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Before You Publish > To quote or not to quote?

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message 1: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 285 comments That is the question. I'm curious, as readers do you pay attention to the epigraph at all? Do you find a quotation adds value to a story or is it just filler?


message 2: by Petra (new)

Petra Jacob | 21 comments I think it depends on the quote. Often an author will use quite an inaccessible and literary quote, which means a lot to them, but not to the reader (especially since they haven't read the book at that point, and may not know the significance). A quote that is easy to understand and sets the reader up for what the mood of the book is - eg philosophical, funny, frightening - can be good.
Do you want to use quotes? Why?


message 3: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 285 comments Petra wrote: "I think it depends on the quote. Often an author will use quite an inaccessible and literary quote, which means a lot to them, but not to the reader (especially since they haven't read the book at ..."

I'm debating the use of them to perhaps assist with theme. But, I'm not sure it's needed. Or, even wanted...


message 4: by Josie (new)

Josie Jaffrey (josiejaffrey) | 23 comments I think they’re often a bit pretentious, to be honest. They can be used to great effect where a story is specifically inspired by a quote, or where the author fabricated quotes from characters in the world in order to impart backstory and colour in an interesting and economical way, but otherwise I would avoid them.


message 5: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 285 comments Josie wrote: "I think they’re often a bit pretentious, to be honest. They can be used to great effect where a story is specifically inspired by a quote, or where the author fabricated quotes from characters in t..."

Thanks Josie 😁


message 6: by Theodore (last edited Mar 28, 2018 10:43AM) (new)

Theodore Cohen (theodorejeromecohen) | 1417 comments Pretentious or not, I use them in all of my books (except the ones in my children's series). I also include a dedication in each book. Frankly, I think they add "class."


message 7: by Josie (new)

Josie Jaffrey (josiejaffrey) | 23 comments Each to his own, Ted!


message 8: by Theodore (new)

Theodore Cohen (theodorejeromecohen) | 1417 comments Josie wrote: "Each to his own, Ted!"

Indeed.


message 9: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 285 comments Theodore wrote: "Josie wrote: "Each to his own, Ted!"

Indeed."


I've used them before too Ted, I'm just not sure readers actually pay them any attention. I do like Josie's idea of using fabricated quotes from characters though. Very intriguing :)


message 10: by Theodore (new)

Theodore Cohen (theodorejeromecohen) | 1417 comments Eldon wrote: "Theodore wrote: "Josie wrote: "Each to his own, Ted!"

Indeed."

I've used them before too Ted, I'm just not sure readers actually pay them any attention. I do like Josie's idea of using fabricated..."


Frankly, at times, I wonder if there's anyone alive out there.


message 11: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 459 comments Theodore wrote: "Eldon wrote: "Theodore wrote: "Josie wrote: "Each to his own, Ted!"

Indeed."

I've used them before too Ted, I'm just not sure readers actually pay them any attention. I do like Josie's idea of us..."


This made me smile. It is a different world than the one I grew up in, that's for sure! Let's all check for a pulse! :)


message 12: by Dale (new)

Dale Lehman (dalelehman) | 1703 comments Eldon wrote: "That is the question. I'm curious, as readers do you pay attention to the epigraph at all? Do you find a quotation adds value to a story or is it just filler?"

Depends. I usually don't get the ones other authors include, but I've used them in two of my three Howard County Mysteries so far because I had a quote that more or less fit the book . . . in my view. ;-)

One thing to bear in mind: if you're going to use a quote, it's best to make sure it's in the public domain so you don't have to worry about permissions. If it's not, you have to worry about it and sometimes pay for the privilege.


message 13: by Theodore (new)

Theodore Cohen (theodorejeromecohen) | 1417 comments Dale wrote: "Eldon wrote: "That is the question. I'm curious, as readers do you pay attention to the epigraph at all? Do you find a quotation adds value to a story or is it just filler?"

Depends. I usually don..."


I don't think that's correct, Dale...you can quote someone and give their name. I've been doing it for five decades, both in my personal and professional/scientific writings. No editor nor publisher has ever questioned it. Not once.


message 14: by Alex (new)

Alex Carver | 4626 comments I believe there is a fair use policy in existence, so long as the quoted text is under a certain number of words, and proper credit is given, you are allowed to use it.

Please don't quote me on this, I could be wrong, but you should be able to find the exactly rules/law regarding quotes and citations with a bit of searching.


message 15: by Theodore (new)

Theodore Cohen (theodorejeromecohen) | 1417 comments "Please don't quote me on this, I could be wrong, but you should be able to find the exactly rules/law regarding quotes and citations with a bit of searching."

