I just want to be clear on this before I do any sort of writing with regards to the subject.

So I have an idea for a novel that shows a person trying to obtain his objectives using the lessons and ideas of a famous (and real) self-help book.

My question is, do I still need to ask permission from the author of the self-help book before writing/publishing it since I used ideas from his book?

Another question, would I still need to ask permission from the author of the self-help book even if I don't mention the title of his book but still used some of his ideas?

  • 3
    As a new user, generally you should wait for 24 hours to accept an answer, because, accepting an answer quickly will not attract more answers. If you find an answer to be an acceptable form, please wait till next 24 hours so that some more responses could be given perhaps new context can be added. It is specifically for Writing.SE only unlike other SE sites, where you required an exact answer and not perceptions. Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 10:14
  • Do you think your work is satire?
    – Andrey
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 20:55
  • @Prasad_Joshi - thanks for the tip. I will keep that in mind the next time I'll ask another question. Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 11:09
  • @Andrey - Not necessarily. It won't be satire but instead, it would be a hypothetical story in which the concepts of the self-help book would be applied. Basically, the protagonist had this problem that he wanted to solve and it was only by his luck that he managed to find the self-help book that deals precisely with the kind of problem he currently faces. Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 11:13
  • @JerardDelaVictoria Without satire or criticism you lose a lot of protections. I will let others handle the answer.
    – Andrey
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 13:37

3 Answers 3


If you are using the exact title or exact quotes or ideas from the book, you will have to ask for the writer's permission as otherwise it would be considered as copyright infringement and plagiarism.

If you're using some general ideas, that are not specifically his (not imposed or put forward only by him) then you can go on without asking permission. But it is still better to ask for it, and give him credit throughout the book. I don't see why the permission won't be granted.

  • 1
    Thanks for the advice! The self-help book I have in mind have some really specific advice that it would be hard to make it more generic. The author's ideas could be generalized, but it would take out much of the appeal of the story since the story is a 'hypothetical' application of the concepts of the self-help book. Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 8:47
  • What jurisdiction are you talking about? "the exact title or exact quotes or ideas": In the US, only one of these can be copyrighted (i.e. quotes).
    – Laurel
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 14:18

A real-life case of this (not a self-help book but a cookbook) is the book (and movie) Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen.

Julie Powell's book is about her experiences of making every recipe in Julia Child's classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It's told in a novel-like style, though it is nonfiction.

As it happens, someone has written about the legal ramifications. First, the basic copyright issue. In this case with recipes, but also with idea. The conclusion is that, no, using the recipes and the ideas in Child's book is not a copyright violation.

Second, is a legal issue called "right of publicity." This conclusion is that there is a possible but unlikely potential violation requiring permission. But that Child's death also made the problem a lot less important. Here, the issue is using the name and persona of the first author to promote the book of the second.

So you have two choices:

  1. Write the book and let your publisher (or your lawyer if you self-publish) work out the details before publication.
  2. Get permission ahead of time.

Yes you do.

You don't have to do it because of copyright issues however unless you quote from him frequently.

The reason you need to do it is that the author likely has an existing fan base.

If your novel is of good quality and supports his ideas (and credits him for those ideas), don't you think he would promote it to his current fan base?

It would be criminal to give up that free publicity.

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