As an author, you have a creative responsibility to finish writing your book and find a way to publish. After you’ve written your book, there are many more responsibilities you’ll need to take on to publish your book the right way. And part of that is understanding the legal challenges that can surface when you’re getting ready to publish. Without having a law degree, how do you know where to begin?


As creative people, inspiration doesn’t always come out of the blue. It is likely after our many years of life experiences that we’ve been inspired by things others have written. But to legally use these ideas and notions in our work, we first must recognize ther source they come from. While a great copy editor normally does some fact-checking when they edit your book, it is still your responsibility to understand where your quotes come from and whether or not you have the legal right to use them in your book. For that reason, you should always check to see whether the book you’re quoting from is in the public domain or if it is currently copyrighted through the author or the publishing company.

If any quoted material is in the public domain, that literally means that the rights to this work are owned by the public and are not registered as anyone’s intellectual property, such as through copyright, trademark, or patent laws. Work in the public domain can be quoted and reprinted without getting special permission from the person who originally wrote it.

But if it is under copyright protection through the author or publishing company, you will either need to do research to find out how much you can use without special permission, or you will need to hire a lawyer or a permission/research editor who specializes in literary copyright laws to ensure you have the right to quote that material. 

Some authors will allow you to quote a certain amount of material without special permission while others won’t allow you to quote a word of their intellectual property without their permission. And this extends far beyond quotes from a book. It can also be a concern for artwork, photography, and lyrics. 

Endnotes and Footnotes

If you look at several pages in the back of a book most likely you’ll see some endnotes. They can also appear as a list at the end of each chapter. Footnotes, on the other hand, appear at the bottom of the page that the material is quoted on. There is no right or wrong choice between these two, but it is important for them to be formatted correctly. 

We recommend using the Chicago Manual of Style’s guide for formatting references.


This is a fancy word for a quote that appears at the beginning of a chapter. We recommend using the epigraph style for your quotes because it will make them look professional, and it gives you a consistent design guideline to use throughout your manuscript.

This is how you achieve it:

  1. Start your quote on a new line without any indention.
  2. Once you’ve ensured the quote is accurate, highlight the block of text and indent by one stop in your toolbar. (In Microsoft Word, this button is called Increase Indent.)
  3. Put one line of space between the quote and the attribution. 
  4. On the next line, put an em-dash followed by the author’s name with no spaces after the em-dash. (On Mac, you can do this easily by pressing Option-Shift-dash/minus key; on Windows, press Ctrl-Alt-dash/minus key on the numeric keypad).
  5. Highlight the attribution line, indent one stop as you did with the quote, and right-align it.

You should end up with something that looks like this:

And, as with everything else, always make sure the quote and the source are accurate. This will protect you from any issues or embarrassment once you publish your book. To find out who wrote a quote, you can search and find the original source.

When you’re self-publishing, you won’t always have someone to guide you through these challenges that might present themselves after publication. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know, right? All of the authors at Author Academy Elite receive hands-on training and coaching every step of the way. In our coaching sessions, we answer all your questions about copyright, trademarks, citing your references—and so much more! (Click the image below to gain access to our free webinar.)

QUESTION: what else do you want to know about the publishing process?

Comment below, and we’d love to start a conversation about how we can help you follow a successful publishing path.


    14 replies to "Copyrights, Endnotes, and Epigraphs … What Does It All Mean?"

    • Elizabeth Currie

      Great information, it stirs a question. Is this the same process to take when quoting an author of a newspaper I know it is in academic writing, but I’m not so sure for adding in a book. Would I be asking permission from the author or the publication. Thanks in advance

      • Kary Oberbrunner

        If you’re quoting a newspaper article, you should probably contact the publisher for permission. The same would go for a book that is currently in print.

    • Faye Bryant

      Interesting. I’ve been doing this process, but never knew what it was called.

      • April T Giauque

        How many times will you use the word epitaph today?

      • Kary Oberbrunner


    • Dana Lyons

      This is GOLD! Needed this thank you.

      • Kary Oberbrunner

        Perfect! I am thankful it helped you.

    • April T Giauque

      Great support and help. The summary of this is perfect to help fellow writers. Love the information.

      • Kary Oberbrunner

        Thanks for your feedback!

    • Daphne Smith

      Clear, concise, and informative. Thank you for this easy to understand example. Write on!

      • Kary Oberbrunner

        Thanks friend!

    • Kristin Landgren

      I learned about epigraphs from this post – excellent info! Thank you.

      • Kary Oberbrunner

        So cool!

    • Monika Polefka-Proulx

      That’s a lot of information! Thanks.

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