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Copyright and Quoting Others

October 6th, 2015 . by Peggy

Copyright and Quoting OthersA number of years ago, I worked with a client who was quoting others for inspiration in her book, and as a matter of professionalism, we investigated what the legal impact of this might be. Here’s a brief summary of what was discovered on our trip down Copyright Alley.

Now, let me pause here for the part where I remind you, once again, that nothing you read in my blog (or any other blog) is a substitute for quality legal advice. What you are about to read is meant as a series of interesting (dare I suggest entertaining?) observations, and nothing more. I can’t be held responsible for anything anyone may or may not do with stuff they read here. In fact, let us say that this post is meant to encourage Authors in a similar situation to seek legal advice, and avoid any sleepless nights.

 The good news is that almost all of what we discovered worked in the author’s favour, and not against her. But you may find some of this surprising.

– An American lawyer friend that I asked agreed that anybody who bothers to spend the time and money to sue for using snippets of their wisdom is generally considered to be lacking in foresight. (I believe his exact word was “Dork”.) Most people are happy to be quoted, because it helps to raise their media profile.

– If you use less than 300 words in the total work, and less than 150 words in a stream, you’re covered under “Fair Use“.

– Fair Use mostly applies to teaching and other non-profit situations, but can be used for writing that is done for profit if the amount of text quoted is small.

– If you are using material prior to 1923, you’re after copyright expiration, which is much safer but still not foolproof.

– In the case of my client, the author was quoting small amounts from a large number of people, so this ratio helped to augment her Fair Use argument, as she’s not selectively targeting any one person.

– Song lyrics and music are a very dangerous and convoluted area, and it’s just best to just not go there. (Don’t quote Lennon!)

– Quoting someone for their cleverness or wisdom is not the same as quoting their theories or other intellectual property. My client was just using uplifting quotes about life philosophy, which any bright person might also know,  and not quoting their scientific observations or commenting on their technology. Big difference.

– To be on the safe side, always credit the speaker immediately after you quote their words, not in an appendix or other reference later in the book.

– Writers quoting “wise words” rather than technology or statistics still generally seem to be more concerned with being attacked for accuracy in their wording and attributions than permissions. This was unexpected, but observed in each place that we sought a precedent.

– You can’t copyright your spoken words, and a variety of other items related to titles or marketing, but you can copyright complete sections of a book or other written work, as in a chapter or explanation of a theory. In other words, it’s been put out there by another person, clearly crediting them in the public eye, so you can’t copy that.

– There’s a surprising lack of precedents out there for this sort of thing. I referred to three books chock full of quotes from a variety of people, and there were no permissions published or other items to address copyright whatsoever. They are all rightly more concerned with protecting their copyright on their own books and layout with the quotes in them than with the quotes themselves.

– Lawyers who deal with this sort of thing spend most of their time worrying about academic and corporate intellectual property issues, and this kind of thing rarely, if ever, comes up. I admit that out of anything we discovered, this reassured me the most.

In the end, my client decided on a compromise as her strategic approach. She sent each “quotee” a flattering personal letter asking for their permission to use their quote, with a specific response date. She made sure that there was a line on the copyright page that thanked all the people that have been quoted. As far as I know, there was not a single negative response, although the Office of the Dalai Lama did respond with a beautiful letter, granting official permission!

She also modified her disclaimer in the front of the book to include a statement about the efforts she made to avert copyright problems, and a promise to remove any from future editions if there is an objection that is resolved in good faith between herself and the objector. Talk about good karma! I don’t think she could do much better than that – even the lawyer friend agreed.

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Top Kindle Indie Authors Worth Following

July 31st, 2012 . by Peggy

As a followup to my blog post for, about why women over 30 write better eBooks, here’s a list of the top female indie Authors worth following on Twitter, and definitely worth reading.

I was fascinated with how each of these women market themselves. Some have many books, others have very few. Some are wild about Twitter, and some are not. They use tools like video and podcasting to help get their eBooks out there. Their pricing is all over the map. And if you follow each of them carefully, you’ll learn more about their writing style, their attitudes about their business, and how that plays into their success.

In no particular order…

EL James


Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades Darker

Fifty Shades Freed

Karen McQuestion


The Long Way Home

A Scattered Life

Easily Amused

Click here to see all of Karen McQuestion’s Kindle eBooks

Ruth Cardello


Maid for the Billionaire

For Love or Legacy

Bedding the Billionaire

Jamie McGuire


Beautiful Disaster



Click here to see all of Jamie McGuire’s Kindle eBooks.


Tammara Webber



Where You Are

Good For You


Colleen Hoover



Point of Retreat


Zoe Winters


Blood Lust

Save My Soul

The Catalyst


Erin Kern


Here Comes Trouble

Looking For Trouble


CJ Lyons


Nerves of Steel

Sleight of Hand

Face to Face

Click here to see all of CJ Lyons’ Kindle eBooks.


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5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Wrote My First eBook

July 2nd, 2012 . by Peggy

I’m about to complete my part in eBook number 170. Here’s what I wish I’d known before I started this journey.

