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The Successful Author

Citing Sources for Quotes in Books

Sources for Quotes

Each chapter in my friend’s book starts with a quotation. Most of the quotes came from internet sites. She wonders if she needs to include a page citing sources where she obtained each quote. Here’s what I said to her.

For Traditionally Published Books

For traditionally published books, your publisher will have its own requirements for you to follow. And each publisher likely has a different approach. In addition, they also have a legal team that will help keep you and them out of legal trouble.

In general, they will want you to attribute your source. I’ve even heard of one publisher who insisted on a signed release for each quotation. This is burdensome and a good reason to not use quotations.

For Indie Published Books

If you are indie-publishing your book, my opinion (not legal advice) is to cite all your sources. In my books, I try to avoid using any quotes, in any way, from any source. That’s the surest way to avoid getting sued for plagiarism.

However, in your case, this gets messy because the website where you found the quote may have copied it from someone else—that is, they stole it from the original author. Then you perpetuate their plagiarism—and their crime.

Final Thoughts about Citing Sources

If you can remove the quote and put the concept in your own words, that might be your best approach.

I am not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice about citing sources. It’s just my opinion. For a great resource on this subject—as well as other important legal considerations for writers—check out Helen Sedwick’s excellent book Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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