Etiquette for Using Quotes for Promotion?

I have a question I want opinions on, but first, a story.

A male friend of mine told me he was getting teased because he wanted to read Divalicious! Book 2, until he showed them that he knew the person quoted on the back cover, which they thought cool. That was me — an excerpt from my review of book one was prominently included.

The part that surprised me was that I was completely unaware of this. Now, I’m not thinking that the publisher should have to ask permission or anything… when I write, I put the material out there for public consumption, and as long as it’s properly credited (which includes spelling my name correctly), I have nothing to say. But I did think it would have been nice to have been notified.

Even nicer would have been if they’d sent me a copy of the book. If they think my praise will help them sell the work, sending a comp copy is a nice thank you.

Now, your opinions. Is that expectation out of line? Is a note the most I should look for? Or is that unnecessary, too?

32 Responses to “Etiquette for Using Quotes for Promotion?”

  1. Kevin Melrose Says:

    “Out of line”? I don’t know. Maybe a little unrealistic?

    Back when I was a newspaper journalist, I was occasionally quoted on book jackets and video covers. But I can’t recall ever being notified.

    Usually, I’d either stumble across the quote while in the bookstore, or a friend would call me after discovering it.

  2. Pitzer Says:

    If we plan to use a quote on a printed item, either the creator or myself ask permission. Just seems the right thing to do.

    If it’s used within the “industry” as in sent to Diamond or posted on CBIA, I normally don’t.

    And yeah, I try and get comps out to the quotees, but I know of a few that haven’t been sent some… I like to hand deliver if possible, just to have that face to face at a show. For instance, David Mack on Johnny Hiro.

  3. Susan Says:

    Like Kevin, I have never been notified when quotes were used by the publisher. I wrote reviews for School Library Journal and I always seemed to just stumble across my words in a catalog or on a book jacket by accident. It’s a weird experience. SLJ reviews from comp copies, so I never received or expected a second copy.

  4. Jay Faerber Says:

    I use quotes all the time on the back covers of Dynamo 5, and it never occurred to me to notify the person I’m quoting. I can see your point — it is a nice gesture and I should probably be more thoughtful. And I can see why you’d expect this — you send out emails to creators when their books are featured on your website. Which is great, but to my knowledge, you’re the only person who ever does this. Sending comp copies is a good idea too, and something else I never thought of.

    ~ Jay

  5. Chris Arrant Says:

    I’ve had quotes pulled from what I’ve written. In most cases they ask ahead of time, but when they don’t it’s an awkward surprise.

    Also, I’ve found out that the latter who don’t ask, usually use the venue I write for in that case instead of my actual name. Newsarama, for instance, carries more weight.

  6. Dan Grendell Says:

    I have quotes pulled on a fairly regular basis, and I have yet to ever be asked or notified. Ever. Much less be given a comp copy. Even more interesting is when a publisher uses a carefully chosen quote from a mediocre or bad review to promote their work, which has happened on occasion.

    I just chalk it up to the way things are. I’d prefer more courtesy, but…

  7. Nat Gertler Says:

    On a practical level, it can be a good idea to send someone who gave you a review worth quoting the later volume, because it may generate further review or comment from them. You want the people who like what you do to be talking about it.

    But I don’t think there’s a real moral debt there, unless one does an extensive quote (although I’ve never seen a legal challenge to review quotes being “fair use” – it’s an interesting question, in that such quote use is commercial in nature.) The publisher does get use of your words, but the reviewer (or the publishing source) gets cited, and gets their own promotion and exposure. It seems to me that a key step to reviewer fame is to have review quotes splashed around. (Which leads to another thought: that the way to become a famous reviewer is to give strong reviews to low-quality works, where they will not be able to find good quotes from already-famous reviewers.)

  8. James Says:

    Not being in publishing I have no real experience to speak of but I find it surprising that people are not notified when a pull quote is being used for promotional purposes. One thinks common courtesy and all. I think the expectation of a comp copy might be a bit much though.

    I think using pull-quotes from reviewers as promotional material firmly falls under fair use. Any reviewer who tried to raise a stink about it would have trouble making the argument that while they put their words and opinions out there for public consumption they did not mean for this particular vein of public consumption.

  9. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Dan, If I’m remembering correctly, in New York state and some European countries it’s illegal to misquote a critic. It’s a shame thats not a universal law.

  10. Greg McElhatton Says:

    I’ve very rarely been asked in advance (although there are notable exceptions, such as Viz) and I honestly don’t expect it. Would it be nice? Absolutely. But I don’t think it’s standard operating procedures in any sort of entertainment medium, really.

