Author Archives: Christine Husom

About Christine Husom

Christine Husom is a former corrections officer, deputy sheriff, and mental health practitioner. She combined her love for writing and solving crimes crafting her Winnebago County Mysteries, featuring Sergeant Corinne Aleckson and Detective Elton Dawes. Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, The Noding Field Mystery, A Death in Lionel's Woods, Secret in Whitetail Lake, and Firesetter in Blackwood Township are the first seven books in the series. She also pens the National Best-Selling Snow Globe Shop cozy mysteries featuring Camryn Brooks and a quirky bunch in Brooks Landing, Minnesota. Snow Way Out, The Iced Princess, and Frosty The Dead Man are the three books in that series.

Writing Book Reviews: Purpose and Tips by Christine Husom

There are two basic purposes for writing book reviews: helping potential readers decide whether they’ll read a particular one, and letting authors know what’s good, or not, about their book. It’s an evaluation of the book from the reviewer’s perspective.

Book reviews should be helpful to both reader and author alike, written as objectively as possible. A good rule of thumb is to highlight what the author did well employing the basic elements of storytelling—genre, plot, characters, dialogue, pace, conflict, climax—and to offer suggestions of ways to improve the story, or the writing itself, if need be.

One thing to watch for is if you can’t write a review of the book itself—genre aside,—don’t. You may enjoy books from a genre, or sub-genre, and then read one in a genre you find you don’t like. It’s not good practice to write a review criticizing the genre itself. Most people who read your review are partial to those books.  If you read thrillers, historical romance may not be your cup of tea. If you favor traditional mysteries, horror may be too graphic for you. An evaluation of a book is meant to be just that.

Another thing to be careful of is viciously slamming a book or author. A review that reads like a personal attack is not regarded as valid, and will be dismissed as such. It makes readers wonder what vendetta the reviewer has against the author. This is a mildly-written example: “I am glad that this book only cost me a penny. Maybe I’ll donate it to my library…just so I don’t have to look at it anymore.” Or the person who left a 1-star rating on a book then wrote, “This is a book I did not order and have not read. I have no idea how I can review a book I don’t have.” What purpose did she have for rating the book, and posting her comment?

On the other hand, constructive criticism is valuable to both authors and readers. If there are a number of grammatical mistakes or typos, and that is noted in reviews, it alerts the author he needs a better editor, and perhaps a team of proofreaders. An author should know if reviewers think the characters need to be better developed, or if the ending seems to come out of nowhere, or if the pacing was too slow, or too fast. The following review gives the author something to ponder: “The author writes a thriller that is hard to put down, but her sentence structure needs improvement.” It’s not written as an attack. Instead, it is constructive criticism.

If you don’t like a book, but want to write a review on it, you can be thoughtful and honest without being cruel. Think of it as a personal critique to the author. Be respectful, and leave out any personal put-downs. When you evaluate a book and post it on sites, your review is out there for the world to see. People, in general, appreciate honesty served with a measure of decorum.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series.


Filed under How To, marketing, writing

In Person Marketing by Christine Husom

As publishers and writers, we understand that if readers don’t know who we are, or what books we have on the market, we won’t sell many. Publishers have a number of advertising methods: memberships in writers’ groups, information tables at conventions and book fairs, advance reader copies (ARCs) sent to reviewers, email notifications to subscribers, author spotlights on websites, blogs, tweets, Snapchat, and the like.

Many authors employ most of those methods, too. Online marketing is important, but I’d like to talk about something that’s up close and personal, namely on-site, or in-person, marketing. People (and potential readers) genuinely seem to enjoy meeting authors in the flesh. When I’m at events with my books, lots of people look at me and say, “You’re the author?” I’ve even had a number tell me, “I’ve never met a real author before.” Meeting readers face to face sets you apart from those who strictly market via the Internet.

Joining the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime is one of the best things I’ve done as a writer. In addition to the valued friendships and great support I’ve gotten, we do a large number of events each year, including author panels at libraries and other venues, book fairs, and we get invitations to speak individually to a variety of groups. The networking is amazing. In 2016, I was the featured reader at one of our meetings, on five mystery author panels in Minnesota and Wisconsin, part of a holiday literary sale, at the SinC table at the MN State Fair and the Twin Cities Book Festival, and was one of the authors at a St. Paul bookstore for afternoon of readings and discussion.

