Friday, August 05, 2011

Another lesson in self-publishing, or Why I have fallen out with David E Kelley Productions

Have you read my new book yet?

(In case you don’t know what it is – BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU.)

Why do I ask?

Well, you know the TV series that Sol and Fran like to watch together – Jessie Levine? In my original draft of the novel they liked to watch something else – Ally McBeal. And I had a quote from one of the episodes in my novel – it was -

“I don’t care about some stupid corporation. I mean I thought I did...I do...but...I’m just trying to invent a reason to be in a room with you.”

In order to quote from a TV series, a song, or a book, a publisher needs to have permission from the original writer. So this spring I rang David E Kelley Productions in Los Angeles and asked how to get permission. Who was the person to whom I should email an official request to quote from Ally McBeal in my novel?

The answer was that they didn’t accept such emails: I had to fax my request. Yep, that’s what they said – fax. Who the hell uses fax in preference to email?

I explained that I don’t have a fax machine. No-one I know has a fax machine. We used to have a fax machine, but that was before email became so easy to use. Email is how people communicate these days, isn’t it?

Tough. They insisted i send a fax.

So I went to my local library in Bakewell and used their fax machine, at a price. I faxed David E Kelley and two weeks went by (and now months have gone by) and I got no response. While I was still waiting I rang the Society of Authors (a kind of writers’ union) for advice. They told me that generally speaking, if an American TV company does give permission, they charge an awful lot of money for the privilege.

So I decided to cut my losses, and waste no more time. I rewrote the two parts of the novel where this Ally McBeal quote appears. Now I make reference to something said by a character in Jessie Levine instead. (Jessie Levine is a figment of my imagination – like the rest of the novel.)

But do you know what is so crazy? I got the word for word quote from Ally McBeal off the net, by Googling part of it. In fact, the whole of the script for that Ally McBeal episode was on the net. I am, however, a person who does respect copyright, which is why you will never see me quote more than a couple of lines from a poem on my blog unless the poet is dead, or the poet has given me permission. Why do I respect copyright? Because if everyone bandies about writers’ words and works quite freely, how will said writers ever make a living? It’s hard enough to make writing pay when people don’t steal your copyright.

Aha! you say. So why have you quoted from Ally McBeal above if you’re so precious about copyright? Because it is one tiny line in a big episode, and OK, I admit it, It is a trivial revenge for DEKP’s asking me to make a special effort to contact them and their choosing not to reply.


galant said...

Aren't Americans a little quaint? Using a fax machine, still. I last used one of those more than a decade ago!
Margaret P

Sue Hepworth said...

Quaint! That's an interesting adjective to use. They're certainly behind the door with some things (e.g. their prudish attitude to breast feeding) and yet they are so far advanced of the UK in other ways - their wonderful customer service, for example.

Jean said...

Try Pamfax, a fax programme from your computer,, there are others around, I think Microsoft has an add on.

I battled with the American obsession with their Fax Machines for many years, so unreliable, printers out of paper, ink , no proof of you say , in some respects the U.S. is so ahead but things such as the Fax and cheques , they cling on to .......