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How Do I Obtain Photo Permission In My Book? Other Questions Answered By Orna Ross And Michael La Ronn In Our Member Q&A Podcast

How Do I Obtain Photo Permission In My Book? Other Questions Answered by Orna Ross and Michael La Ronn in our Member Q&A Podcast

How do I obtain photo permission in my book? That is among the questions answered on our #AskALLi Members Q&A hosted by Michael La Ronn, author of science fiction and fantasy novels as well as author self-help books; and ALLi Director, author, and poet Orna Ross.

Other questions include:

  • Should I hire a formatter?
  • If I republish my book, do I need a new ISBN?
  • When do I have to pay sales tax?
  • What should I put on the copyright page?

And more!

Our Members Q&A Podcast is brought to you by specialist sponsor Kobo Writing Life, a global, independent ebook and audiobook publishing platform that empowers authors with a quick and easy publishing process and unique promotional opportunities. To reach a wide audience, create your account today! We'd like to thank Kobo for their support of this podcast.

Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.

And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.

Now, go write and publish!

Listen to the Podcast: Photo Permission and More

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Watch the Q&A: Photo Permission and More

How do I obtain photo permission in my book? That is among the questions answered on our #AskALLi Members Q&A with @OrnaRoss and @MichaelLaRonn. Click To Tweet

Show Notes

About the Hosts

Michael La Ronn is the author of over 30 books of science fiction & fantasy and authors self-help books. His books include the Galaxy Mavericks series and Modern Necromancy series. You can now find his new writing course on Teachable.

Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com

Read the Transcripts: Photo Permission and More

Orna Ross: Hello everyone, and welcome to our Alliance of Independent Authors' Member Q&A.

It is April 2022, and I am here with Michael La Ronn. Hi, Michael.

Michael La Ronn: Hello, Orna. Happy April

Orna Ross: Happy April, indeed. Here we are, start of a new quarter, start of a new month, end of ALLi's ten-year celebration. So, we're all feeling fresh, like kiddies going off to a new term at school.

So, yes, this is our regular monthly Member Q&A, where we take some of the most popular, or most pressing, or most unusual, member questions that we receive on our member care desk, and bring them to you publicly with the permission of our questioners. Because every question that one indie author has, there are lots of other authors who are also going through the same thing. So, it's really useful for us to have this kind of public exploration of the answers.

And you are the man with the questions, so what have we got this month?

Do I need consent to publish photographs of people in my book?

Michael La Ronn: Alright. Member Avial asks, am I allowed to publish pictures I took of people in the street? Do I need their consent, or is it considered public domain?

Orna Ross: No, it is not public domain, and yes, whenever you take a picture of somebody for publication, you need their permission, you need what's called a release form, that's what it's called here in the UK, and you need them to sign it. Without their permission, you cannot republish.

This is law in almost every jurisdiction that I'm aware of, yet it is law that is broken every day on social media. People are always putting pictures up, but when it comes to professional publication, social media is seen as a slightly different thing because it's general sharing, it's not generally for profits, and so on. When it comes to professional publication, you have responsibilities to people, and so we would strongly advise that you should not publish without permission.

Michael La Ronn: I agree, and the question often comes up in many forms, because it's one thing if you take a picture of somebody and then that person is in the centre of your photograph, you absolutely need to get a release. I think where some people start to question it is, well, there's somebody in the background of one of my pictures. Like, I took a picture of a park, but there's a family sitting on the grass, do I need to get their release? Why do I have to do that? Well, you still need to get a release, or blur their faces out, or something, because they still have a right to publicity.

in the UK, it seems to me that they are a lot more strict about that than they are here in the States, but you definitely don't want to be taking pictures of people without their consent, and you definitely don't want to be taking pictures of minors without parental consent. So, I would always err on the side of caution because you never know. Your book could become super famous one day, and then somebody sees themselves in your book and then the dollar signs go off. At least, that's how people here in the United States think. So, be careful.

