“How Do I Get Approval to Use Other People’s Quotes in My Book?”

By Diane

The questions have been pouring in for Publishing Coach Weekly! (Get the call-in information and ask your question up here.)

Here’s a question recently asked by Loretta:

“As a first time published author, is it possible to get an approval from another author to use their quote in your book, or is it best to avoid quoting other sources on the first try?”

Yes, it is quite possible, but it depends on how extensively you are quoting the person. Read this article on the interpretation of fair use of other people’s works.

Once you determine whether your quoted material falls into “fair use,” the next step is to contact the author. Most authors would be very happy that you found their work important enough to quote, and are glad for the extra exposure.

I’m assuming, of course, that you will be giving full credit to the author (name, name of the work from which you’re quoting, publishing info such as who published the book, and date).

One of the keys of “fair use” standards is

how much and how you use another person’s work. Generally you can use short quotes with attribution without even asking for permission, especially if it gives the other author added status or positive exposure. My book, Abundant Gifts, has a very short quote for every entry, and I did not have to ask for permission for those, nor did I even contact the authors.

However, in Abundant Gifts I also included a few stories from other books that I really thought fit the book. In those cases, I asked permission from the authors.

Sometimes I had to get formal permission from the publisher and pay a fee. If you are using someone’s work extensively in a case like that, you need to write not only the author for permission, but the publisher as well. Permission to reprint fees vary; they can be $25 to $250, depending on what you want to quote, and the publisher’s policies.

If the author you want to quote is self-published, they would probably own full rights and can grant you permission and charge a fee (or not) at their discretion.

Make sure you get everything in writing, needless to say.

To summarize, it’s always good to contact the author, even if it’s a short quote.  You may connect with someone who will help promote your book. Make sure you give full credit. Get any permission in writing. If you’re quoting extensively, be prepared to pay a fee (offer it even if you’re only dealing with the author; they may turn it down, but your offer will show good will.)

If it’s all too much of a hassle (as in, you can’t get in touch with the author), then consider leaving out the quote.

(Comments welcome! And don’t forget to ask your own question and attend the Publishing Coach Weekly teleseminar, or listen to the replay.)

63 Comments

1

Hi I am writting a book teaching other about how to do things and I want to know if I could put in my book refernce to Businesses and public knowelde things such as like the copyright office. How I would do that and do I need others premission and How I go about that. Want to make sure I’m doing the right thing and if I can’t you it why?
Thank You
Sincerely,
Ellen

2

Ellen, if the information is public knowledge, you can include it in your book, no worries. You need permission when you are quoting from someone’s origianl work. If you need permission, go to the publisher; they have systems in place to take care of that. Or if it’s from a self-published book, go to the author directly. Most authors would have a website, Facebook or LinkedIn contact info, or some way to reach them.

3

Diane, I am finding a lot of very mixed information about this topic online and it’s downright scary. I am about to publish a book that currently has in it quotes by the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, The Buddha, don Miguel Ruiz, and so on… quoting the Buddha, I’m sure, is not a problem. But what about the Dalai Lama? What about song lyrics, for example, if I, of course, give the same credits that the album gives credits to (songwriter, producer, etc.). Some threads online are saying copyright offenses can be extremely expensive (even if I quote the original author/writer).. so I’m almost ready to throw in the towel. What should I do? I can’t possibly reach and contact every person I want to quote in the book.. What if they’re dead? Does someone still have rights to what they’ve said? If so, how do quote books have hundreds of quotes in them? Please help.. I’m confused and discouraged. :/

4

I would be cautious about song lyrics-I have heard that could be troublesome. Look up the copyright laws and fair usage. Short quotes are usually fine (up to 250 words). But if you’re quoting more than that, you need to get permission. You should have kept track of the source. If you have that, and it’s from a book, you can contact the publisher. They have permissions departments and will tell you how much you may have to pay (if anything) and how to credit them. I had to do that with some of the stories in my Abundant Gifts book. It really wasn’t too bad.

I do suggest you have an intellectual property attorney look it over and advise you.

5

Thanks for getting back to me, Diane. I’ve decided not to include song lyrics or anything of the sort, but what about quotes by the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa? Considering the source, I’m pressed to assume they’re all about sharing the love.. wouldn’t you agree? I’m not pretending I’ve said those things, of course, credit is properly given where due, but if I still to short quotes (we’re talking a few words), it sounds like I should be okay.

