Most authors of first books rightly spend their time focusing on preparing and perfecting their prose, assuming that obtaining image permissions will be relatively straightforward. It’s something you don’t need to deal with until the manuscript is finalized, right?
Not so fast.
Not only could including images in your book cost you more money than you might think, but getting permission can involve several steps that you might not expect.
Regardless of how many and what type (color or black and white) images you hope to include in your academic book, here’s what you need to know about the steps and fees involved.
If you want to include color images or 10+ images, the press might require funding.
University presses are non-profits, but they need to consider books’ economic prospects. Sometimes even the most straightforward books (under 100,000 words; text only) can lose several thousand dollars.
Several features, including a large number of images or figures and color images can make the book financially unrealistic for university presses. In such cases, presses might only be able to publish the monograph with funding to offset some of the costs (sometimes called a “subvention“).
So, if you hope to include any color images or more than 10 images total, be sure to ask your editor before the contract stage about whether these features would be feasible for the press.
You will need to obtain copyright permissions (and pay associated fees, as applicable).
Presses pass along several responsibilities (and costs) to the author: determining a work’s copyright status, obtaining copyright permissions (if applicable), and navigating the complexities of fair use (“fair dealing” in the UK). While presses usually send authors a detailed guide covering copyright basics, navigating copyright can be fraught at best (especially when working with material from other countries).
Most presses require authors to pay copyright fees associated with any material printed in the book. Sometimes—especially in the case of famous works or artists—these fees can be exorbitant and non-negotiable, and permissions can take a long time to obtain. So, do not save this work for the last minute.
You will need to pay for high-resolution scans.
Most presses require high-resolution images (usually 300+ dpi at the final size). Do not expect to be able to use the surreptitious pictures you took with your cell phone; instead, you must obtain legitimate, high-quality scans (or images) from the work’s holder (library, museum, archive).
Most entities charge a fee to produce these scans, and commissioning them is your responsibility.
You will need to obtain permissions (and pay again) to publish the high-resolution scans in your book.
You might think that once you pay for the high-resolution scan, you’re done, right?
Paying for the scan entitles you to have it (and look at it), not to publish it for others to look at. So, in addition to obtaining copyright permissions (and possibly paying a fee), commissioning the high-resolution scan (and paying a fee), you will also need to obtain permission to publish the high-resolution scan in your book (and, you guessed it, pay a fee). Each entity has its own permissions paperwork and guidelines.
Top Resources on Images, Copyright, and Permissions
- Susan M. Bielstein’s Permissions: A Survival Guide.
- The Association of University Presses’ exhaustive, “living document”: “Permissions FAQ.”
- Oxford University Press’s guide “Copyright Permissions”.
- The University of Chicago Press’s guide “Author’s Permission Guidelines.”
- Any specific material your target presses have published about copyright and permissions, usually found on a “for authors,” “preparing the manuscript,” or “for authors under contract” page.