Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Collected Works of --What Do You Mean, 'Term of Copyright'?

I would like to ask a question regarding submitting previously published, humorous newspaper articles for (possible) book publishing.

My father was an editor of the Savannah Morning News and wrote a humorous column for the Sunday Op Ed page. Since he has passed away, everyone that knew him has been urging me to get a book together of his pieces- Yes, it's regional, southern. No, he never wrote a book...though he won numerous UPI and AP awards and placed over and above Lewis Grizzard a time or two.

What I'd like to do is put his "best of" articles together, perhaps with some (personal) photography or cartoons drawn by the newspaper's artist about my father.

So, my question is this- should I query (some) publisher with these articles (copied) or simply present this idea in my own pen?
I would suggest that you tidy them up so that they're professional-looking and easy to read. That may mean transcribing them into word docs so that they'll print cleanly, but do keep all of the marks that it was an article-- headline, author, newspaper and pub date at the top. (And if you happen to be one of those people who can't transcribe anything without adding typos, have somebody else proof it.) Be sure to include in your cover letter some non-anecdotal proof of your father's popularity (numbers speak loudest). Make sure your father's arrangement with the newspaper hasn't left the publication rights in their possession, rather than yours.


Anna Claire said...

I think the pub rights will be the biggest hurdle. I work for a newspaper, and when I was hired, I had to sign over all rights to anything I write for the paper.

That doesn't mean you can't get the rights if you ask nicely and jump through hurdles, but the newspaper might look at this book as your taking income away from them since they own the articles. Good luck!

Sabina E. said...

wow, good question. I've been reading this book about serial killers and the entire book is composed of newspaper clippings collected over the past 100 years. While I guess that copyright issues for old newspaper clippings from 100 years ago don't matter at all, I wondered about the copyright permission for newer clippings from say, the 70s to today.

One question: do those newspapers sometimes ask for royalties if their articles are being used in a book?

Janet Reid said...

I'd be astonished if the copyright wasn't held by the newspaper if the author received a salary for his writing.

You'll recall that John Grogan (Marley & Me) was chagrinned to discover the newspaper where he worked could and did put out a book of his columns with his name on them against his wishes.

Anonymous said...

thank you for offering your time and advice to those of us who are considering this market.

Merry Holidays to you!