Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. I have an author who wants to use a quote about the subject of his book by a famous, now deceased news anchor on the cover, but it turns out that the quote is something he heard at a speaking engagement. Do you think it would be OK to use a paraphrase on the book jacket? Would you recommend citing it in the copyright page as “overheard at a dinner speech”? I really want to tell him no, that it’s not appropriate to use something he heard for promotional copy, but I don’t know, and he’s not the easiest person to deal with. Thanks!

A. Although this kind of quote might be salvaged as an anecdote in the text of a book, we would not use it on a book jacket, since it can’t be reliably or succinctly sourced, and it might give potential buyers the impression that the book is gossipy and not carefully documented. (Of course, for some books that could be a plus.) It’s not usual to explain jacket sources inside the book, since jackets and covers can change with new printings and buyers often separate the jackets from the book in any case. So a thumbs-down from Chicago! Good luck with your author.