Sir Alex of Goodreads

(;>)

But you are correct:

https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2016/...

So, there is some truth to what Dale says, though the waters are murky. I'll take the risk and use short quotes to the front of my books. For example, for the latest book of Flash Fiction:

“Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Frankly, I would absolutely love it if someone were to quote me. You can never get enough exposure.


message 16: by Alex (new)

Alex Carver | 4626 comments You know, I literally only just realised what I said there *shakes head* talk about a slip of the 'tongue'.

I'm sure whatever you use, Ted, will fall under the fair use policy and so is unlikely to cause you problems.


message 17: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 285 comments Alex wrote: "I believe there is a fair use policy in existence, so long as the quoted text is under a certain number of words, and proper credit is given, you are allowed to use it.

Please don't quote me on t..."


Excellent point Alex! I have come across the old fair use policy in my experience. I had to remove some song lyrics from my book because of this. You need to be exceptionally careful when quoting lyrics / poems because a few words can add up to a substantial amount of the whole and cost you some $$$ if used.


message 18: by Theodore (new)

Theodore Cohen (theodorejeromecohen) | 1417 comments Eldon wrote: "Alex wrote: "I believe there is a fair use policy in existence, so long as the quoted text is under a certain number of words, and proper credit is given, you are allowed to use it.

Please don't ..."


Excellent point. When it comes to lyrics, you can get in a heap of trouble. I wrote a sonnet in 2009 that opened with some lines from "The Democratic Circus" by David Byrnes.

https://www.theodore-cohen-novels.com...

Talking Heads, "The Democratic Circus," Lyrics by David Byrne. Reprinted by permission of Mr. Byrne

I had to get his permission to use these lines. As well, when I wanted to publish the sonnet in our local newspaper (as a paid advertisement) on Veteran's Day one year (I took out a quarter-page ad on the op-ed page), I had to again get his permission.

These are things you do NOT want to fool around with.


message 19: by Carole (new)

Carole P. Roman | 4588 comments Mod
Love quotes in the front of the book. Gives me something to think about when I read the book. I also do enjoy character quotes.


message 20: by Dale (last edited Mar 29, 2018 06:18AM) (new)

Dale Lehman (dalelehman) | 1703 comments Theodore wrote: "I don't think that's correct, Dale...you can quote someone and give their name. I've been doing it for five decades, both in my personal and professional/scientific writings. No editor nor publisher has ever questioned it. Not once."

Just because nobody has objected to your usages doesn't mean you're within the law. There is a "fair use" clause in the law, but it can be tricky to apply without input from a lawyer. (e.g., see https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview....) Probably nobody you've cited has noticed your usages, or if they have they didn't feel it was worth getting into an expensive legal tussle over it. Or maybe they were flattered that you quoted them and just didn't mind.

However, there can be exceptions. If you quote lyrics from a well-known song, for example, you could be sued big time because often a single line from a song is considered to be a substantial portion of the whole. Copyright owners regularly charge hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of dollars for the right to quote song lyrics, and they aren't going to turn a blind eye on someone who does so, especially if the resulting work is a money-maker. [After I wrote this, I noticed it had already been addressed.]

As a general rule of thumb, it is at the very least courteous to ask for permission to quote from someone else's work. I don't necessarily do so in a web article that's not going to make money for me, but in a book that I'm selling, yes, I'd get permission. Medium also has policies about this, which writers should understand before quoting the works of others in material posted there.


message 21: by Theodore (new)

Theodore Cohen (theodorejeromecohen) | 1417 comments Dale wrote: "Theodore wrote: "I don't think that's correct, Dale...you can quote someone and give their name. I've been doing it for five decades, both in my personal and professional/scientific writings. No ed..."

Dale...really? To use a quote at the beginning of a book, with proper acknowledge given to the author of that quote.

Really?


message 22: by Dale (new)

Dale Lehman (dalelehman) | 1703 comments Theodore wrote: "Dale...really? To use a quote at the beginning of a book, with proper acknowledge given to the author of that quote."

I'm not a lawyer, of course, but from the website I mentioned:

In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an infringement.

Are you quoting to comment upon, criticize, or parody the quote? Probably not. So it is fair use? I'm guessing that technically it isn't, although it may not necessarily cause a problem. I personally wouldn't take the chance. I'd ask for permission. If nothing else, it's courteous to do so. One writer talking about this noted that performer Weird Al Yankovic, famous for his parodies of popular songs, doesn't need to get permission from the artists he's parodying, because parody is fair use. But he always does anyway, because it's courteous and helps promote good will between himself and other artists.