6

what about stories other people have told you? how does chicken soup do it?

thanks,
erik

7

For other people’s stories, you need to get their written permission. I had to do this with the stories in my book, Abundant Gits. I also made sure they felt ok about how I worded the story. I suspect that the stories in Chicken Soup also have signed releases to be used.

8

Hi just wanted to ask about Chicken Soup actually and have seen you mention it above. If one collates anecdotes and uses them in a book, what are the legal requirements, you mention a written permission but would such contributors be paid. Thanks a mil.

9

Hi Diane,
I created a website for a not-for-profit called Spreading Gratitude Rocks. As I understand it reposting youtube videos in covered under the agreement with youtube. I am unclear on quotes. If I take a quote (line or two) from a youtube video of something someone said in a video, for instance, “When you know better, you do better.” – Oprah Winfrey
Is that OK? If I heard a speak, or saw a speak of someone on TV or in person, and quote them…is that OK?

Lastly, with YOuTube…..can I use part of a clip of a YOUtube video in a not-for-profit video, and credit the original video in the credit roll at the end?
Gratefully,
Julia

10

Hi
I am writing my first novel about love and in the prelogue, I have mentioned only one single quote from “Seven Words of Jesus and Mary: Lessons from Cana and Calvary”. so do I need permission to use this in my novel or Is it fine to include without any permission?

Also I would like to clear my doubt regarding the places that generally writers mention in their novel. Is there any permission required to use the true names of the shops and roads in any context? or they are all imaginary??

Please do get back so that I can proceed further and complete my book as soon as possible. I will be very greatful. Thanks in advance.

Thanks & Regards,
Jyoti

11

Julia,

I can’t speak authoritatively on this, not being an attorney. However, if you use only short quotes AND you give full attribution, I would think it would fall under fair use as in print. Check the government’s copyright page. But most authors and celebrities would be happy for the free exposure. The real issue is plagiarism, when someone uses a lot of material and doesn’t give any attribution.

12

Katie,

When you contact the publisher or author for permission, they usually tell you whether there is a fee. Publishers usually do charge. If a book is published by a traditional publisher, they are the ones you need permission from. If self-published, contact the author and then it’s up to him or her whether you’ll be charged.

13

Hi. I am compiling a simple book of quotes from various sources. All have less than 250 words. I want to put the quotes together with photos I took so it would be a self help book of sorts. These are quotes I have sent to others during their times of stress. As long as I give credit to the owners of the quotes, I believe I should be okay, correct? Now to work on a publisher. Thanks, Kim

14

Hi Diane

I am writing ebook on my son stories and would like to put quote in the beginning for all the stories.
each story with a different quote from different author.
For example:
“Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell, the name will carry” – Bill Cosby.

And the stories are real one and not taken from any material. In this case, do i need to get permission from the owner of that quote?

Thanks

15

I heard that quotes made before 1923 are public domain and you don’t
Need permission to use them? Please let me know if this is correct.
Thank you
Miriam Schiff

16

Miriam, I believe you are correct but check with the US copyright office to make sure.

17

Raj, You should be fine with short quotes you attribute, like the sample you gave. See the government’s documents on copyright for the last word on this, though.

18

Kim, since you are selling a book made up largely of quotes from other people, you might need permission from the sources. See the government’s documents on copyright for the last word on this. It matters what percentage of the whole book is material drawn from others as opposed to your own stuff.

19

Diane,
I’m self-publishing a math puzzle book titled Pirate Math. Each chapter begins with a quote. People I’ve quoted include: John D. Rockefeller, Edward de Bono, William Butler Yeats, Piet Hein, and Andrew Mercer. They are all from the 20th Century. The quotes are all less than 25 words. The text is about 300 pages. I feel just giving credit to them is sufficient. Am I correct? However, I’d also like to use a quote spoken by Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: “Not all treasure’s silver and gold, mate.” Do I need to contact Disney for permission?
Thanks.

20

Michael, as long as you attribute the quotes as to where they came from, I think you’re fine. They re short quotes and if anything, give added exposure to those you are quoting. Some are probably in the public domain anyway. Disney might be more protective, but I doubt you’d have ANY trouble with that quote.

21

Hi Diane, I am writing a book using several quotes from Bruce Lee. The book is largely based on these quotes and explaining their meaning and application in our every day lifes. Bruce Lee died in 1973 but I am wondering whether I need permission from his family before using the quotes. What do you think? Bruce Lee never actually published these quotes but were published after his death. Thanks!

