It’s amazing how many queries I get about “Selling Your Original Quotes“. When this email came through recently I thought, perhaps it’s time to share some updates about what writers can do with their original quotes, sayings, and greeting card messages in today’s digital, highly-sharable age.
[I’m] looking for ways to possibly get my quotes or sayings out there somehow and maybe make a little money at it at the same time. … I tend to post them … on Facebook just as a public post where anyone could take them … even though I put my initials at the bottom they could easily be taken off. I was wondering if you had any ideas or tips … as where to go to try and get someone to use them and also maybe you knew a way that I could do something with them so no one can steal them from me legally. … Right now I have a site or an app I guess you call it that I can go to to make my quotes or sayings look professional before I post them but it has occurred to me that it could be just a way for that site to accumulate other peoples workings … Any advice you might give me would be greatly appreciated.
First, let me address your concerns with copyright issues. In international copyright law, the act of having committed something into a fixed form is enough to establish copyright. So, if you’ve written down or typed up your quote and have in no way impinged on anyone else’s existing copyright then you own that unique work. There are ways to date your claim, such as handwriting on paper and posting through the postal service but generally those aren’t necessary because the odds of anyone making substantial profit from your quote or phrase is almost nil. Copyright only matters if you can prove a third party is earning significant reward from your work or harming your own right to earn those rewards.
As for quotes, unfortunately it’s impossible to eliminate the risk of ending up having your quotes unattributed or falsely attributed. There are millions of quotes out there attributed to -anon who obviously had an origin that is either completely unknown and unknowable or that people are simply too lazy to track down and confirm. There are also a great multitude of famous quotes that are misquoted or attributed to the wrong celebrity. It’s the nature of humanity to piecemeal together phrases without doing the due diligence to check sources and correctly attribute the original artist.
Having said that, one of the best ways to share your quotes with today’s technologies is to create image files that decoratively display your words with your attribution. Images are highly shareable and are most likely to be duplicated and less likely to be manipulated (compared to text). Thankfully humanities general laziness means people would rather just click the share button then try and change the attribution on an image. This could be a great way to get your quotes out into the world. The ones that resonate with your friends and family will be shared with their friends and family and the best will get the most shares.
You could also create a blog where you share these, although it can be difficult to gain traction on blogs these days it can be a good way to keep an archive of your quotes, and you could include the link to your blog in your image so that all of your quotes direct people back to the blog. Your most popular quotes might even be merchandisable if you’ve gained enough popularity that people want your quote/image on mugs or shirts or notebooks, etc. And again, you could make these available from your blog. Also, as you accumulate enough quotes you could compile themed ones together in books of quotes. But please remember, it takes a long time to establish a platform where this kind of thing is possible.
If you don’t have software such as Adobe Photoshop, there is a great website called Canva that lets you use templates and free or paid images to create web-optimised graphics with very simple drag and drop tools. Again, the act of putting your work in a fixed form establishes your copyright so you don’t need to fear that Canva is harvesting your creative works for themselves. Their business model in no way profits from your creations, they make their money from royalties they receive from distributing graphics they’ve purchased distribution rights to.
For the most part, quotes aren’t highly profitable. Over time you could establish a popular catalogue of quotes on a blog you could monetize and merchandize but for the most part only 1% of people would ever reach the point where that makes money. You could also submit relevant quotes to greeting card companies and some magazine publishers but you need to do significant research into potential markets, find out what each potential market is looking for and what their terms are before submitting anything.
But that doesn’t mean people won’t enjoy and be moved by your words. So, if you’d like to share your quotes with the world, do that, and let go of the need to feel like you possess your brilliance. With any artform, the moment you let other people see it, it becomes theirs in a way not yours. Every viewer/reader interprets your work from behind their own filters, they translate it based on their own understandings and experiences. Your words can bring joy and insight and could even transform lives, and you may get recognition for that, but most likely it’ll be a fleeting moment swiftly forgotten, like reading a greeting card or retweeting a tweet or sharing a Facebook quote. It’s meaningful in the moment, but then the reader moves on to the next internet meme or Grumpy Cat. So, share and create because you enjoy it, but don’t expect too much from writing quotes.
I hope this helps.