Over the years, I’ve developed good relationships with bookstore owners and librarians. They’ve graciously hosted me at book signings and speaking events. I did eight this year. I’ve met people at book fairs, art and craft fairs, or other places, who have invited me to be the guest author their book clubs. I was at four this year. And presented writing techniques classes, and talked about my writing, to students in three schools. I was on the local radio station, and my articles announcing a new book release were published in area newspapers—because they want to support a local author.

Another valuable marketing tool is attending writers’ conventions. Readers, librarians, bookstore owners, publishers, editors, and others attend as well. This year I went to three mystery/crime conventions. They were Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, and a “Pitch Your Project” in Hollywood, organized by the National Sisters in Crime. I’ve been on well-attended author panels at conventions the last few years. They’re fun, and it’s a wonderful way to connect with other authors and new readers. The downside is they aren’t cheap and it’s a time commitment.  I spent twelve days, including travel, attending this year.

I am not a naturally out-going person, but I want to get my books in the hands of as many readers as possible, and I’ve learned people are more apt to buy books from a less-than-famous author they meet in person. I decided to go to more art and craft fairs in 2016, and registered for six. Two were far enough away to necessitate staying overnight. I sold a lot of books, added more names to my email list, and got new readers in different parts of the state. I’m looking forward to checking out new places next year. I already have ten events scheduled, including two mystery conventions.

In-person marketing involves a great deal of planning and preparation, especially if you are the presenter at an event. It can be physically demanding, but it’s also very rewarding. It is one piece of a complex marketing puzzle, and I’d encourage you to check out opportunities in your area. Visit libraries and bookstores, or send them letters with information about yourself and your books. Groups are always looking for speakers, and writers are a great choice. I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone many times, but the more personal marketing I do, the easier it is.

I’d love to hear your marketing stories.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mysteries for Indigo Sea Press


Filed under writing

Return of the Missing Mosrite, Forty-five Years Later, by Christine Husom

img_0732 My husband Dan served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War years. He was stationed in Japan and sent to Da Nang as a ground crew member in Fleet Air Reconnaissance 1. He’d learned to play guitar, and wanted to buy a good electric guitar with the extra money he’d earned in Vietnam.

It was 1969, and Tommy, a great guitarist, suggested a Mosrite, an innovative guitar made popular by the Ventures in the 1960s. The two went guitar shopping in Japan and found a red metallic Mosrite.  Dan paid $300 for it, a pretty penny in those days. But it was a pleasure to play, and had an awesome sound.

In 1970, Dan’s time in the service was ending and Mark, a fellow serviceman, offered to ship the Mosrite, and some other things, back to the U.S. for Dan. Mark had a higher rank and was allowed to ship more poundage at no cost. Dan had known Mark for some time—even shared a house with him— and had no reason not to trust him.

Dan got back to Minnesota, but his treasures did not. Dan was unable to reach Mark. Mark lived in nearby Wisconsin, and about a year after Dan got home, Mark contacted him and told him he’d had the Mosrite in a band room and someone had taken it. Dan didn’t get a good explanation of why his guitar was in a “band room.”

After Dan and I married, the subject of the missing items: a Yamaha acoustic guitar, amps, a Pachinko game, and most notably, his Mosrite guitar, came up from time to time. Dan wasn’t sure where Mark was, and his last name was fairly common, so Dan basically gave up hope of ever getting his things back.

Then in the mid-90s, a package arrived at our house. Inside it was the Yamaha guitar and a photo of Mark and a young girl, presumably his daughter. They were standing by a car with Wisconsin license plates. No note of any kind, and no return address. I did some research and found Mark’s address, but Dan didn’t contact him. He did, however, enjoy playing his Yamaha with its beautiful tone.

Fast forward to December, 2015. I was getting ready to go to an event when the doorbell rang. It was the FedEx man with a package that looked like guitar case. It was wrapped in plastic and duct tape and required a signature. My first thought was one of my kids had a Christmas gift sent to our house, instead of their own. But when I saw it was addressed to Dan Husom with a return address in Wisconsin I said, “I don’t believe it.” Forty-five years later, it appeared Mark had finally returned the Mosrite to its rightful owner.

My daughter and four-year-old grandson were there, and we decided to hide the guitar until I got home later that evening so I could see the look on Dan’s face when he got the package. In the meantime, my grandson couldn’t resist giving Dan a clue, “Grandpa the FedEx man didn’t come today and he didn’t bring you anything.” And then he led Dan by the hand to the bedroom where we’d stashed it. For some reason Dan didn’t really look at it. He thought it belonged to one of the kids.

