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August 24, 2015

This week, BookLife’s panel of indie experts field self-publishing questions submitted by authors and readers via email and Twitter, and deliver answers on fair use and permissions as well as print-on-demand for children's books.

Getting Permissions

My Word Publishing, aka @MyWordPub asks via Twitter: #indieexperts Can we use quotes from well-known leaders at beginning of chapters if we give them credit?

Smashwords founder Mark Coker: There’s a good article at Jane Friedman’s blog written by attorney Brad Frazer that claims that short quotes are generally permissible without advance permission. However, a sad fact of life is that anyone can sue anyone for anything, with or without cause. Any time lawyers get involved, everyone loses even if you successfully defend yourself in a suit. Even without a lawsuit, the mere claim of copyright infringement will cause retailers to pull your books from their shelves. My advice would be to always seek permission when possible. Most of the time, the person will be flattered that you’re quoting them.

Book designer, author, and blogger Joel Friedlander: In almost all cases, the answer is “yes,” since brief quotations are covered by the “fair use” doctrine of the copyright code, but I would avoid quoting any song lyrics.

Publishing veteran and blogger Jane Friedman: Unfortunately, giving credit to your source doesn’t remove the need to ask for permission if your quoted material isn’t considered fair use. Determining whether your use is fair is not always easy and falls into a gray area of copyright law. I offer more information at this post: When Do You Need to Secure Permissions?

Lulu VP of marketing Dan Dillon: The short answer is yes, as long as the quote is in the pubic domain. Generally speaking, any work published before 1923 is in the public domain, so any quotes dating from that period should be fine to use. For quotes that are not in the public domain, the short answer is that you need to secure permission. Also, be aware that crediting the source does not remove your obligation to get permission to use the quote.

Bestselling author and blogger Joanna Penn: This is covered under the principle of "fair use." Check out Helen Sedwick's Self Publisher's Legal Handbook.

Print-On-Demand for Kids' Books

Lanien asks via email: Dear Experts: I need information on POD for children's hardback books with fulfillment capability.

"Unfortunately, giving credit to your source doesn’t remove the need to ask for permission if your quoted material isn’t considered fair use."
Award-winning author and illustrator Jerry Craft: I’ve used IngramSpark for two books that I illustrated, A is for Anacostia and S is for Southside, both written by Courtney Davis. The quality has been pretty good, and we’ve been happy with their fulfillment. Make sure you use their 70 pound paper option, the other paper was a bit too thin. The only things we missed from our original offset printing was that we were not able to have text on the spine and they don’t offer glossy interior pages. If those are deal breakers, then you should look elsewhere.

Book designer, author, and blogger Joel Friedlander: Probably your best bet in today’s market is IngramSpark, where you can print either jacketed or casewrapped hardcovers within their fully automated POD system. Keep in mind that printing these books via POD is not cheap, and you need to pay careful attention to the unit cost of the books in relation to the discount you’ll need to give to your distribution partners (minimum of 40% with Spark) to make sure your project is profitable.

Publishing veteran and blogger Jane Friedman: IngramSpark is likely your best option for hardcover print-on-demand distribution and fulfillment.

Lulu VP of marketing Dan Dillon: offers hardcover books in a wide range of formats, including 8.25” x 10.75” -- a popular format for the children’s market. Along with full-color interior, you can choose to add a dust jacket if you’d like. For a complete view of all of Lulu’s hardcover book options, visit our Book Builder.

Bestselling author and blogger Joanna Penn: Talk to IngramSpark about hardbacks. They have the best options there, although of course, full color kid's books will be expensive. You might also check out the new digital tools for publishing full color -- iBooks Author for Apple, as well as KDP Kids Book Creator, which is for content on the Kindle Fire. These digital options will likely make you better money, if that is one of your goals.

Have a Question for Our Indie Experts?

To ask us a question, simply find BookLife on Twitter or Facebook, let us know what you need to know, and tag your question #indieexperts. Every week, our editors will select the best questions and our panelists' answers will be posted on BookLife. And, if social media isn't your thing, feel free to email questions to

Some questions and answers have been edited or condensed.