Since I joined in April (after attending Dan Miller's awesome "Write to the Bank" workshop), I've been very busy writing and preparing for self-publishing. My YA/teen "Potter-esque" novel manuscript is nearly complete and should come in around 80,000 words. So that's exciting. The two books I wrote years ago have been prepped for publishing through a company that was featured at WTTB. One (a spin-off on a CS Lewis novel) has already been submitted; the other (a youth ministry handbook) is very close. Given that the "day job" is very demanding, I'm pleased with this progress.
A major hurdle that just surfaced yesterday is that the submitted manuscript is dead until I obtain permission from Lewis's estate. I have no idea how to begin doing that. So far the publishing company (exceptionally well-known) has been very disappointing in being responsive to my questions in the month I've been working with them. There is no resource listed on their site for contacting actual people (like a supervisor), just a general number or email submission. So...assuming they continue to be unresponsive I may pull the plug on them and redeploy to another firm. However, the permission dilemma remains. Any ideas on how to crack through that wall? Apparently, if my spin-off is a parody then there isn't a potential copyright infringement problem. Does that mean I need to rewrite the novel?
Any guidance or ideas would be most welcome.
Ah, yes - the messy world of working with publishers. I assume you are trying to get the permission from Harper Collins:
All foreign language inquiries concerning C.S. Lewis' works are handled by HarperCollins Publishers in the UK. Please contact:
HarperCollins Publishers, 77-85 Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith, London W6 8JB, ENGLAND
Customer Service Telephone number: 08707-871724 (From U.S., dial 011-44-8707-871724)
E-mail address for international trade queries/catalogues: email@example.com
If your novel references one particular Lewis work - then yes, you'll need the permission of the publisher of that book. And if you have done a parody it may be difficult to get. Most parody's are done as just that - a parody - with no permission gotten from anyone. So this must be a judgement call on the part of the publisher you're working with.
Thank you, Dan! This is extremely helpful information and will save loads of time researching.
As a follow up question, would the "safest" approach for requesting permission be A) to include pages from the manuscript so they know exactly what they're providing permission for, or B) general in nature, i.e., make mention that I reference CS Lewis's original work in the preface (as an homage) and use one of his characters in the body of my work?
Again, many thanks, Dan! I hope this finds you, Joanne and the family well!
I would stay "general" until you get farther into the conversation.
I had considered writing Narnia novels some time ago after coming across a timeline Lewis had produced comparing Narnian History and Earth history. He had listed several events that don't coincide with any of his seven chronicles. I realized it would be an uphill battle shortly after my brainstorm when I saw a news item that the publisher was considering having more books added to the series which meant they had an author and story lines in mind already.
A roundabout method of seeking permission to get your material considered might be to contact Douglas Gresham, Lewis's stepson. I believe he is executor of the Lewis estate and generally has the final word on all things authorized by the estate. You will notice he has been executive producer of the recent movies. Until a few years ago he was living on his estate in Ireland where he invited missionaries and others in ministry to stay and take vacations (a friend of mine was his guest many years ago). Gresham has been instrumental in keeping the publisher of the Narnia books from tampering with the original text and sanitizing them. He moved recently to the island of Malta. You might be able to find contact information for him there. There was an email address of his floating around on Lewis forums a while ago but it is unlikely to still be used by him.