When I got home I brought the package out, and told Dan to look at who it was addressed to and where it was sent from. He shook his head and said, “I don’t know what to think.” It took him a few minutes to cut through the wrapping and open the guitar case. Inside was his shiny red Mosrite, just in time for Christmas. He carefully picked it up from the case, again shaking his head, “I just don’t know what to think.” He examined it and saw there was a little damage, but it was still in very good, to excellent, condition.

Dan got another surprise when he opened the storage compartment inside the case and discovered ten one hundred dollar bills inside. One thousand dollars! Forty-five years of guitar rental, repair reimbursement, or guilt money? A few days later, Dan received a short note from Mark apologizing for keeping it so long. He said he had kept procrastinating. Okay.

The whole thing has made me very curious. I look at the Mosrite, and wish I could squeeze some information out of it. If it could talk, it’d be fun to ask about the places it has been, and who all has played it the last forty-five years. Had it really disappeared from a “band room” and then later returned? Was it played by rockers in bands at a variety of venues? What led Mark to return it after all that time? I doubt we’ll ever get the full story. As I doubt Dan will ever see the rest of his items. But the good news is he got the two things he valued the most: his Yamaha and Mosrite guitars. You just never know.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery series.


Filed under life, writing

A Gigantic Ball of Twine by Christine Husom

There is a lot of pride displayed in the small town of Darwin, Minnesota. And at the center of it all sits the world’s largest twine ball that was rolled by a single person. It is thirteen feet in diameter, weighs 17,400 pounds, and has a circumference of forty feet. It sits in a display case, a plexi-glass gazebo, across from the town park. Plus it boasts its own museum in an old train depot that sits behind it.

I’d seen the twine ball before, but stopped in again this past summer with a few friends. We were admiring the ball when a friendly woman emerged from the museum and invited us in.

She told us about Francis A. Johnson, a man who had lived his whole life on a farm in Meeker County. He started rolling the ball of twine in his basement in 1950. He spent four hours every day for twenty-three days. At some point he moved the ball to his front lawn, and continued rolling. As it got larger, Johnson used railroad jacks to enable him to keep the ball round. Mr. Johnson wrapped for a total of twenty-nine years and built a circular open air shed to house it, protecting it from the elements.

When Johnson died in 1989, the city of Darwin moved the gigantic ball into town.

In the museum there are photos of Weird Al Yankovic who paid a visit to the town and wrote the song, “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota,” in 1989 as a tribute.

The woman also showed us the ingenious pliers Johnson made from single pieces of wood, without using any glue, or pins to separate the pieces. They open and close, but don’t function as true pliers. He carved the smallest one from a match. The largest is seven feet tall and unfolds to be about twenty feet long. And it has twenty-four more little pliers—the smallest is less than an inch—carved on its handles. Amazing!

If you are in touring through Central Minnesota, west on Highway 12 from the Twin Cities, it’d be worth your while to stop in Darwin and take a long look at the “World’s Largest Twine Ball Rolled by One Man.”


Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series


Filed under life, Travel, writing

Selling Books at Art and Craft Fairs by Christine Husom

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~Photo with my friend and supporter, Cathy, on the left. She surprised me by coming to one of the art and craft fairs this summer.

I’d been thinking for a while about getting out to more fairs with my books, and researched all the art and craft fairs I could find around Minnesota during the summer. There must be a thousand of them. I sat down with my calendar early last spring, and started deliberating. I eliminated some because of the cost of the entry fee, others because of known conflicts, and still others because the venue didn’t fit for one reason or another.

I chose six I felt were doable, and consulted with my husband because six Saturdays out of a Minnesota summer is a lot. Plus I have a pretty full schedule. overall. Two of the fairs were over 170 miles away, and I didn’t want to leave at 5:00 in the morning to get to them, so I found reasonable nearby hotels to stay in. I’d hoped to take my granddaughters with me to one of them, and my husband to the other, but neither panned out. I got rained out of one fair and wasn’t able to go, but that’s a risk with selling books at outdoor venues.

At one of the events, I shared a booth space with two of my author friends, so that was nice for two reasons: the cost of the booth was split three ways, and I was able to bring a canopy instead of the umbrella I brought to the others. Setting up a 10 foot X 10 foot canopy takes at least two people, and I didn’t want to chance finding a willing helper at the fair.