22

Good afternoon!

?How is possible to use someone else topics or the topics idea in our book which is written:”All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or any means: electronic, mechanical, ….., without the prior written permission from the publisher”.
While we referenced at the end of chapter of book or at the end of book. Is there necessary to request written permission from publisher or not?

23

Hi Diane,
I have created a day-time planner and would like to use 5 or 5 Oprah Winfrey quotes. I’ve picked them from different internet sites. Since that are only one-liners, do I need written permissions even if I place her name next to them?

24

Hi, I am writing a book about birthing. In Australia we come under the Copyright Act 1968. I want to include a quote from a Government Document that I sourced from the internet. I want to do a direct quote of 95 words. Do I need to seek copyright permission for that amount of words?

25

I don’t think so; I think it would fall under fair use. Just make sure you say clearly where you got it from.

26

I’m not sure. Usually people would welcome the publicity. And since you got it from a public site … but I’d consult an attorney to be sure.

27

[...] Go for it – WITH permission. Visit the author’s website, try to send the author an email, ask them if it is okay and/or how the author would like you to go about using it in your story. The author might be excited for you to use it as long as you use a footnote or some other identifier. Remember that authors are writers, too. They understand how long it takes to write a novel and how hard it can be. Most of us will want to help you. We just don’t want to be taken advantage of either. Mutual respect is the key. In fact, here’s this to help you: “How Do I Get Approval to Use Other People’s Quotes in my Book.” [...]

28

I’m writing a book. I’ve found two quotes I’d like to use one from Lady Mary Wortley and another.How would I go by using those famous lines?
Thanks

29

Annmarie,

Depends on how long the quotes are and where you got them from, and how you plan to use them. Check the copyright office of the government for latest rules.

30

I am writing my second book and sometimes remember reading a book or books that relate to what I am writing. If I just take a sentence such as, Dale Evans says in Healed Without Scars, one of the reasons Jesus came to earth was to open our eyes to the Fatherhood of God and what that means to us. Do I need permission if I state it like that?

31

I’m writing a self help book and I am using picture quotes from the internet as examples in it. Would this be considered public domain or would I need permission? Some would have names like Nelson Mandela referenced after the quote but some are just pictures that aren’t reference, I was just going to reference the website which I got them off of.
Thanks

32

I am writing my first book, it has many parts where I added some poems. Would I need permission to use other’s poetry?
Always L. (Ti.xo)

33

Lynn, likely you will need permission for poetry. Check out the copyright laws on that. And ask the poet; some may allow you to use it. Try to think of any advantage to them you might offer, such as the exposure they would not otherwise have.

34

Denis, Good question! Situations like this I”m sure are being addressed, but I confess I’m not up on it. I am pretty sure you would need permission, as those people either got it from someone else (without permission) or created it themselves (not the quote, but art using the quote would be considered an original work). Contact the website owner for permission.

35

Janene, I don’t think so. It would fall under fair use and you are giving credit. Plus, in a way what you’re doing in paraphrasing, sounds like.

36

Hi Diane,

I am planning to self publish a book of quotations under creative commons. I have collected these quotes from various newspapers over the years. Do I need permission to use these quotes?

Thanks
Shoba

37

Diane:

I’m writing a first book; it’s a future history of the United States; it has forty-eight stories; each of the stories has two quotes at the beginning, some from Shakespeare, the Bible, the Founding Fathers, so forth – I also include occasional quotes from 20th Century persons: each quote is shown as such, with quotations marks, attribution, date – (probably like in your book, Abundant Gifts) – would using such quotes fall under fair use, without requiring me to contact these persons or their representatives? Thanks much for any guidance.

38

Steve, It sounds like the kind of quotes you plan to use would fall under fair use. But do try to cite the source.

39

Shoba,

I would consult an intellectual properties attorney about this. Because your whole book is based on quotes, as opposed to something like Steve is doing, it could change the picture.

40

Oh, and thank you for your help!

41

Diane,
My question has somewhat been answered above but I’m hoping to get some clarification. I am looking to write a book that will mostly be comprised of peoples life stories that will be submitted by them. I understand I will have to get their written permission. Do I have to hold the exact copy of their written consent? Do I have to have a lawyer type up a release form? How do I make sure to be clear about any compensation in the event their story is picked for the book?