That, however, is just me. I obviously can't tell you what to do, nor can I give you legal advice. I'm just stating my understanding of the matter.


message 23: by Charles (new)

Charles | 11 comments I use quotes for each of my chapters, either to give the reader a summation of what has been happening, or a hint as to what will happen in the new chapter. Like Heinlein, sometimes, I make up quotes from my characters or their heroes.
It's a lot of work, but I enjoy crafting a "mini-story" of just the chapter titles and the quotes that one could read on its own.
I've had both kinds of reactions to this--from readers who say it added tremendously to their reading pleasure, to readers who say they skipped the chapter titles and the quotes.


message 24: by Theodore (new)

Theodore Cohen (theodorejeromecohen) | 1417 comments Dale wrote: "Theodore wrote: "Dale...really? To use a quote at the beginning of a book, with proper acknowledge given to the author of that quote."

I'm not a lawyer, of course, but from the website I mentioned..."

fair use
noun
(in US copyright law) the doctrine that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.

I use the quotes to "instruct" or to "inform" my readers as to the content of my books...that is, to let them know something of the content by means of the quote. I feel comfortable with it.


message 25: by Dale (new)

Dale Lehman (dalelehman) | 1703 comments Theodore wrote: "I use the quotes to "instruct" or to "inform" my readers as to the content of my books...that is, to let them know something of the content by means of the quote. I feel comfortable with it. "

And may you never have a problem with it. (I mean that sincerely.) But I would still ask permission myself, for as a lawyer once told me about a rather different matter upon which I thought the law was on my side, "It doesn't matter what you think."


message 26: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 285 comments Seems my innocuous little question has stirred up quite the legal debate :P I really didn't intend for this to wind up in "court" so to speak. Just wondered if an epigraph was needed or wanted?

In the end though, this healthy debate spurred me on to include an epigraph in my upcoming release, but use a fictional quotation. I'm covered either way :D


message 27: by Dale (new)

Dale Lehman (dalelehman) | 1703 comments Eldon wrote: "Seems my innocuous little question has stirred up quite the legal debate :P I really didn't intend for this to wind up in "court" so to speak. Just wondered if an epigraph was needed or wanted?"

That's okay, it's always interesting to explore these avenues. I only brought up the legal issue because in the course of running a small publishing company my wife and I have run across a lot of ignorance among writers about copyright law. Ted's likely right that an epigraph taken from someone else's book isn't too likely to cause trouble, especially in a book that doesn't become a bestseller. But time and again we've run across authors who quote long passages from other people's material, and when we ask if they have permission they say, "What do you mean, permission? I cited them. Isn't that all I need to do?" The answer, of course, is, "Sure, if you want to get us all sued. But since we don't want to be sued, get permission."

And we do help with that if needed. It can be a long, cumbersome process in some cases, and may involve payment of fees to secure permission.


message 28: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 459 comments Exception to that being song lyrics in the public domain. At least that's what I've been told by a lawyer who did a presentation to a group of local writers. Also had to exclude those lyrics from my request for copy-write protection when I submitted.


message 29: by Dale (new)

Dale Lehman (dalelehman) | 1703 comments Carmel wrote: "Exception to that being song lyrics in the public domain. At least that's what I've been told by a lawyer who did a presentation to a group of local writers. Also had to exclude those lyrics from m..."

Yes, if a work is in the public domain, then no permission is required to quote it. One needs to do their homework on that, too, though, because copyright law has changed over the years, so you need to know if a work was ever copyrighted, if so when it was copyrighted, and how many years the copyright lasted under the laws at that time.

A lot of authors who provide epigraphs draw them from public domain works which is safe (no chance of lawsuits) and easy (no permissions to obtain) and cheap (free). Mystery writer Martha Grimes often uses public-domain poetry by great poets as epigraphs in her novels, for example.


message 30: by Alex (new)

Alex Carver | 4626 comments The general rule of thumb is if something is from before 1923 (I think, needs confirmation, but it's somewhere around then) it is in the public domain worldwide.
Things published after 1923 could be in the public domain as well, but it's a case by case basis for them.

Different countries have different time frames for when something goes out of copyright so if you're going to check, be thorough, something that is out of copyright in one country could still be covered in another and lead to trouble.


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