My sales booth is made up of a six foot table that folds in two, a folding chair, table cloth, and a table umbrella with a stand that I weight down with down with fifty pounds of weights. I also put bungee cords around the umbrella pole and attach them to the supports under the table. Every once in a while a gust of wind will come up, and the weights are crucial.

I have posters made of my eight books and hang them from the umbrella. Not as classy as against a canopy backdrop, but it works. I display my books on the table, along with bookmarks I give away, and a sign-up sheet for my “newsletter.” I assure people about the only time I send something out is when I have a new book coming out. I have hundreds and hundreds of people on my email list. What a great way to get the word out to a large number of people at the same time.

Another thing that has become more and more important at art and craft fairs is the ability to take credit cards. I’ve sold many hundreds of dollars worth of books because I was set up with a Square on my smart phone. Square takes a small percentage, but if it ensures a sale, it is well worth it.

I’ve enjoyed getting out to different parts of the state and meeting new people. I do my best to invite them to my booth by smiling and saying, “Minnesota mysteries by a Minnesota author.” Some stop, others don’t.  Many like to talk, and ask questions, like, “Oh, are you the author?” Or, “Who is your publisher?” “When did you start writing?” Things like that.

Some fairs were better than others, but I always sold more than the entry fee, although with traveling expenses, sometimes I just broke even. Not figuring in the time factor, that is. I was also on a mystery panel in Wisconsin with fellow Twin Cities Sisters in Crime friends. And I’ll be with them again at the Minnesota State Fair on Read and Ride Day. Seven worthwhile marketing events in three months. I hand sell the majority of my books and it is paying off more and more as time goes on. Selling books is not always easy, but if you first sell yourself to readers, it is a giant step forward. People love meeting authors in person. I know I do.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mysteries.




Filed under marketing, writing

The Bounce Back Project by Christine Husom

Last fall, two Minnesota cities and the surrounding areas, had the privilege of participating in a community-wide study—the first of its kind in the United States. It was due to the efforts of some forward-thinking individuals, and the support of the local medical community and other partners. The study was based on the research of Dr. Bryan Sexton, Associate Professor with the Duke University School of Medicine. It addresses resiliency and happiness, and is an on-going project.

According to the website,, “The Bounce Back Project is a community initiative to promote health through happiness.” I’d encourage you to visit the website for a more complete look at the components of the project. For this article, I’d like to highlight a couple of things.

The first one is resiliency. Many of us live in a fast-paced world with too many demands. Being resilient enables us to be productive and optimistic which in turn helps our mental and emotional well-being. For me personally, when I’ve been in on-going stressful situations, I’ve had more trouble sleeping, I’m more susceptible to illness, and I’m more forgetful. And those issues often create a myriad of other problems. Learning and practicing resiliency is an important, healthy choice.

The website says, “Resilience is made up of five pillars: self awareness, mindfulness, self care, positive relationships & purpose.

“By strengthening these pillars, we in turn, become more resilient. Instead of experiencing an overwhelming downwards spiral when we encounter stress in our lives, these five pillars work together to lift us up out of the chaos we are feeling.”

Another important and fun component of the project is the “Random Acts of Kindness.”

Cited on the website, “Research has shown that performing an act of kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise that has been tested. We challenge you to find one wholly unexpected kind act to do — and simply do it!”

This past Christmas season, our city police officers handed out $50 and $100 bills, instead of tickets, to people. One woman’s story posted on the Bounce Back Project Facebook page went viral and was picked up by Twin Cities’ news stations. There are many other stories posted by people who received “Random Acts of Kindness” from strangers at grocery stores, or coffee shops, or drive-thru restaurants. There are lists of things to give you ideas on the website, along with the stories that were covered by Twin Cities’ news stations. Have a tissue handy when you watch them because they’re touching accounts.

A compliment, a note, or buying someone a cup of coffee, are easy kind things to do, and might make the recipient’s whole day. Or even his whole week. Imagine what a positive impact we’d see if more people and their communities would get involved in health and happiness initiatives. Think about it.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series.


Filed under life, writing

Murder in Winnebago County Prologue by Christine Husom

Although this book was published almost 8 years ago, it’s the first book in the series and will be new for those of you who haven’t read it.


