How to use quotations to structure your book

If you think you have no topic and nothing to say, here are seven ideas for coming up with a book you can write fast:

  • Get interviewed
  • Interview someone else
  • Write a list of ‘ways to’ or ‘resources for’ etc.
  • How to i.e. ‘How to learn Twitter in a weekend’
  • Quotations
  • Hints and tips
  • Articles
  • Resource file

Quotationsquotation marks

Using quotes to structure your book is a wonderfully colourful and inspirational way for you to draw on the wisdom and teaching of others and share their message with your readers.

The quotes you choose will say a lot about you and as you discuss and unravel their meaning, it will allow you to show your expertise and insight. This will, in turn, allow your readers to get to know you, understand you and connect with you.

How to produce a book based on quotes

There are a couple of ways you can produce a book that is based on quotations.

First, you can collect together what you believe are the best quotes on a particular topic or issue affecting your market. Ideally, you would choose a number of quotes for your book, so it would be the best 21, 50 or 100 quotes about a particular topic or problem. The number you choose will depend on whether you want to say anything about each quote and, if you do, how much you want to write. You can divide your quotes up into chapters and write an introduction to each chapter explaining why you have divided them in this way.

The second way is to choose a much smaller number of quotes and discuss each one in a great deal more detail. The easiest way to do this is to have a format for each quote. For example, you would start with the quotation then add information about:

  1. The origins of the quotation such as its context and author.
  2. Why you have chosen to include this quotation.
  3. What message you believe the quotation relays.
  4. Why this message is significant.
  5. Where the reader can find out more about the author or origins of the quote.

With this kind of quotation book, you could make your selection from a range of different authors or just one significant author.

Pitfalls of quotation books50 quotations on laughter

One of the key pitfalls of creating books of quotations is to keep researching and researching to find one more great quote. To avoid this, decide on key topic areas you want to focus on and decide to get a specific number of quotes for each one. You can then research your quotes knowing the number you are looking for. You will want to get some extras so you have a choice when you make your final selection, but limit that number of extras to 30 per cent. When you reach your magic number, stop and move on to the next topic. This way, you will have a smaller pot to choose from and this will make selecting your final quotes easier and faster.

Although there are many internet sites and books that compile quotations, it is far more meaningful if you find your own material. It doesn’t matter whether what you are quoting is famous or well-known, but it does matter that it is based on your own reading and knowledge and that is it meaningful to your readers. After all, the purpose of producing this book is to showcase your knowledge and expertise so your reader gets more insight into who you are and what you can offer.

Royalties and permissions

A quotation is usually short in order to avoid having to seek permission to use the words. So, as long as you keep your quotations short – no more than 200 words – and make sure each one is fully referenced you will not need to get permission to use it. If you choose to quote a much longer passage 200-500 words or more, you may need to consider getting permission to use the material. However, if the work you are quoting from is out of copyright, you do not need to get permission to use it at all. You can get more detailed information on seeking copyright permissions here.

Usually, publishers and authors are happy to have their work quoted as it widens their reach, so as long as you make it clear where the quote has come from, and maybe even add a link to a Kindle version of the book or the author’s own website, most publishers and authors will not seek royalties or feel the need to give permission. If in doubt, you need to check with the publisher.


Quotation books can be inspirational and fun for readers as they can fire off a lot of ideas and deep thinking. This is very useful to an audience who needs to generate ideas and who may want to find quotes for their own work.

When it comes to creating a book based on quotations you must choose quotes that are likely to have a big impact on your readers. Quotations by their nature offer the promise of wisdom or insight, so make sure your quotations are powerful and thought-provoking so that they deliver on this promise.


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