Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Lately, I've been working on the grammar group book. It's going to be sort of like the Postsecret book, but with the best grammatical pictures from the Facebook group. The problem is that I have to get permission from every person whose picture we want to use, and people have been surprisingly reluctant to give that permission.

Some people have asked to be paid, which is not unreasonable, but my publisher has ruled that out (and I certainly can't afford it). I've sent more than 2,000 messages to people on Facebook soliciting permission to use their pictures, and fewer than 200 have responded. Some of the 200 pictures are too blurry or too small to use, or they're just not funny enough. Facebook has a limit of around 100 messages that you can send per day, and I've maxed it out almost every day for the last month.

My readers constantly surprise me with their ingenuity, so here's my question for you guys: what approach would you take for this? I can continue to send messages, which is time consuming and hasn't been very successful so far. I also posted a message on the Facebook group's main page, and have mentioned it several times on this blog. Any other ideas?


Anonymous said...

People probably feel that they are entitled to some financial payment in exchange for helping you create the book, especially because the pictures being used originally belonged to them, and that is going to be the main content of the book.

While I understand that you are not in a position to be able to pay them now, you will be when the book sells. Offering to pay them a small percent of future royalties on book sales could be a fair solution. Obviously a large percent will be retained by you / the publishers, however, you could share a prorated percent with the people who contributed the content toward the book.

I think that most people will be much more likely to give you a release if they feel they are being treated fairly and if they have a financial incentive to do so. You could have them sign a simple royalty sharing agreement in exchange for a release to use their picture / content in your book.

Sharon said...

You're right; they're much more likely to cooperate if they're being paid. That's true in any situation. Unfortunately, that's not up to me. my publisher is absolutely against paying for the pictures.

Anonymous said...

Your publisher is most likely against paying for the pictures from their share of the profits.

That's not to stop you from paying for the content from your share of the book royalties - you could do so in an agreement between you and the contributor directly, it would really have nothing to do with your publisher. Essentially you would be sharing a portion of your royalty payments in exchange for getting help with using other people's pictures.

mrk said...

Another option: Creative Commons.

Send your contributors to the Creative Commons Foundation at creativecommons.org, and ask them what, if any, license they'd be willing to offer you. Those that offer something WITHOUT Non-Commercial restrictions you can snap up. This lets people retain some rights (which may be more important than you think), and lets you commercially exploit it.

If your publisher doesn't like the non-exclusivity of the license, politely suggest that they either cough up the dough to buy an exclusive or get off your back.

Anonymous said...

You really SHOULD pay them. It's their work that's going to make this a success, there's no reason you should be profiting on their backs without kicking them back something.

Can you at least offer them free books?

Anonymous said...

SEN, I'm not sure why these comments seem to think that the photogs are "deserving" of royalties or some other financial incentive. Granted, it is their right to deny you license to use their photo, but, they alone, would not be making this book and it was your idea.

I'm wondering if you could do a facebook ad (I'm not sure how much that costs) that would post on the left side of the screen where you could (a) solicit licenses and/or (b) solicit new images (with licenses).

Also, the summer time is probably going to be pretty tough on finding students trolling facebook all day.

best of luck.

Anonymous said...

While the book would not be made without SEN, the content / group would also not be successful, without the contributions from the members who have donated their pictures. While the majority of the royalties should go to Sharon as the author / originator of the book, it is not unreasonable to think that a payment would go to those who help contribute content and give their pictures. Much like magazines pay papparzzi for their pictures in exchange for the right to use that content in their magazines. It seems she may have a difficult time getting permission otherwise.

Another altnerative Sharon, would be to offer them a nominal upfront payment from yourself directly (again not involving your publisher) out of the money received from your book advance.

Jennifer said...

I wonder if part of the problem isn't necessarily financial but just a sort-of realization that people are "giving away rights" (as they perceive it, at least) to their work. (However much work it was, of course, is debatable.) That being the case, I wonder if you wouldn't have better success if you asked people to either write a mini-release when they send you the photos to begin with, or if you respond to them right away once they send you/post their pics. I think ultimately, people send you what they send you for some level of recognition. If you can "get at them" while they are still so pleased with themselves for their clever findings, you may find that you have more amenable responses to your requests for permission.

Of course, that may be entirely impractical for where you are in the stages of your book -- but it may be something, at least, for stuff that continues to come in.

And the earlier post about facebooking being slow during the summer months is probably a big factor as well.

Sharon said...

True, Jennifer. Facebook is slower during the summer.

Thank you, everyone, for your ideas. I'll present some to my publisher and agent, and let you know how it turns out.

Anonymous said...

As one of the people who has been solicited, my position is that I have no incentive to help someone else profit by using something that I have shared with Facebook users gratis.

I am entirely sympathetic to the idea of shared royalties (although this would be time-consuming venture and costly to administer), or even an offer of 'in-kind' compensation such as an agreed upon number of free books (although this too would likely be more costly than the royalties generated).

Frankly, I think you've encountered one of those difficult breaches between digital and print culture, and I'll be quite interested to see what (if any) solution works.