is the title of a quite good song by Ute Lemperer in her album Punishing Kiss, which came to mind now as I decided to bore you with the latest blow by blow (no that’s not true, I don’t have the strength to go blow by blow) of my travails in seeking permission to quote.
Re Keynes: I await an invoice for GBP 360 in order to quote Keynes, from the Royal Economic Society. I will consider myself lucky to pay them, when that day arrives. At least they grant world rights. See below.
Re Larkin: after much further work and repeated desperate emails to Farrar Straus Giroux, I received an email telling me that they will eventually, after they reduce their backlog, grant me US rights to Larkin for some unnamed fee, still waiting, but that the Canadian rights belong to Faber and Faber in London. Nicola Cloke, their perhaps appropriately named permissions editor, [Blake: Shame is Pride’s Cloke; Derman: Cloke is Faber’s Shame] doesn’t accept calls — who can blame her? — but directed me to a vastly confusing website that demands things I don’t have and threatens me with being sent to Coventry if I don’t provide them. Very discouraging.
As for Amichai, his very kind wife directed me to his agent in NY, who promptly replied, but told me that THEY have only the rights to the UK, and so I still await a reply from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who are miffed at me and won’t answer.
I could go on but I won’t. Well, maybe I will.
In brief: every publisher is busy and doesn’t really want to be bothered with permissions granting. In addition, it’s all fractal; no one owns the rights to the entire world. eBook is different from paperback, paperback from hardback. Country from country. They all require different information to grant you rights, or even to consider granting rights. There is NOTHING uniform about this at all. I am amazed at how this state of affairs can continue. You would think they would all get together and reduce the friction.
In the financial OTC world, friction is useful; it gives you a way of concealing what should be public information about pricing, and lets you gouge people a little. Similarly perhaps with real estate. But in the publishing world, I cannot imagine whom this viscosity serves. It only helps them by dumping the work onto authors.
One of the nicer people who replied to me said that if I hunt around i will find there are some people who do this for a living. I replied that I was one of them.
After the revolution it will all change …