You Ask, We Answer: Can I Quote from a Book?
Jennifer asks: My question has to do with an expert who I spoke to on the phone. She basically said, “Read my book and it will tell you everything you need to know.” Do you know if a magazine like “Parenting” would be okay with me using quotes from the book and citing the book (instead of interviewing the expert)? Does this get too promotional? I think I can make the quotes sound conversational and follow-up with expert if I need to tweak the quotes a bit. I wonder what you think.
Aargh, I hate when I get that response from a source! They don’t understand that you’re going to them only partly for information — but just as important, you need to get good quotes from them to make your query or article livelier and more readable. When people say that to me, I explain it to them like this: “While I’m happy to get background information from your book, I’d love to talk with you for just a few minutes to get some good quotes that will make my article more interesting to read. I need to provide some expert quotes, and I can’t quote from a book.”
Of course, you can quote from a book, but I would use this as a last resort — meaning you really need this source (no one else will do) and she refuses to speak to you. And even then, you need to tell readers you’re quoting from a book, not an interview: “‘Parents need to set boundaries,’ says Ima Kidd, PhD, in her book How to Have Kids and Stay Sane (Ten Speed Press, 2008).” Be careful not to overdo this — once in an article is probably fine, but you want the bulk of your quotes to come from actual interviews. I’ve written hundreds of articles, and I can count on one hand the times I’ve quoted from a book.
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