I am contemplating gathering a collection of quotations from a single writer, similar to The Quotable [C.S.] Lewis by Wayne Martindale [Tyndale].

Most of the writers works remain under copyright, and I recognize (as in the case of the aforementioned text) that permission would need to be gained from each of the publishers/texts from which quotations are taken. However, search as I might, I've been unable to discover how this sort of thing is "normally" done. My questions related to the general topic include:

  1. Does the editor of the collection pursue the permissions, or the publisher of the new work in question?
  2. Is there a standard format for such requests?
  3. Are fees charged for the permissions? (This would seem unlikely, as it would essentially make such a collection impossible.)

In the case of the Lewis collection, the volume notes quotations are "used by permission" from eleven different publishers (of probably forty different volumes).

Thank you in advance to anyone who can help me with this matter...

  • 1
    The author has to secure permission from the copyright holder. This may be the author or the publisher or someone else. Some publishers offer permission request forms on their websites for permission requests concerning their publications. A fee is common. Note: You must ask for permission for all planned forms (electronic, print, etc.). You need a written permission. I would not undertake such a legally precarious publication without consulting a lawyer or working with an experienced publisher.
    – user5645
    Oct 21, 2014 at 11:25

1 Answer 1


Usually it's the author or the author's estate/agent/descendant who holds the original copyrights, so you don't need to contact a large number of publishers, just that one entity for bulk of works. In rare cases the author might have fully sold copyrights (as opposed to licensing the publishers for release) and in these cases you will need to contact these publishers. That's fairly uncommon though.

Your publisher may help you find the contact with the author and if they are exceptionally generous, manage it, but most likely the main burden is on you.

If there is a standard format for such request, the publisher will have it too, though usually just a polite, formal letter will do better than some request form.

As for fees, this is completely individual and depends entirely on the author/estate. Depending on their will, your personal charisma and the volume of the citations, it may be waived entirely, be rather token amount, a part of royalties from publishing, or just turning your request down either by a plain "no" or by some excessive charge you're bound to turn down.

If it's a book based entirely on works of a single author, definitely don't expect it to be available for free, although working with the author's estate you should be able to work out a split-royalties deal. They may help with publishing too.

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