My story collection, Quiet Americans, begins with two quotations (epigraphs) leading into the larger work. I've always wondered if I'd need permission to use them, but until recently, I didn't have a particularly urgent reason to find out.
Well, now that my book is slated for publication, a reason has arrived! The press that will be publishing my book is too small to have a full-fledged legal department of its own, so my first impulse was to send an e-mail message to a group of lawyer friends. But I soon decided that I should just keep digging on my own. Directly.
Both of the quotations are quite short. One is taken from a translated novel; the other, from a translated Nobel lecture.
A few days ago, I contacted the U.S. publisher of the translated novel (a publishing company which is big enough not only to have its permissions/rights department referenced on its site, but which also requires several weeks to process these requests). So, I wait.
For the Nobel lecture, I simply e-mailed the specified contact in Sweden and explained that I was writing to find out what I needed to do in order to include the line from the lecture as an epigraph for my collection. The response was swift and sweet: "You do not need our formal permission to make quotations."
Wonderful! Let's hope that the other response arrives soon and proves to be equally uncomplicated.
I'd love to hear from other practicing writers with permissions tales to tell. Or perhaps some tips or resources to share?