1. You will need to write much more than you thought.

Alice might be in Wonderland - but she's not in over her head.

I knew that I’d probably want to write more than just one eBook, in fact, I could imagine dozens that I wanted to create, but deep in my heart, I didn’t really think I’d get to be part of this many. While I’ve certainly not created all 170 alone (about 1/3 of them I did alone – the rest were collaborative efforts with some incredible people) from that first one, I gave myself permission to not do it if I didn’t feel like it. That was not realistic. It was also not professional. I recently said to someone who had just gotten through number 1, “That’s great – now do 7-10 more by the end of the summer.” She was not enthused.

The reality is that eBook success is exponential. This is a volume business. While each item that you create might be a wonderful success, it might also be a horrible failure. Long-term success depends on producing timeless content with a long life span, and creating enough content that you’re known for a body of work rather than one or two products. Besides, a pattern is easy to replicate – only the first eBook is a learning experience.

2. You must be committed to your niche.

Over and freakingover again, I say, know your keywords.

The most expensive part of any business is customer acquisition. (Aka, sales.) Once you get a client under your wing, it’s much cheaper to sell more of the same sort of stuff to the same person, than it is to get new customers. That means that you really need to know your audience, and their needs, from day 1. This is most easily discovered through keyword research. Then your job becomes very simple: just create more of that which your niche desires. Otherwise, you find yourself constantly in a state of experimentation and newness. Your niche is your reader family. Take them unto your bosom. They are actually pretty easy to feed – if they want spaghetti every night, then for heaven’s sake, give it to them.

It took me a few years to get really good at doing keyword research. In the meantime, I did a lot of guessing, and wrote a lot of lovely content that didn’t sell. Spare thyself this agony. I’ve shared the basics here in this free eBook: Keyword Cheat Sheet, now in version 4.2. Costs you nothing to both download and use.

Don’t forget you can also serve multiple niches. I write under 11 different pseudonyms (some for clients, and confidential) and each of those serves a completely different niche. I’m sure there’s crossover, but a pseudonym is like a sign that says to readers, “Hey, remember that stuff you liked? There more of it right here.”

3. The money is in affiliate marketing.

While it’s true that things like SEO and social media are extremely important, affiliate marketing allows me to leverage the networks of others. (I had heard that expression for years before I knew what they were talking about.) By making small payouts for each referral, and making it easily trackable, it means that if I just focus on creating really great stuff, I can make other people confident in recommending it.

Affiliate marketing is a fairly broad term that has a number of different meanings, but essentially, eBookers can use it to track payouts to others who help them sell more books. There is no limit to the number of affiliates you can have, or how creative you can get with it. Watch for more help with this topic from me in coming months, in things like classes and eBooks.

4. It can be extremely boring.

I admit there have been days when I feel like if I spend one more minute looking at a monitor, I’ll claw my own eyes out. To top it off, for a little over 5 years, I worked from home in a beautiful but isolated area, a small gulf island off the west coast of Canada. This meant that if it weren’t for the dog, there were days when I wouldn’t open my front door. If I were to do it again, I’d make sure that I worked in a shared office space of some kind, like I do now, and networked in the real world more, like I do now, and lived in a city or more populated area, like I do now, in Las Vegas.

Besides the lifestyle issues, I now know it wasn’t good for my writing. Isolation is often seen as a requirement of Authors, and while I’ve seen the benefits of that sometimes, I can now see that I lacked objectivity about my business in general, and certainly about writing. It definitely makes for better non-fiction writing to be part of a team, where I’m not working exclusively on my own agenda. Being able to think like a reader, instead of like a writer, is an important skill for writers of all types.

5. The ramp-up time took a lot longer than I thought it would.

Partly because I was a noob, and partly because I was unfocused, it took me a long time to learn what I really needed to get done in what period of time. The original audience that I assumed existed, it turned out, didn’t exist at all. At first, I ignored the ghost writing market. (Stupid.) I didn’t write any fiction because I assumed it wouldn’t have a market. (Also, incredibly stupid.) I chose prices that were both too high and too low. (Stupid, and unresearched.) I agonized over the little things, which it turned out was a waste of my time. I took forever to figure out that I needed to partner with others to create cool products and services.

While I still struggle with typical self-employment issues, like setting aside time for my own projects versus that of clients, I now realize that the instant success that I thought was coming was a joke. I ignored the concept of critical mass, and it took until my own product number four before many people noticed my product number one. This took over 2 years, and in the meantime, instead of recognizing that this was all part of a normal development cycle, I called myself a failure.

The lifespan of eBooks can be just as long, if not longer than printed books. They are subject to update and regular revision, as they’re not burdened by the overhead of a stock of books. This means that you can spend a lot longer ramping up an audience, building your list, your reader base, and your discoverability. It’s worth it, and it’s normal. Savour it as part of the journey.

So when I take my daughter into my lap, and explain to her what it takes to be a good eBook creator, (and those of you who know me know that I do this often…) I talk to her about technology, commitment, and taking the dog for a twice-daily walk. At six years old, she already has a plan to write a series of books about cats and Barbie. Next week, we’re doing the keyword research about that.

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