Publishers deal with licensing supplemental content for their publications on a regular basis so having solid systems in place for doing so is the next topic in my blog series, The Ultimate Guide to Producing Documentary Books. Some projects have dozens of separate agreements for content use and these contracts need to address copyright, trademarks, publicity, privacy and other interests along with standardized usage language.
Here is the only requirement that can’t be changed: Permission to use content for any purpose whatsoever must be obtained in advance and in writing.
Basically, you’ll be buying editorial rights with the extended right to use the content for marketing and promotional applications, but only in connection with one specific book title or project. Start by asking for world rights, all languages, but if that is too expensive you can narrow down the distribution. As for print runs, know your target plus a reasonable cushion and license to that number (i.e., up to 50,000 copies). Include electronic rights either in the total print run or as a separate number. With rare exception, your licenses will be non-exclusive and the term of use will run out when you hit the print run ceiling.
Whenever possible, write all the usage parameters equally across all sources so licenses are easier to track and update in the future. If you aren’t experienced in negotiating content licenses, please hire a consultant. If you are working with a publishing house, their licensing department will likely want to handle the contracts. Keep in mind some of their boilerplates are tear-jerkers.
Many documentaries provide historical context so sprinkling in old images brings welcomed variety. Think about this: photos taken 40 years ago can now be considered old enough for referencing. Salgado had just started shooting in the mid-70s! In the reverse, if your title primarily uses historical images from public or private collections, you’ll want to add in new photography that relates to the narrative for then-and-now-type studies. With countless image banks at your fingertips the possibilities are endless.
But before going crazy, make sure you have a solid direction for supplemental content. Along with photos, you’ll be considering how illustrations, maps, icons, diagrams and other pieces of art are going to work. The added content needs to stand alone as a body of work. In most cases this means every set of content has its own continuity of style as you move through the book’s pages. Make your extra visuals complementary to the main photographs while allowing them to achieve their own unique story.
Documentary books merit depth and are distinguishable from a one-artist portfolio. Adding additional content keeps your readers engaged and gives a textured mixture to the layout. Bringing in the right blend of materials is a challenge so allocate plenty of time for research and brainstorm with your team to think about different ways to pump-up the intricacy of your project.