How to Legally Quote Song Lyrics in Your Book




How can you legally quote a song lyric?

It’s a good question especially since music makes, shapes, and creates  the mood in only a few words.

Take All Along the Watchtower, for instance. Those five words string images of the sixties, Vietnam, Jimi Hendrix, Civil Rights Movement, and freedom. Oh, okay and weed.

If you are writing a horror novel or horror short story, and you mention two words from an Iron Maiden song or anything written by Ozzy, it’ll invoke dark mysticism and dreadful images. And if you’re tight on word count, putting in song lyrics can paint a picture for the reader without writing too much detail.

Not to mention, song lyrics can provide clues to the story and set the stage for what’s in store. When something bad happens for instance, my short story called “Into the Void,” I originally wanted to mention certain lyrics from  Into the Void by Black Sabbath. But after doing some research about copyright laws and after looking at copyrights listed inside books where the author used song lyrics, I realized this was a bad idea. Writer, Richard Kadrey, list song lyrics in his Sandman Slim series, but he was granted permissions to do so by the record label or by the artist.



So unfortunately, the only legal way to quote a song lyric exactly is to ask for permission. And most self-published authors don’t have the means to obtain permissions, let alone pay for them.

Consequently, I had to think and think hard. How can I avoid being slapped in the face with copyright violation after violation once my book tops the New York bestseller list? (That’s one of my aspirations) There’s three ways to do this.

  1. To avoid copyright issues, in my novel, The Gentleman, I only mentioned the title of the song and the name of the artist. This way, I’m not violating copyright laws. Bingo, I now have set the mood and avoided lawsuits. Here’s a sample of how I pulled it off:

“Then, the radio came on. Ain’t wastin’ No Mo’ Time by the Allman Brothers played. The picture on the table tipped over. The glass of the frame shattered. His gun fell from his hands, and he gravitated to the broken frame.”

  Credit given, lawsuit avoided, mic dropped.

  1. Another way to avoid copyright lawsuits is to make up artist that have similar characteristics to the real artist but aren’t the actual person, per say. Robot Chicken does this a lot. They rearrange the score, or drop the key, and change the words. But even with all the changes they’ve made to the original, you still know what song they’re imitating.

Metalocalypse is notorious for this as well. They combine distinguished trademarks of multiple musicians into one character e.g. Snakes-n-barrels (Guns and Roses and Aerosmith combined). One character, whom I   love, named Doctor Rockso the Rock-n-Roll Clown, the creators based off Van Halen’s front man, David Lee Roth. Plus, anytime they feature a song you know, they rearrange the lyrics, and drop the key.

Vanilla Ice anyone? Under Pressure by Queen was sampled in his song without permission and he got away with by adding in an extra beat. Here are more artists who’ve done the same: Led Zeppelin, Allman      Brothers, The Beatles, and Eric Clapton.

How do you do this with your book you ask? Well that is simple my dear Watson. I’ll take a very famous song and change the lyrics and the artist’s name:

 “If I stay here tomorrow, will you get tired of me? I’m never traveling on out now, I’m scared of the bees. But if I don’t stay here with you girl, I’ll just go insane, because I’m as caged as a dog now. And this dog you’ll never change. And this dog you’ll never change. Changee-e-ange-e-ange-e-ange-e-ange-e-ange-e-ange-e-ange.” ~ Freeylrd Birylrd

Okay that was a bit much but you get it. Change it up yo’.  I will admit that this strategy works best in novels with humor in them and I wouldn’t advise anyone writing a serious thriller/suspense to use this technic. It   might ruin your prose.

  1. The last way to quote a song legally, is to ask for permissions. For more information on how to obtain permissions, check out Media Bistro’s (Galleycat) piece that covers some of what I touched on and details how and who to contact.

Hope this helps. Also, if you know of other ways to avoid copyright violations when quoting song lyrics, please feel free to leave a comment. [NP]

And then…there was the book cover *dramatic music*

Hello Folks,

Well, I am only a couple weeks away from the book release and wanted to post  the book cover ideas I have. So far with the consensus I’ve recived, the door seems to be the winner. But the house cover doesn’t fall that far behind, however. Anywho, leave me a comment about the book covers or vote on your fav.

I give you, the door:


The House


The Spiraling Stairs




Hello World. The internet turns 25



The internet. (Star Wars intro music)

Where would any of us be without it? Probably in a forest naked eating a jar of pickles and singing Hey Jude – accapella style. Hippies would be rampant. Remember the 60’s? Neither do I, but because of the internet, I just Goggled it and I saw pictures of their destruction. Without the internet, we’d just be stuck with volumes upon volumes of encyclopedia’s and dictionaries. A life without the internet would give our “Did you know” friends the edge. Who wants to play a board game? And we’d all have six packs – because we’d have to leave our houses to play role playing games. No online Call of Duty or King of the Hill raids on Halo.

While I was barely alive as the internets(s) morphed in 1989 from its 1960’s sci-fi origins, I do remember the day someone on our block had dial-up. All us kids gathered round as our friend waved the pizza sized CD case in the air. On the cover in bold blue letters were the words, “30 days free internet.”

Now, interrupting this blog for the following random train of thought. Can we get that back? Thirty days of free internet? Egats! Now, back to the story.

