How much am I allowed to quote while writing nonfiction?
November 1, 2011 3:26 PM Subscribe
Writing a nonfiction book. I am a total quote whore. How much am I allowed to quote from my sources directly if I get this published?
posted by jenfullmoon to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I am rewriting the second draft of a nonfiction book for NaNoWriMo (I'm a rebel). At this point I'm not even close to worrying about publication, and I have no qualifications/agent/anything to recommend me anyway. However, I am not 100% ruling out the possibility of working towards the direction of publication eventually, if it ever comes out well.
I have a ton of sources I have quoted from. A few folks who saw the first chapter told me I quoted too much, but also said that I would have to get legal permission for every single quote I used if it got published, and I would not be allowed to quote much at all. I also got "it varies" when I asked how much I would be allowed to use.
So, yeah, I know "it varies" and "it depends on what the lawyers tell you" and "each source is different", blah blah that-is-not-a-helpful-guideline-cakes. I will not be calling a lawyer for assistance when I don't even have a book deal right now. But I'd rather not have to rewrite it even more times to cut/purge quotes when I can just get a general idea of how much I can use. And I'd like to leave the option of publishing open, so just writing it as is is not acceptable.
So how much typically would someone be allowed to quote in a nonfiction book? I honestly can't tell what the rule is from books I've seen, if there is any rule. 1-2 sentences? One paragraph? Some books in my research pile seem to even have an entire page quoted from another book. Basically I just want a guideline to go by so I know approximately how much I can use or not use/have to take out without having to rewrite bloody everything multiple times to work around direct quoting.
(Song lyrics are not being quoted in here, so that's not an issue.)