Orna Ross: Yeah, and another way to think about it is that, that person might have all sorts of personal reasons why they don't want to be in your picture, you know, important reasons and very valid reasons, and they are entitled to their privacy. So, yeah, exactly as Michael said. So yeah, strong recommendation there, do not use.

Or now, with these wonderful tech tools that we have, blurring things is very easy. If you have the capability of asking the person, you'll probably find they'll be delighted, most people like to be in a book. So, if you have that option, do ask. Let them be the person to say no to you, don't just say no now if you actually could ask and seek that permission. A release forum can be very simple, you're literally just asking for consent and there are templates on the internet which you can use.

How do I vet a self-publishing service?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question is from Peter. Peter asked a specific question about a particular press, we're not going to name the press, so I'm just going to give the question generically. And the question is, should I hire X press, whatever that service might be, Orna, to complete the layout and formatting? How do I vet whether this service is appropriate?

Orna Ross: Okay. So, we do a lot of work on vetting and approving services, so you don't have to. So, the first thing I would say is to take a look at, we have two ways, we have our partner member directory, and these are people who have applied to be partner members of the Alliance of Independent Authors; they are skilled and experienced in working with self-publishing authors and they can support you in whatever needs you have. Our directory of partner members is divided across the seven processes of publishing, so you can always dive into whichever service you need and look and see who is there.

We also provide freely, as an indie author community service, a list of the best and worst self-publishing services. So, you can check and see if the service you're considering has a reasonable rating. And that list is maintained by John Doppler, who is the head of our Watchdog Desk, and the services are categorized under excellent, partner member, which is our top level of category, and then good, then caution, and then do not touch with a barge pole. I don't think that's John's technical term, but basically that's the advice. So, you can check that out just by going to selfpublishingadvice.org/ratings, and you'll find the listing there with the relevant rating against it.

If the service you list is not there, very possible, services are springing up all the time, we cannot possibly keep track with this exploding arena. We do our best, but we are always interested in hearing about services that our authors want to use for whatever set of reasons. We're also interested in positive or negative feedback of any kind, on any service, from the big guys like KDP, and IngramSpark, and Kobo, all the way down to the local freelancer round the corner.

Keeping up to date, keeping these listings up to date is a full-time job, really, because staff change, attitudes improve, or disimprove. We are always relying on feedback for us to keep the accuracy of these lists. So, if by any chance, the service you're referring to is not on the list, then do please write to us. You can write to John at [email protected], or you can write to us directly at [email protected], all one word.

So, yeah, there is no need to be lost and confused in services land. So, we see that as one of our core activities and one of our core responsibilities.

Michael La Ronn: Agree, definitely. Can you give that link out to the ratings directory again?

Orna Ross: Yes. So, the directory is allianceindependentauthors.org/directory. Members can reach that just by logging in and going to that link, and then the non-member one is selfpublishingadvice.org/ratings.

Michael La Ronn: Alright. I don't think we can give that link out enough, that's why I asked you to say it.

If I republish one of my books, do I need a new ISBN?

Michael La Ronn: Next question is from Jane, and Jane asks, if I republish one of my books, do I need a new ISBN?

Orna Ross: The short answer is, yes, if you have changed enough to need to do that. So, there is a sort of, a 10%/20% rule. There is no hard and fast rule as to what point you need to republish as opposed to update. So, if you're talking about making a minor change because you've had to correct a typo or had a bright idea and wanted to slip in something small, then by no means should you republish, that's just considered to be an update. All of the services allow you to do that, it helps to keep our books as professional as possible. So, everyone encourages that, that's absolutely fine, no need for a new ISBN in that regard.

But if you have a new edition of a book, if you've added some significant amount of material, or indeed deleted, or changed, or altered, then you do need to call it a second edition and you need to republish and, yes, in that instance, you definitely need a new ISBN. And you retire the old book. It will remain there in archives and jump up annoyingly when you don't want it to in various places. You can never get rid of a book you've published completely in eBook land, particularly, but you arrange your publishing so that the new and more favoured edition is the one that presents itself to readers. I'm sure you have stuff to add to that, Michael?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, no, you said it all very eloquently.

