like printed content of books. For more information on fair use for photographs and images, you can visit

You now have two options – spend the time and money tracking down the owner of that image you fell in love with, or settle for a very similar one you can find on stock photography websites. The three largest sites and most well known sites for quality photography are Getty Images, Corbis and Sipa Press. There are also many others out there. You can easily find a plethora of stock photo sites online depending on what kind of photos you want – air shots for a travel book, action shots for a sports book, etc.

Images on stock photography sites are divided into two main categories. First there’s royalty free images: you pay a one time fee to use the image with no limit on when you have to do so. However, royalty-free images offer no exclusivity and the price is arbitrarily set by the seller. The image can be sold to anyone who wants it, which means it could be in hundres of books on the market. There is also a limit on the amount of times the image can be printed, which may limit the quantity of books you or a bookseller can order.

Secondly, there are images that fall under the category of “rights managed” photography. This means that an individual licensing agreement is negotiated for each use of the image. Prices are negotiated based on factors such as the time limit for using the image, territories the image will be used in (US market vs UK for example), how big the image will be printed (e.g. 1/2 page or full page), etc. The benefit of this category is that the buyer can pay for exclusive rights to the photo and it allows for larger print runs.

We’ll finish off with this: images you find in a Google search are very often used without permission and will bring you back to square one – hunting down the photographer or owner so you don’t have to be afraid of getting sued. We generally advise you to save your time and not use Google to find images, when you have the options above. However, if you just can’t get your mind around gathering without Google, you can use the Advanced Search page. After all the filters for words, sizes, colors and file formats, the last filter at the bottom will filter your results by usage rights. That should get you well on your way to complementing your book with the most captivating images that keep you free from culpability.

If you have any more questions on all this, please don’t hesitate to ask us in a comment below. Happy hunting!


About the Author ()

Vanessa Correa is a Staff Editor at Xulon Press with a total of 10 years of publishing experience in diverse industries including journalism, academic publishing, social media and more. She is a native New Yorker and alumnus of the M.S. Publishing program at New York University. Her passion is translation—her family is from Puerto Rico and her aim is to ensure our authors receive the same high quality services for Spanish books, press releases and other materials as they do in English.

Comments (4)

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  1. avatar Gail Ingersoll says:

    Thank you for the information on stock images and photographs. I do have a photographer I use, but there are times I want images of young children of another era; which of course, she cannot do for me. Just today I emailed for permission to use a photograph in a book I am planning on writing about N.Y.S. I’m anxiously awaiting a reply. This is the first time I have checked your site, I will more often now.

    • Hi Gail! Thanks so much for the comment. We are really glad that we could write to your needs and interests. Is there any other topic you would like to see covered here? Please let us know!

  2. avatar Barbie M. says:

    What about permissions? I want to write a cookbook and would like to list a specific brand of an ingredient. Do I need to get permission from Kraft for example to list their food product with the name Kraft or can I just go ahead and use it?

  3. Hello Barbie; thanks so much for your question. After doing my own internet search, it appears that there are no issues with permissions or trademarking should you include a brand name in your recipe. The only infringement issues that I have seen are when recipe titles are trademarked. It seems that while brands benefit from being mentioned in cookbook recipes through potential sales of the food products, they do trademark the actual recipes and their titles. If your recipes and recipe titles are 100% original, you should have no issue. You would need to do your own research to determine whether anything you may think is original is actually already trademarked. For a more definitive answer, however, we encourage you to seek advice from a law professional. Best of luck to you!

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