Alvie’s need to watch was unexpected and gripped her middle with an intensity that pushed the air right out of her lungs. A middle-aged woman guided Judge Nels Fenneman to a chair at the hospital admitting desk. Alvie forgot about leaving, forgot why she was there in the first place, and dropped onto a burgundy, faux-leather seat in the adjoining waiting room. She shifted so she had a clear view of the judge between the spiky fronds of a silk plant.

The booming voice the judge had used to command the courtroom was gone, replaced by hushed murmurs as he quietly answered the necessary questions. Alvie strained to hear, but his words didn’t travel the distance to her ears. Judge Fenneman’s wrinkled face was flushed, harsh under the fluorescent lighting, his color deepening to a purplish-crimson with each coughing spasm that interrupted most of his answers.

Alvie had spent much of the past ten years consumed with thoughts of the man. Fenneman was one of the people responsible for her son’s death. When Alvie wasn’t actively despising him, her hatred seethed just beneath the surface of her consciousness—a living, growing thing with fingers that gripped her throat in the dark of night and lit fires in her head and chest.

The cycle had been the same for years: obsess about what the judge and others had done to Nolan, push it away for a while, obsess, push away, obsess.

The woman with the judge looked vaguely familiar. Alvie studied her a moment and was hit with the realization she was a younger, prettier version of Fenneman. The woman must be his daughter. She had to be. Fenneman was not only still alive, but part of a family. Alvie had never thought of Judge Fenneman as a person before—not really. He was the monster who sat on his elevated bench and ruined people’s lives.

Her world had collapsed ten years before when her son died in prison, and no one cared. Had the judge even given it a second thought? She sincerely doubted it. So much for justice.

The judge’s daughter wrapped her arm around his shoulders and squeezed gently. Alvie felt ill. Her son would not be there to offer his comforting touch when she was old and sick. The one redemption, the thing that gave her purpose for going on, was the granddaughter Nolan had left for her. Rebecca was Alvie’s own little love.

A small brunette nurse approached the admitting desk and assisted the judge into a wheelchair, fussing over him and gently patting his shoulders. She cheerfully told him they would send him home in a few days, as good as new. Alvie grabbed a magazine and bent to hide her face as the trio headed toward her. When they passed, she rose and watched them turn into B-wing. Her granddaughter had a room on the same wing.

Alvie left the hospital quietly, as usual. The mere thought of making small talk and smiling at strangers made her squeamish. At five foot nine, size eighteen, she was a fairly large woman who favored brown or black clothing, even in the heat of summer. Her dull, steel-colored hair, lifeless eyes the same shade, and flat features—devoid of expression—rarely warranted a second look. Alvie moved through life mostly unnoticed. It was her choice and suited her just fine.

She needed a breath of fresh air to fill her depleted lungs, but had to make do with hot and muggy instead. Her clothes clung to her, heavy with perspiration, by the time she reached her car. Days like that, when humidity hung in the air like fog, Alvie longed for the crisp, dry cold of a Minnesota winter day. She cranked the air conditioning to full blast in her ten-year- old, blue Chevy Impala and headed down the curving drive to the main road. It was after nine o’clock—later than she had planned to stay.

Dusk was settling, and as the streetlight came on, Alvie’s gaze was drawn to its reflection spanning across the water of a pond. Funny, she had never even noticed the large drainage area before. Alvie immediately knew there was a reason she had seen the pond that night. She had visited her granddaughter once or twice a day for a week and had not spotted the pond, not once. Until now.

The five miles to her home south of town passed in a blur. Alvie locked herself in and let out a small yelp. She paced and paced, excitement mounting with each step. Ideas bounced to a staccato rhythm in her brain as her heart pounded out its own beat. She walked back and forth late into the night. Eventually, she won control of her thoughts and gathered them into a neat little plan that had logical meaning.

Perhaps the judge would not be going home after all.

Christine Husom is the author of The Winnebago County Mystery Series


Filed under books, Excerpts, writing

Teaching Creative Writing to an Elementary Class by Christine Husom

I was invited to talk to a group of third, fourth, and fifth graders about the writing process and what goes into writing a book. This will happen tomorrow. Children are a joy to be with. It’s like they have sponges attached to their bodies, sucking in whatever information you give them.

I’ll start out by asking if they’ve ever lain on their backs and watched the clouds move in the sky, and ask them to describe what they saw, how they felt. Someone is bound to say some look like cotton. Then I’ll tell them how when it was snowing recently my four-year-old grandson told me the flakes were big and looked like cotton balls—the clouds were breaking and the pieces were falling to the ground. That’s a great concept for a children’s story.