    (That said, I do think a comp copy really should be sent. There’s one publisher whose stuff I used to get review copies of–but no more–and I’m trying to think of the nicest way to ask if a recent hardcover of theirs which used an extensive quote of mine could be sent to me for my own library. Which I think is fair, but I undersand if they don’t.)

  11. Joy Says:

    My experience from working in book publishing marketing is that permission is not generally sought for pull quotes from published reviews. However, if the words were written/spoken in a different context, such that the quote is more of a personal blurb/promotion spiel rather than a review excerpt, permission is sought. But specific practice for the more ambiguous situations (like a published blog post that is not a formal review) probably varies by publisher, though.

  12. Heidi M. Says:

    I don’t think I know of anyone who has ever asked permission to use a blurb.

    Now has anyone ever sent a thank you.

    And in my opinion, that’s fine just the way it is. Anything more gets into the whole “conflict of interest” area.

    Which of course is rife in comics in particular anyway, but there you go.

  13. Jane Irwin Says:

    Yipes. You got comp copies from me, right? ;)

  14. thekamisama Says:

    I once chanced upon a quote of mine used in a promotion and felt overwhelmingly flattered.
    I doubt anyone has ever asked a media critic for books, films, or television to use a quote. But I can see how at least giving you a ‘heads up’ might be benefical.

  15. Jennifer de Guzman Says:

    I’ll send a comp copy if I solicit a blurb from someone (such as Jamie S. Rich’s blurb on the Paris GN). A lot of the time the reviewers whom we quote are on our review list anyway, so they’ll likely get a copy. But I don’t think this is something reviewers should expect, though it certainly is nice that some publishers do that.

    Still, like Heidi, I worry about the appearance of conflict of interest and quid pro quo.

  16. Marc Mason Says:

    My general take is that I don’t care if I’m quoted- I know that’s one of the reasons why publishers send stuff out, after all- as long as it’s done accurately and within the spirit of the review.

    In one case, I had given a rave to the first issue of a book, as it was quite excellent, but soundly panned the four successive issues as having wasted the potential and goodwill from issue one. But when the trade came out… there were my words about issue one in big letters on the back cover, completely ignoring how I felt about the rest of the material in the book. And that, to me, was not good.

  17. badMike Says:

    I get quoted once in a rare while. A heads-up would be nice and a comp copy probably good business (although I could probably be convinced otherwise), but I don’t think either are necessary or required. I agree with Nat, I usually just look at it as a nice boost of publicity for my own little site and just pleased that somebody liked what I wrote enough to quote me.

  18. dave roman Says:

    If you ask someone to specifically review a book or offer a quote to use, that would seem to warrant a complimentary copy. But if you are pulling a quote from review site or magazine, I’m not sure if the debt needs to be repaid, since that’s the nature of their business.

    Something to keep in mind too is that artists are often the ones who ask for quotes on their material, but they don’t always get that many comp copies themselves from their publishers!

  19. Johanna Says:

    Wow, lots of opinions, as I’d hoped. I think this may be another area where comics is unique — I’m having trouble thinking of another medium where someone can review material without being solicited for a quote (issues) and then have their independently created words picked up for a later publication (collection).

    I also didn’t realize that other people don’t notify creators that their works have been reviewed. How else are you going to get talked about? (That’s a joke, son.)

    Dan G., I’ve been asked to allow use of bad reviews before. I’ve gingerly asked what they intended to excerpt, and it’s usually a factual description (“this is like X meets Y”) that they liked. So I shrug and say fine. I’m mostly curious about what they want to say, just to prevent misquoting.

    Nat, that’s a sneaky strategy you mention, it’s true. But there’s a more pleasant motive to reviewing less talked-about works — standing out in a crowded field by covering something missing from the general blog-verse.

    I am curious how a nice “I liked your review, I’d like to use your quote that says ‘—‘ on my next book” counts as conflict of interest in Heidi’s opinion, though.

    Marc, I like your summary of “accurately and within the spirit”.

  20. Rivkah Says:

    I think it depends on the source. Like Viz asking me for a quote on Hot Gimmick. I distinctly remember a glowing review I wrote early on in the series, but then reaching the end and loathing it. I would hate for one of my early reviews to find its way on the back cover of something I ended up wanting to burn. -_-; Thank goodness they had the courtesy to ask!

    However, I think if you run a review site or journal, that publishers expect to be able to pull those quotes without asking, especially publications like Booklist, PW, or The Library Journal, which are expected sources for quotes and reviews.

  21. Rivkah Says:

    Btw, the BBC posted an interesting article that’s somewhere along the same lines, about whether or not papers can print/publish what’s been said online without asking for permission first:

  22. Johanna Says:

    Oh, I don’t debate that anyone can lift anything publicly published that they want.

    But I do think that there is a distinction between picking stuff up for reporting and picking it up to use as part of your marketing.

