SPQ 038: How Do You Balance Attributing Sources with Telling Your Own Story?

girl with a laptop sitting on newspapers

The Question…

“If you use ideas you got from other people, how do you balance the need to credit your sources with the need to tell your own story?”

Biggest Takeaway…

[Tweet “You need to understand ALL legalities of running a book-based business. “]

The Answer…

Steve is not a lawyer, nor does he play one on TV, so he recommends checking out The Self-Publisher’s Handbook by Helen Sedwick. She covers everything related to running a self-publishing business, from trademarks to libel and slander. You really need to understand the legalities of running a book-based business.

Steve has a couple rules of thumb:

#1: Provide an attribution for any originator of a thought.

Bloggers do this a lot. If a blogger finds an interesting blog post or article, he might write about it, but he also links to the original author’s page. These links are valuable because they help readers gain more knowledge about a topic. In episode 27, Steve talked about how he uses Evernote to organize all of these links.

Steve frequently talks about the Pomodoro technique created by Francesco Cirillo, so he always links to PomodoroTechnique.com. He also talks about the most important tasks (MIT) concept created by Leo Babauta, so each reference to the concept has a link to ZenHabits.net. When Steve talks about breaking projects into smaller steps, he cites David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.” He cites Merlin Mann of 43Folders.com when he discusses the inbox zero concept.

#2: Only talk about complimentary things.

In the past few podcast episodes, Steve lightly mentioned something that could be construed as negative, but he generally doesn’t say anything negative about other people or products. He recommends focusing on the positive instead. Negative comments can actually get you into legal trouble. If your statements harm another person’s reputation, you can be sued for libel (written) or slander (spoken). Focus on properly attributing your sources and providing value to readers.

Steve follows these five steps for properly attributing his sources:

  1. Find the link to the original source.
  2. If you have any doubts about the source, use Google to verify the information.
  3. Explain, in your own words, how you have applied the technique in your life.
  4. Link to the content.
  5. Tell stories about how you use the technique.

Copyright can be a very murky issue. You always want to do your best to cite your sources. Again, this is not legal advice, so be sure to check out The Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook.

Resources and Links

The Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook: Helen Sedwick covers legal issues of interest to authorpreneurs, from protecting yourself with contracts to avoiding legal troubles

SPQ 027: Steve talks about how he uses Evernote to organize his book research

The Pomodoro Technique: Increase productivity by using the Pomodoro technique to improve your focus

Most Important Tasks: Focus on the important things by starting your day with a list of most important tasks (MITs)

Getting Things Done: David Allen’s system for managing time effectively

Inbox Zero: This series explores the concept of “inbox zero,” or the process of keeping your inbox empty at almost all times

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