Imagine my surprise when my cover artist reminds me that we need permission from a vendor prominently displayed on the cover of the new novel, Among Men, and in the bulk of the story, much of which happens around a hot dog cart in New Orleans. I found a great picture and negotiated with the photographer for its use as the background for the cover, which is coming along beautifully, thanks to Michael R. Reighn, my cover artist, and now I might have to take out the hot dog cart.
I'm a take the bull by the horns kind of writer, so I took the bull by the horns, looked up the number, and called the vendor. I asked to speak to the manager and ended up with Jerry, who I assume is the manager. I can't possibly be the guy I worked for over 30 years ago because he was probably 40 or 50 then and Jerry didn't sound that old. He sounded positively friendly -- at first -- when he said, "Sure, go ahead and use it. It will be great advertising for us." When I responded in a similar friendly manner, his tone changed immediately. "We need to deal with this in a more professional manner," he said, a note of we are not going to laugh and have a good time in his tone. And he got professional on me.
He said I could not use the logo or the cart or mention the company after he found out it was for a novel, a fictionalized version of my own experiences in New Orleans and working for the company 30 years ago. He suggested I fictionalize the name as well, as John Kennedy Toole did when he called the company Paradise Dogs in his novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, which, Jerry told me, is being made into a movie with a sequel already planned. I began to see what was really on Jerry's mind.
Jerry wrote a book about the company in Managing Ignatius, which was published in February 1999, and is now experiencing a resurgence of sales due to the focus on Confederacy, which is why he is coming out with a sequel to his own nonfiction offering about the company. I own the book, by the way, as I also own a copy of Confederacy. I bought my copy of Jerry's book for a penny and there are lots more available for a penny, too. I imagine the price will go up once the movie and the sequel to Jerry's book are released. I wish him luck with his second book.
At any rate, we settled on a compromise of sorts. I will send him a finished copy of the novel and a copy of the cover so he can look it over and decide that my use is in no way defamatory and I can continue with it as planned. I do not foresee any problems and I hope I won't find the photo I bought royalty-free rights to isn't a costly mistake, though not as costly as it could have been. The photographer and I were able to negotiate a compromise that benefited us both and I will rely on my talent with talking my way out of or into whatever crops up in my path. I do not want to have to change the book that drastically or dilute the story, especially since I may have mentioned the company in the first novel, a copy of which I have sent to Jerry to scan for defamatory remarks and misuse of the company's good name.
I know one thing. The company is as much a part of New Orleans and the French Quarter with the carts on nearly every corner up and down Bourbon Street and along the Riverwalk. They can be found all over New Orleans and everywhere there is a gathering of hungry people, each vendor in the red and white striped shirt that marks him or her as a vendor for the company and purveyor of 8 inches of meat in a bun with whatever condiments will draw the hungry crowds. I ate a few of them before and after I worked for the company, but never when I was working with the company. Here's to indie publishing, even without lawyers and a high powered publisher's name to shock and awe companies willing to have their logo displayed prominently in novels the world over.