  23. Heidi M. Says:

    I agree that the exceptions that everyone has posted — soliciting a blurb or quote — call for some kind of thank you or finished copy.

    >>>am curious how a nice “I liked your review, I’d like to use your quote that says ‘–‘ on my next book” counts as conflict of interest in Heidi’s opinion, though.

    Because as a reviewer I am not supposed to give a shit about how the target of my review feels about it. And friendliness means that I may be more kindly inclined towards that person in the future.

    In the real world, forget about it. Not long ago I was thinking of doing reviews but the first two I started had so many questions and caveats regarding the creators — I felt like I didn’t want to blindside them with negative reviews — that I never even got around to writing them.

    The best reviewer will have NO contact with any of the creators. In the real world that’s practically impossible, but I believe there should be a certain line which I am personally way over. The reviews in PW are unsigned – this allows both a freedom from worrying about what someone will perceive as a conflict of interest, or any blowback.

    And it also allows publishers to constantly quote our reviews.

  24. Alan Coil Says:

    I think notification would be nice, but other than that one time in court by that police officer, nobody has ever quoted me. ;)

  25. The Utility of Negative Reviews » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] a continuing blog conversation! David Welsh answers my question about promotional quotes and then asks another good question: I’ve been wondering lately if I might write more negative […]

  26. Jay Faerber Says:

    I agree with Heidi, regarding the notion that reviewers should have no contact with the people whose work they’re reviewing. I always kinda wince when I see a good review, followed by the creator enthusiastically thanking the reviewer in the “Comments” section. Is that creator thanking the reviewer for taking the time to review the book (which is fine), or is s/he thanking the reviewer for the positive review (which isn’t)?

  27. Johanna Says:

    Reviewers having no contact? Now I’m the one to say “wow, I’ve never heard anyone express that before”, not in the TV review field either. And maybe I’m biased, but some of my most treasured compliments as a reviewer came from creators and took the form “thank you for noticing that element, no one else picked up on it”.

    Heidi, so is the best reviewer an Emily Dickenson-like recluse interacting only with the work? Sorry, I’m exaggerating, only because I’m really surprised to see you, of all people, argue for no social contact of any kind. I don’t think that’s feasible, let alone good for the reviewer. But then, I prefer to take the “I’ll interact, but I also don’t give a shit what you think of me and I’ll say whatever I think I need to.” Maybe I’m just fooling myself.

  28. caleb Says:

    For an additional two cents (you’ll be up to a dollar soon), no one needs to ask permission to use a blurb. They can even butcher your intent, turning “A colossal acheivement in the production of terrible comics” into “A colossal acheivement” if they want, really, as long as they put “…” where they cut things out or whatever.

    Just as critics can review whatever they want and use portions of comics for review purposes, so can comic makers do the same with critics.

    Notification isn’t the norm unless the blurb is solicited (obviously); I’ve been asked before, but only once.

    Expecting a comp in return is a littel weird…I mean, you’ve already read the work, right? So you don’t need to see it again. On the other hand, if you raved about the first volume of a book, and they blurb you on the second, then, obviously, it’s smart marketing to get that raving credit future volumes, should they rave again.

  29. Brendan Says:

    The weirdest use of one of my reviews was a publisher attributing someone else’s words to me.

    In the course of one of my reviews, I quoted a line from the afterward of a book I was reviewing (actually, the quote may have been the title of the post, but it was definitely in quotes) which included the phrase that was also the title of the book. Since the quote says a flattering thing about the phrase that is also the title, it sounds like a positive comment on the book, but is actually just a line written by the book’s author.

    So, the publisher’s website has the author’s words, using a phrase in a way that sounds like praising the book, with my name underneath.

    I did actually like the book, so it doesn’t feel dishonest in that sense, but the sentiment of the phrase is so different from the way that I write that it was strange to visit the site and see these words attributed to me.

  30. Lyle Says:

    caleb, that, however, wouldn’t just be unfair to the reviewer, it’d be a case of false advertising.

  31. Shel Says:

    Being quoted is its own reward. Nothing futher is required. If however the quote is used on a book cover or to promote your product or to imply an approval or support, then it would be appropiate to contact the person for permission.

    If you write good stuff then don’t be surprised that people want to tell others about it.

  32. Chris Says:

    I reviewed books and movies for a major metropolitan newspaper, was frequently quoted in book promo copy and movie ads, and never asked for (and never got) prior approval. That was expected. Only once did I complain, when the movie was pretty bad and the quote was creatively edited to make it look good. Now that I’m writing books, I think it’s fair to quote reviews in promotional material. If you’re asking for a blurb specifically for promotion, that’s another animal; I would think the author of the blurb should have a chance to approve the way it reads. But that’s not the same as an editorial review.




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