If you came across a book that you wanted to narrate that is still under copyright, who would you contact for permission to record?
After an open discussion via Facebook, two recommendations emerged for who to contact first when obtaining permission for recording a copyrighted work.
Hear what audiobook narrators are saying and discover tips for how you can embark on this journey in today’s VOX Daily.
Every now and then I come across some wonderful books that are just crying out to be narrated. After scouting for audio versions on sites like Audible or Amazon, inevitably I find that some of the books have not been recorded as of yet.
Maybe you’ve done the same thing.
When you realize that an opportunity is waiting in the wings for you to record, what do you do? Who do you ask?
There are a couple of camps regarding who to approach first to inquire about recording an audio version of a book whose copyright is still in effect: either the publisher or the author. Ultimately it is the person who holds the rights to the audio.
Contacting The Publisher First
Narrator Diane Havens correctly pointed out that the right person to contact is ultimately the one who holds the rights to the audio. She shared, “Depends who holds the rights by contract — could be the publisher or the author — or in some cases it could be someone else entirely who bought the rights. This is as I understand it, but I’m not a copyright attorney, of course. The copyright on the book is the print copyright. Rights to audio and other versions of the book you’d have to investigate with the publisher. So I’d start with them.”
Fellow audiobook narrator, Tavia Gilbert, recommended that narrators start with the publisher. Markham Anderson agreed, citing that publishers usually have all rights reserved.
Trish McFerran commented, “Copyright can be held over published or unpublished works. If it’s a published work it would also depend on when it was published, whether the work has passed into public domain and whether it is a singular or a collective work. Copyright is granted to and essentially protects the author, however, the author can release the copyright to a third party. Since there are so many variables and a publisher generally ‘represents’ the work then I’d start the ball rolling with the publisher, who would probably be easier to make contact with anyway.”
Karen Commins has gone a different route, stating “For what it’s worth, I have approached several authors. I preferred to start that way because the authors were much easier to find than the person managing the rights at one of the big publishers. I also felt that the authors also were more interested in answering my questions. I knew one still owned the audio rights because I found an article about her book. Another author knew she still owned the rights and is intent on narrating the book herself. Also, I hope an author might be my champion in the casting process in those cases where the publisher owns the audio rights. One more thing — a literary agent told me that you probably have to pay the author for audio rights. The authors I have contacted also wanted to know my plans for packaging (if on CD) and distribution of the finished audiobook.”
Frank Baum noted, “These days more authors do seem to be reserving audio rights. I have contacted both with well chosen script performance demonstrating why I thought a currently rights protected book could benefit from a new or second production. I’ve gone from ‘looking for a gig’ to coffee shop pleasure of discussing how good it all can be.”
What’s Worked For You?
If you have had an experience in this area, be sure to comment and share your story!