42

Hi Diane, What if someone tells a story that happened to him during a conference and also later on to the press during an interview. Is it possible to tell the story in your own words without breaching copyright? Thanks for the nice blog!
Patrick.

43

Patrick,

I suggest you research this further through looking up copyright law and/or consulting an attorney. I don’t want to hazard a guess.

44

Jess,

I would put everything you want to be clear (including compensation) in the agreement. I don’t think you need an attorney for that. When I’ve run such things by an attorney it seems like being clear and complete is the most important thing.

45

Can I use snippets of quotes with proper attribution to them in my book? For example, in the opening chapter I open with a quote, and then go into my own words of a case study/scenerio/long passage.

Do I need to ask permission? It will be less than 250 words. I just wanted to quotes to be used to highlight my lengthy message.

46

hi, am compiling quotes on a particular topic and I will be doing some little writings too to explain some of the quotes and to put in some od my personal quotes too. how do I go about it. thanks

47

Hello Diane,
I was wondering if I were to post a question on a site, such as Reddit (a crowd sourcing opportunity), and wanted to publish the answers I got in a book; how would I go about doing this legally. Everyone has screennames so the site is pretty anonymous and I wonder if simply disclosing the purpose of the question would be sufficient enough to protect myself from lawsuits.

Thank you in advance!

48

Kyra, I don’t know, you would have to ask an attorney that question, or research it further. These are the kinds of questions that arise in the current fast-changing environment of social media and technology, and my hope is that someone with expertise is keeping up with it all.

49

Funmi, If you are just quoting someone briefly, mentioning their name is probably sufficient. They might welcome the extra publicity. If it’s extensive, or you’re building a lot of your own book around their ideas, you need to contact them for permission.

50

Annalise, Usually in such cases you can just quote the person and give the name, where it came from when the quotes are so short. Most authors would welcome the added publicity.

51

Hi Diane,
Is it OK to use poems from people who died a long time ago in my ebook? For example, I would like to use a poem by Emily Dickinson who passed away in 1886. There is another poem from Percy Bysshe Shelley who passed in 1822. These poems are perfect for the points I am making in my creative writing. I have read these poems many times from many different sources over the years, on poetry websites, blogs and a few books I bought over the years. So who do I give attribution to when I have been aware of these poems for over 20 years?
Thanks for your help.

52

Hello Miss Diane,
What about reprinting of comments or reviews such as these on this site? I am researching a person and have found some (all positive) comments with names and cities of those who left the comments. The comments or reviews are usually a sentence or two, but may go as long as a paragraph or two? Are these allowed to be used with credit to the internet site source? I really can’t find a “Tom Smith” in “New York, NY,” and ask for permission.

53

Anthony,

Again, it all depends on how much you’re quoting and whether these poems are in the public domain. You will have to research that.

54

Larry B,
I really wouldn’t know. You’d have to be more specific for me to answer. It seems to me that a lot would depend on your intent.

55

Hi Diane:

I am writing and self-publishing my first e-book. I would like to cite several articles to back up my points. Do I need to contact each author or will citations suffice?

Thanks for your time.

56

Hi Diane,

Can I reference a sermon I heard if I give credit to the Pastor & church I heard it at? I wanted to use the Sermon title and one of the references that was described in it. It was a perfect illustration to what I am writing about. Thank you.

57

Hi Diane. I am making a compilation book of people’s experiences with motherhood. Is there something I need to have them sign so they don’t come back to me after it is published and ask for money or their story to be taken out?

58

I am collecting personal stories and opinions to publish a book to help others. I will have a written release clause stating that if they submit their story, they effectively give me permission to publish their stories so long as there are no identifying names or places.
Does this need to be signed or initialed by the person submitting the stories?
Is this enough to cover me to go ahead and publish their material? Does it mean they should receive royalties as well?

59

Dear Diane,

I am writing a biography about a family member. Can I use quotes that were made about them that have been published in newspaper articles or quotes she made if I reference them?

60

Amy, yes you may do that I would think. It’s only when someone is famous and the quote is from a book that you would need to be concerned.

61

Patricia,
Yes, the release needs to be signed or it means nothing legally. Signed, not initialed. They would not receive royalties.

62

Penny,
It’s always good to give full reference and, if possible, mention it to the pastor, especially since you’re using the title.

63

Janay,
Citing is always fine. If you actually quote, it depends on how much of their material you use compared to yours. Yours should always be much more than what you quote, or else it’s really a matter of getting permission to use the material.

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