A few years ago when I spoke to another class I made up large cards containing and explaining the elements of a story/book. We’ll touch on those.

Purpose; why do you want to tell the story?

Setting; what is the location, the time of the year?

Point of View; who is telling the story, is it in first person or third person?

Plot–Story; what are the key scenes moving the story from one point to the next and the actions of the characters?

Characters; how do you make them believable, what drives them, motivates them, what do they care about? What a protagonist or main character is, and what an antagonist is. That a character may be an animal, or a bad storm.

Dialogue; how does it help tell your story and things about your characters? I’ll ask them if their grandparents or teachers or friends all sound the same and use the same words. I’ll tell them it’s important to give their characters different voices.

Pace; what is the speed and rhythm; do you want things to move slow or fast?

Conflict, the heart of fictional plot; what is the struggle between your characters or forces? What is the bad guy doing that the good guy can’t walk away from?

Climax, or when the tension is at the highest, toward the end of the book.

I’ll show them what a manuscript looks like before and after it is published. How a big stack of papers turns into a book.

Then I’ll draw a storyboard:twelve boxes, three rows of four, or four rows of three. In the first box, write down the question the book asks. In the last box, write the answer to that question. The other boxes are the plot points that lead to the eventual answer at the end. Storyboarding chapters is a tool to create logical flow after you have determined what your book is about, and why you are writing it.

And then we’ll write a story together. I used the storyboard technique with a class a few years ago and they came up with a wonderfully creative tale. So, I best get my supplies together so I’m ready to meet my students in the morning.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago Mystery Series, set in Minnesota.







Filed under How To, marketing, writing

Library Book Tour Letter by Christine Husom



Libraries are a great place for an author to meet new readers and develop relationships with the library staff. Here is a sample of a letter I sent. It proved to be successful, and I booked a number of events. I wrote it on stationary that included a letterhead with my contact information.

Dear Library Personnel (use the librarian’s name)

By way of introduction, I am the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series that includes, Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, The Noding Field Mystery, A Death in Lionel’s Woods, and Secret in Whitetail Lake.

I am planning my book signing and author calendar for the next year, and would love scheduling an event at your library. We would structure my visit so it works best for your facility and patrons.

I usually begin my presentation with a talk, giving a summary of my background and what inspired me to write the mystery series. Then I have a question and answer session, and read a passage from one of my books, if people so desire. I will have books for sale and do signings for anyone interested.

It is a privilege to live in a state filled with people who embrace reading and support authors, especially local ones. One of my goals is to sell books, and another is to introduce people to the characters in Winnebago County, and get them involved with what happens in my stories. I am developing a solid following and want to continue growing the number of supporters.

Are you interested in holding an event at your library between January, XXXX and December, XXXX? Feel free to contact me via email or telephone. I will attempt to group my visits by area, since we have such a large state. Thank you for your time and consideration.

All the best,

Christine Husom


Filed under marketing, writing

Using Copyrighted Song Lyrics by Christine Husom

I was talking with another author recently, and we got into a discussion about using song lyrics in books, stories, or articles. She’d heard a presentation by an attorney on the subject, and the bottom line is: if you use copyrighted lyrics in your writings, you need permission from the songwriter, his or her estate, or the publishing company. It depends on who owns the copyright.

This generally refers to lyrics published after 1923, and specifically to those written after 1977, because those lyrics are not in the public domain. The best practice is to check any title you’d like to use to ensure you aren’t infringing on another’s rights. And to avoid a possible lawsuit. Here’s the website with the list of songs in the public domain,

Learning who owns the copyright is not always easy, but it is necessary. Once you obtain that information, you can seek permission and see what happens. According to a 10-30-2013 article by Chris Robley on Book Baby Blog:

“The writers and publishers of the lyrics you want to quote are entitled by law to:

* deny you the right to quote the lyrics.

* grant you permission and set the terms for usage.

* ask you to pay them any fee they want for those usages.

* ignore all your requests until you throw your hands up in the air and decide to just invent some song lyrics of your own to fit the scene.”

Have you had an experience acquiring the rights to use song lyrics, or other copyrighted material? I’d love to hear about it.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mysteries. Secret in Whitetail Lake is the sixth in the series.


Filed under music, writing