songwriter playing keys on a piano and writing down notes on paper; Permissions for My Book

Getting the Right Permissions for My Book

.songwriter playing keys on a piano and writing down notes on paper; Permissions for My Book

Ever have those relatable lyrics of a song, that one incredible picture, or those motivational Bible verses that have inspired you so much that you wish to include in your book to inspire others? Of course you have, but before you publish your book, keep in mind a very important fact. Make sure you have the correct permissions to use any and all of the aforementioned.

It can seem daunting at first to acquire permissions. Issues with permissions may not even happen once you are published, but our Xulon Press team believe it’s better to be safe than sorry and wish to help clarify the basics of how best you can go about getting exactly what you need before getting your book out there. 

Permissions for Song Lyrics

Music can be incredibly inspiring, especially the messages found within the lyrics. If a song goes with the message of your book, of course you’ll wish to include lyrics. Why not, right? Think again.

The music industry does not fall under the fair use doctrine and simply citing a song’s source for some quoted lyrics is not enough to exempt you from copyright infringement. Whether you are quoting a full stanza or a single line of lyrics, you need to get permission from the copyright owner. Even then, gaining that permission can be expensive and time consuming. 

To save your savings and your sanity, it is best to refer to a song by title only. This is fully allowed without permission and you are still referring your readers to that inspiring song. It is also recommended to include the singer’s name, as well, to give credit where credit is due.

Permissions for Images

The best way to avoid the possibility of legal issues with pictures 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 overabundance of images existing in the world, it is often difficult to determine who the legal owner is. 

Rather than spending the time and money tracking down the owner of that image you fell in love with, why not find something very similar on a stock photography website? The three largest and most well-known sites for quality photography are Getty Images, Corbis, and Sipa Press. You can also easily find a plethora of stock photo sites online depending on what kind of photos you want.

We don’t advise using Google to find images. Those images are often used without permission, and you’ll find yourself back at square one when you try to hunt down the photographer or owner. Once again, save your money and sanity by using the better options suggested here. 

Permissions for Quoted Scripture

God’s Word provides inspiration and wisdom needed during good and bad times. You most certainly have at least a verse or two that you quote more often than not and you are more than welcome to share them with others in your book. It’s still best to be aware if you need permission. Needing permission for quoted scripture is not as intense or frustrating as song lyrics or pictures, but there is information you should still keep in mind. 

It all comes down to what version of the Bible you are quoting from. If you use the King James Version and you live in the United States, feel free to quote to your heart’s content as this version is considered a public domain Bible. Every other version of the Bible is considered non-public domain. The running rule of thumb is that quoted scripture from non-public domain Bibles cannot comprise 25% of your manuscript. If quoted scripture exceeds this limit, permissions are required from the publisher. 

Depending on the Bible version you use, you can visit the publisher’s website to learn what is considered fair use as well as permission forms should you need to fill one out. 

If you have any more questions regarding acquiring permission, please don’t hesitate to ask us in a comment below.


Alicia Smock is a book editor for Xulon Press. Her love of stories began at a young age that has carried on throughout the years and into her dream career. Even with more than a decade's worth of experience writing newspaper articles, book reviews, and author interviews as well as more than seven years' experience editing books from a wide variety of genres, she is always finding ways to strengthen and improve her skills in the literary arts. When she is not editing or getting lost in a good book, she can be found playing video games or cooking unique and delicious meals.

5 Comments on “Getting the Right Permissions for My Book

  1. 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.

    1. 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. 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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