Questions Self Publishing Authors Ask: Song Lyrics

Throughout the month of July I will be discussing topics that often come up for self publishing authors.  Without an experienced agent, you may have found that it’s tough to find the answers to your questions about rights and permissions.  These posts are designed to help answer some of the questions you may have and will direct you to other sites where you can get more information on each topic.  Come back each Wednesday this month for more informational posts to help you in your self publishing journey.  If you have additional questions, please send us a comment and we’ll add it to our list of topics to cover in the coming weeks.

This week I will address the issue of using song lyrics in your book. Many self publishing authors aren’t sure what they need to do in order to protect themselves from copyright laws when it comes to using song lyrics. If you want to use song lyrics in your book, there are a few things you should know.

  • The Fair Use rule doesn’t apply to song lyrics.
  • You can use song titles without permission because titles can’t be copyrighted.
  • You can use song lyrics that are in the public domain.
  • If you want to use copyrighted lyrics, you have to get permission and pay, and it can be costly.
  • You will need permission and have to pay to use recorded music in your book trailer.

If you still want to use song lyrics in your book, you can obtain the rights in five easy steps. To learn how, check out this article:

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at

Copyright Assistance

When self publishing a book, authors need to be concerned with copyright issues. While self-publishing companies are not legal experts or copyright researchers, they do make recommendations and offer assistance to help authors get the advice they need.

One of the most common mistakes self-publishing companies encounter is authors using website images from “download free photos” websites. Many authors don’t realize these are low resolution images not optimal for a printed hardcopy format or that free downloads are for blogging and website usage, not permissible for printed book publishing.

Another common mistake is authors thinking  that everything on Wikipedia is okay to publish or use; many items will require authorization/permission release from the copyright holder/originator/entity. Song lyrics are also usually copyrighted, so utilizing a copyright research company is the best way for authors to protect themselves.

For more information on copyrights, visit You can also talk to a representative at your self-publishing company. He or she should be able to provide you with the resources you need to answer all of your copyright questions.

Cheri Breeding ABOUT CHERI BREEDING: Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.