It's been a while since we've had an ISBN question on the show, and I heard something from someone the other day that I guess I didn't believe it at first, and I thought, maybe I'll ask Orna this. Someone told me the other day, and this was somebody who has substantial experience in formatting, they told me that if you change the page numbers in your book, you need a new ISBN, and I thought that was kind of crazy, but?

Orna Ross: Yeah, you will hear people say various things like that all the time. If you do this, you need a new ISBN. If you do that, you need a new ISBN. There is no ISBN overlord or judge, who is sitting at the top of the ISBN universe and handing us down the 10 commandments. Unfortunately, it would be great if there was.

The thing is, there are no hard and fast rules. So, whenever you hear somebody give you a hard and fast rule, they're probably wrong. And in this case, I would consider it wrong.

What you have to do as a publisher, when it comes to republishing a book and new ISBNs, what you have to do as a publisher is take responsibility for yourself, rather than looking for somebody else to kind of tell you what to do, and you have to think about the reader. So, is the reader even going to notice that the page numbers are different? I would say, no.

Michael La Ronn: And they're not going to care.

Orna Ross: They're not going to care. Unless you had an index and the numbers were wrong, and you needed them, even then, by changing the index to match the new numbers, I would say an update would be fine for that. What you're trying to do is think about the reader, and think about the influencer, the literary influencer, like the book buyer, the librarian, the bookseller. If you've done a major change to your book, then the person who is selling the book kind of has the right to know that so that they can discuss it.

For example, here at ALLi, we update our guides every year, or every couple of years depending on the guide and how quickly the world is changing. Our guide in 2022 looks very different to our guide in, say 1915, sorry, we weren't there then.

Michael La Ronn: 1915. Wow! I didn't know ALLi was around that long.

Orna Ross: You can see how old I'm feeling after all those celebrations!

2015!

So, it's essentially a different book, it's got loads of different information in it. So, the influencer who is trying to give the reader the 2015 edition, would be saying, loads of it is out of date, it doesn't work, blah, blah, blah. They want to give them the updated edition, they want to know that, that edition is updated. If they read it five years ago, they're thinking, CreateSpace isn't CreateSpace anymore, it doesn't exist. It's now KDP, for example, and loads of other things like that.

So, think about the reader. If there's been a major change, and they deserve to know it, then you republish. If it is a small change, done for their convenience, and they're not going to notice it, then it's an update.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, well said, and you know, you can definitely make things more complicated for readers by changing ISBNs when you don't need to.

Orna Ross: Exactly. Absolutely. The more often you change, the more unwieldy your catalogue becomes. So, it's not something to be done lightly. It's absolutely something to be done when you need to do it, but it's not something to be done lightly. And also, there's a cost factor in relaying it all out, and various other things. So, for all sorts of reasons, keep your republishing to a minimum and use the great updating services that we have.

Do indie authors have to worry about collecting sales tax for eBook sales?

Michael La Ronn: Agree. All right. Next question is from Samuel. Samuel says, I understand that KDP will calculate and pay applicable sales taxes. Do KDP users maintain sales tax accounts for a few direct sales of their books? To rephrase that question, I think what Samuel is asking is, do you have to worry about collecting sales tax for eBook sales?

Orna Ross: Yes. Alas! Unfortunately, it's a nightmare if you sell direct. If you use services, you don't have to worry. That's one of the reasons why some people say, I don't want to sell direct, I don't want to deal with all of that. The thing is that it's a mess. eBook and digital product sales tax, or VAT as it's known in the UK, and by various other terms in other jurisdictions around the world; legislation is brought in which is aiming to get at large sellers of digital products, and large platforms, and they don't think about the likes of us, the little micro-digital producers, and creators, and distributors.