The cardboard casing to the CD had the weird looking yellow dude on the front running away from 90’s 3D objects. And those objects can be scary looking. After they slide the shiny CD into the seven-foot tower, and after the hourglass stopped spinning on the screen, they’d select the pixelated “Ok” to initiate the free trail. Then,  as we leaned in, patiently awaiting for the “connected to the internet” window to appear, the annoying static noise and loud peeps *pre NSA* that sounded like the echoes of 20 anger vampire bats in a mining tunnel, began. This meant the internet was connecting to the server using the ole Grambell (the telephone).

Three weeks later and hours of red light green light (kids, that’s a game you play outside)….

We connected to the AOL chats. Hello pop-up windows and creepy old men in chats they shouldn’t enter. Hotguy89? I saw you in those hippie pictures on the internet. More like Oldfart64.

Now  a days in the future, I open my laptop, and log on, like a boss, then bam, internet connects and I get to search for po… science stuff about….the internet…

The invention of double-u, double-u, double-u, dotcom, opened the door for other fantastical inventions. For example, the search engines. They gave me hours of time to waste searching for stuff. Work? Who needs work when I can start my day by looking up Lincoln’s baby voice and end it with Dolphin Sex. The rabbit hole of the internet never makes sense, but that’s what makes it so damn awesome. Pasta Party and baby bird feeding? I wonder what Alice and Wonder Land would’ve been like if she had the internet? Googled it. It’s real weird.

And Google said, let there be Youtube. Bye social life, and hello funny videos and hours of videos about conspiracy theories.

So internet, here’s for turning a quarter of a century, ole gal. Easy on the Malware this year, okay? Because I can see your ports. (Star Wars music ends)

And now I give you the random ADHD  moment:

I wonder if Google glass or hologram projection will be the next wave of anti-social technology to come our way? Guys would be able to psychically say, “Aye girl.” And folks could marry the projector ladies they created. I have to admit, it would be really awesome to look like a Borg. *says in robot voice* You will be assimilated. No,… nothing?  Not even a smirk? Uh, Okay. Well, if you’d like to learn more about the thing that changed all our lives, the internet, click the link below:

How to Take Criticism Like a Pro

Great blog piece. Enjoy!

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of JonoMeuller Image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of JonoMeuller

One of the greatest blessings of being an author and teacher is I meet so many tremendous people. I feel we writers have a unique profession. It isn’t at all uncommon to see a seasoned author take time out of a crushing schedule to offer help, guidance and support to those who need it. I know of many game-changers, mentors who transformed my writing and my character. Les EdgertonCandace Havens, Bob Mayer, James Rollins, James Scott Bell, Allison Brennan are merely a few I can think of off the top of my head.

J.E. Fishman is another, and he offers a very unique perspective because he’s worked multiple sides of the industry. He was a former NYC literary agent, an editor for Doubleday and now he’s a novelist. His newest book A Danger to Himself and Others

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You may be pronouncing this wrong…




I stumbled on this article while I was searching for the etymology of the word “amn’t”. Don’t ask. Anyhow, The Guardian did a piece, highlighting words we regularly mispronounce and listed the reasons behind these mishaps. Wait, did I say that right? Mishaps…miss-hip? Oh wait, you can’t hear me…*wipes brow* Other wise you’d probably never visit my blog…*note to self, don’t talk about how bad your southern accent is*

Okay folks, that is all from me for today. Now, go and enjoy this article as if it was a fine aged wine. Slow seeps, then swirl, and sniff the aroma from the glass.

Show Me the Money–What’s the Skinny on Author Earnings?

Great read yet again from Kristen Lamb.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits. Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

My degree is in Political Science with an emphasis on Political Economy. To earn this degree, I had to study a lot of statistics *UGH* and to be blunt? I agree with Mark Twain, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” Surveys and statistics are a science: number of participants, number of questions, phrasing of the questions, nature of the sample group, geography, etc.

Yada, yada, yada.

But somewhere in the numbers is some truth, which is why I asked one of our WANA instructors, Jami Gold, to do this guest post for me (and yes, she will be presenting at WANACon).

Sure we love to write, but I assume all of us are asking the BIG questions: Is there MONEY in writing? How do we make a GOOD living as writers? Money seems to be the taboo and we don’t want…

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Hop Frog ~ Edgar Allan Poe Review


I have a terrible confession to make, Hop Frog (9-10 pages depending on the format) is the first work from Poe that I’ve ever read. I am ashamed, as a writer of horror and a fan of the genre, that I didn’t start with him sooner.

I will try to keep my “review” of this to three or four paragraphs (I don’t want to write a review longer than the actual story.).

Hop Frog, the protagonist/anti-hero or antagonist, which ever fits for you, and his companion Trippetta are jests obtained by a glutinous king as entertainment. The king, not named in the story, sees being fat as a sign of comedy, thus, fills his court with fat men. He feels he has a great sense of humor and makes Hop Frog do things to entertain him and his fart filled court. Then one day…

I’ll stop there; I don’t want to spoil the short read for anyone. Do note, you should prepare yourself for dark and subtle horror. Not from the supernatural or from magic, but from the darkness of the human imagination and what one is capable of doing when pushed over the cliff littered with jagged rocks.

This story to me, does well within the few pages to have you care about hop fog and cheer him on – even though his final act leaves your mouth agape.

Since he left me wanting more, I give Poe four fist (my rating system) for this. Now on to the Raven, Tell-Tale Heart, William Wilson, The Premature Burial, and…so many other great short works of his.[NP]