So, in Europe, particularly, it's very challenging because within the EU, sales tax is charged at the point of purchase, it's charged in the country, in other words, where the reader lives, rather than where the publisher lives, which is just crazy. It's tough. So, there are services like Payhip, and others, who will work out all of this for you, so you can sell your books directly online. WooCommerce also does it, there are various others. So, it is worth definitely using one of those services that does this calculation for you and adds it on for you, but legally you are required to pay.

If you're not setting a lot of books, if you're only selling a few books here and there, I certainly wouldn't worry too much about it. The authorities know it's a mess and things are likely to straighten out over time. It always takes time for legislation to catch up with business and entrepreneurship, so there is always a time lag. So, please don't worry too much about this if you're just selling a few books on your own website, it's definitely not something they're going to come after you for. And just keep an eye on our news updates and things, where we will keep you appraised of changes that are coming in this sphere, as in others.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and I would say, just in case the user is in the United States, everything Orna said is almost the opposite here in the states. So, in the states you collect sales tax based on where you live.

So, if you sell direct here, it's kind of the wild west. Like, I use Payhip and I don't, honestly, I probably should know how the sales tax thing is working out, I don't pay attention to it. I probably should, but I really only pay attention to the sales tax when I'm selling in person. So, the state I live in, they send me a letter every year and they say, well, how much sales tax did you make, or how much sales tax did you collect? Send us a check. And most of the time, I just fill it out and I say, I didn't collect any sales tax.

So really, I think it boils down to understanding where you live, and where the tax laws are in the state where you live, and that will hopefully help guide you. But yeah, it's complicated. It's a mess. It really is.

Orna Ross: And there is a great indie author group that got very active around the time that the EU law was being changed. Their name escapes me in this moment, but for the podcast on Friday, I'll get that link and add it to the show notes. It's worth keeping an eye on what they're doing because they keep everything updated.

But the thing is that technically, Michael, if you sell a book in Austria, the sales tax, even though you live in the US, the sales tax is your responsibility to charge that tax to the Austrian buyer. I mean, it's like you say, it's the wild west and it's crazy, it just doesn't add up as yet. We always encourage our members, obviously, to keep to their legal and financial obligations within the best of our ability, and that's what we're doing. So, keep an eye on updates on this one, because there are updates coming, the authorities are aware that the current situation is not tenable.

Particularly now, as we talk about the decentralization of publishing, with more and more people selling direct, and also selling on blockchains, and with cryptocurrency, there are going to be lots of changes to legislation coming up. And we are an important part of what happens, because individually, yes, we are micro-publishers, together, we're now selling more books than the rest of the publishing industry combined. So, we are a very significant part of publishing, and what we do and what's right for us, it's important that we have a voice that talks about that.

What should I include on the copyright page of my book?

Michael La Ronn: Absolutely. All right. Next question is from Maggie, and Maggie asks a question that we have not had on this show before, and she asks, what do I include on my copyright page?

Orna Ross: Oh, we have a blog post. If you go to the selfpublishingadvice.org, and you Google in that question, we either have recently published it or it is about to publish.

But essentially, it can be very, very simple. So, the necessary thing is the name of the author, the copyright symbol, which is the C with the little circle around it, and the year. With that in place, that's your copyright record done.

There's usually a place to contact the publisher, the publisher's address, and so on, and the publisher in this instance is you. So, it's whatever you want to put up there.

People look at copyright pages when they're looking at buying rights. So, you might want to have a link to a page on your website which talks about what rights are available for that book, and you want them to have an easy way to contact you if they should want to license some of your rights.

A lot of indies copy and paste the very legalistic sounding copyright pages from trade publishers, which isn't necessary and is kind of seen as overkill, really, by a lot of people, particularly on an eBook. But it is up to you, there's no harm in doing that, but it doesn't have any more legal standing just because it's got a legalistically sounding paragraph.

One other thing that may or may not be of interest that you may want to put on. There is a concept in UK law, which I don't think is in US law and isn't everywhere, but it's UK and Commonwealth of moral rights, the authors moral rights. So, you might also put in, the author has asserted their moral rights. But again, that's usually done in the context where you're being published by a third-party. It's kind of implied, if you're publishing yourself, that you're asserting your moral rights to yourself. So, it may not be necessary.

Mr. Legal, do you have anything to add to that?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I actually pulled up one of my copyright pages, and I just figured I would go through what's on it. So, pretty much everything you said is what's on it, Orna.

But I've got my copyright notice, I've got my publisher name. So, it says, published by Author Level Up LLC. I put my cover designer on there. So, a lot of designers may say you need to include somewhere in the book that the book is designed by blah, blah, blah. I also like to put it on the copyright page because it's one of the first pages of the book, and at least for me, I like to put mine in the front. And I just think that it's good publicity for the designer.

I also put my editor's names in the copyright page as well, that's something that authors may do frequently. I just think it's helpful in case somebody, again, it's more of a publicity thing, if someone likes my books, they want to know who my editor is. It sends my editor some business. I've got a line in here, it's the legalese I think that Orna was talking about, “the characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.”

And then, “no part of this book may be reproduced or used in any manner without written permission of the author, except for the use of quotations in a book review.”

And then I thank my patrons on my Patreon page. I thank them in every one of my books, and then I do something that I don't see a lot of other people do, but I put versions in my copyright page, because that helps me keep track of when I published a book. So, I just version all of my editions. So, version one, I published that on X date. Version two, x date. It helps me keep track of everything. So, I know if I'm looking on Apple or Amazon, which version of the book is for sale.

Orna Ross: Right. That's fantastic, and your legalese is not particularly so. Some of them are extremely wordy.

Michael La Ronn: Some of them are terrible.

Orna Ross: Yeah. So, I just had a look to see if that post is on the blog post yet. So, it is not there just yet, but there is a good post by our partner member, Reedsy. So, we will again put the link to, How to Copyright a Book, and it does what should go on the copyright page as well.

Michael La Ronn: Yes, and the name of that Reedsy article is, How to Create a Copyright Page in Five Minutes.

Orna Ross: Yes, 10 minutes, I think now. It's getting longer, I don't know why. Yeah, exactly. So, that's worth a look and we will have just specifically on what goes on the copyright page is a post that's coming up soon on the blog. So, we'll let you know about that as well.

But yeah, it's an important question. And I like what you're talking about there, Michael, in terms of doing the credits for your team on that page. I tend to put it on the acknowledgements page, but I can absolutely see the sense of putting it on the copyright page.

Just to note as well on the, you know, nothing that happened in this book happened in real life, blah, blah, blah, you know that quote you said. People sometimes think that by putting that in they're protected, they're not. Publishers put that line in, in order to put people who might be thinking about suing off, but it is not going to actually protect you in a situation where it is not true. So, be careful with that one.

Michael La Ronn: Yep, I agree. It's more of a CYB sort of thing that I put in there. If you've got a person named John West in your novel, you don't want them to come back on some random thing. But yeah, if it's not true, then it's not going to help you.

Orna Ross: It's not going to help you. And the thing is, it does put people off going through the suing process when they see it, so it's definitely worth having. But I just wanted to make that note, as sometimes authors think that just by having it there, they're covered. You're not.

Can ALLi recommend a book distributor based in China or India?

Michael La Ronn: Yes. Okay. Next question is from Matthew, and Matthew asks, do you recommend using book distributors based in China or India? If so, can you recommend any?

Orna Ross: Yeah, both territories that are challenging. So, we have seen a number of services come and go in both territories over the years. At the moment, we are not recommending anybody. That's not to say that it's not possible to do it, and we do have some members who are doing good things. But it's challenging at the moment to find somebody that we can recommend to the vast majority of authors.

So, what's happening is, in certain genres, certain types of books are easier than others in these two territories. I completely understand your interest in them, masses and masses of readers in English, in those territories, and also a good translation market in both territories, into a number of different languages. But they are very specific territories with particular needs. There's a huge amount of plagiarism, they're not well protected by the copyright laws that protect publishing in other territories. So, proceed with caution. Ask for recommendations from other authors who have done well, particularly in your own genre, and if you want us to check out anybody for you, just drop us an email. If you have somebody in mind, drop us an email to [email protected], and we'll either share our experience with you or check them out if it's somebody that we're not aware of, if you're a member.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and in particular with China, you have to be careful with the censorship. Everything has to be approved, and you just have to make sure that if that's a market you want to go for, that your books are copacetic there, because if they're not then you could create some problems for yourself. So, just be careful too.

Orna Ross: There's a very long list of words, crazy words, I mean, somebody was talking to me at the London Book Fair about the word die. Die is one of the words on the very, very, very, very, very long list of words that will see your book not accepted.

Michael La Ronn: D I E?

Orna Ross: D I E, yeah.

Michael La Ronn: I guess I can't get published in China, then.

Orna Ross: Well, this is the thing. Often when authors are asking this question, they're kind of thinking, here's my book, I want to distribute this in China. Just as you would say, here's my book, I now want to distribute it to wherever, through PublishDrive or Draft2Digital, or wherever. But actually, publishing into China and publishing into India is a job in and of itself. You need to culturally acclimatize to all sorts of things, essentially. Censorship is one thing, there are lots of other things.

For example, German books in China have a major difficulty with the word DIE, obviously. There's all this kind of thing going on. And then there are all these rumours built up around it because, I mean, I'm repeating the story that somebody told me, is this actually true? I haven't done my homework to check that, actually, and I'm now repeating it to Michael and to all of you. So, I'm not even 100% sure if that is true.

So, my point is, if you want to publish into China, it's not as simple as saying, here's my book, now take that off to China and sell loads copies for me. If you are serious about publishing into China, you need to, first of all, you may have questions around, lots of people don't want to publish into China because they've got issues around censorship and human rights and so on.

Then if you are okay with all of that, you've got to think about the climate there for publishing, and what it means, and how you are best, because as ever, distribution is not publishing. How are you going to market the book there? How are you going to make sure it reaches readers? How are you going to make sure you don't culturally offend?

Because believe me, there are vast differences between Western territories and Chinese, and there's a whole job of work to be done there if you want to crack that market.

It could well be worthwhile for you, but these are some of the reasons why we don't just, here is a Chinese distributor and off you go, because it is much more complex than that.

Do I need permission to write a book about a museum and a specific artifact?

Michael La Ronn: Agree. Okay. And next question, which was the last question we had teed up for the day, is from Kara, and Kara asks, do I need permission to write about a museum and a specific piece in my fictional story? The example would be writing about a real Relic that is stolen and has supposed powers.

Orna Ross: No, as a general rule, you don't have to ask permission to write about things, but very often authors want to make contact. If there is a museum that holds that particular relic just make contact. First of all, from a research perspective, it's often helpful to get people to work with you. Secondly, just from a courtesy, you know, just to let them know that you're doing it. It can be a really nice relationship thing.

But as authors, the general rule, and there are exceptions, there are people who lay down certain rules about their own things, but as a general rule, we should be free to write about whatever we want to write about.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I would put an asterisk in that. If you're writing about a 200-year-old Relic, I think you're fine. If you're writing about an Ancient Egyptian Relic or some Relic that nobody knows the history of, totally fine. If you're writing about a sculpture that is still under copyright, different story. So, I would just be careful there. But yeah, I mean, if the piece of art is no longer under copyright, I think you're fine, I wouldn't worry about it.

And if you want to reach out to a museum and ask permission, you can, but you really don't need to, as Orna said. I mean, if anything, you certainly could reach out to get more information on the history of the artifact if there are people there that happen to be knowledgeable about it, but it's not required.

Orna Ross: Great. So, that is it from our members questions for this month. We will have the link in the show notes if members want to send through questions for next time. Until then, happy writing and happy publishing. Bye-bye.

Happy writing.

Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads.

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