Monday, 28 January 2013

Self Publishing: Creating Your Own Cover (I)

Are you an artist? Are you? You are? Well, in that case, carry on.

But if you're not?

The temptation of the author who wishes to move into the self publishing arena is to create their own cover. "Why?" I hear you ask. "Money," I answer. It's cheap.

Thing is, not all of us know how to do it. It's not easy, per say.

So I looked at it. I'm not too shabby with Photoshop - I do poster design for work. I looked at the legality minefield. It is a minefield. The thought of doing it was something that I could actually get my head around. So I began:

Deciding on a design.

It's easy to picture how you want the cover of your book to look, when you haven't got to create it. So you picture it. Once it's pictured, think about how you want to create it. Is it a photo? Is it a masterpiece of art? Is it plain?

Just taking these things: First, the photo.

You want a book cover that looks like, say, this:
The Leather Maiden: Joe Lansdale

Yeah, okay, fair enough. Let's also say you don't own a $400 camera. Or indeed know how to use one. You need to buy the photo.

And no, just because it's on Google, doesn't mean you can use it. That is stealing.

You need to grab hold of a photo legally. And that is where the minefield starts. So, first to Istockphoto.

I find an image that I think fits the bill. It's about $22. No problem. I buy it, create the cover and all is well with the world. But no, hold on. Try looking at the licensing options for the image. There are two choices - $22 is for the Standard License. If I choose the Extended License I get a drop down list asking me five questions, and with each answer of yes, the price goes up. It starts at about $130. It's asking about Multi-Seat Licenses. What in Hell's name is Multi-Seating? Do I need that? Aah! 

So. Whilst each site is different, I shall go through Istockphoto.

First of all, neither the Basic, nor the Extended license can be used for:

"Online "print-on-demand" products"

So that means what? I can't use an image from this site to put on a book that I want printed through Createspace? 

Umm... yes, I can, apparently. Like I said, minefield. When Istockphoto talk about print on demand they're talking about things like tees and mugs. Not apparently 'print on demand' books. Confused? You will be.

The Basic License:

Can I use it for a book cover?

Yes. With a basic license you can use the image to create a book cover that will ship no more the 499,999 copies. Not a problem for most of us. This is good news.

Can I use it in my marketing?

Yes. With some limitations. For an advert on, say, your website, the maximum image size permitted is 1200 x 800 pixels. The maximum video image size limitation is 640 x 480. However you can use any size reproduction as long as the image has had 'substantial changes to the content'... which is? I don't know. I'm not going to pretend to know. I've trawled the interwebs for an answer, and not much is forth-coming. I'd say contact support on a per image query basis.

For leaflets and the likes, again, yes. But again only up to 499,999 copies.

So, all in all the Basic License will do for most of us. But what about...

The Extended License:

Book cover.

The Extended License plus the additional fee for Unlimited re-prints allows you to tip over 500,000 mark. It does come in at a whopping +$180 ish, but hey, what's a couple of hundred dollars if you're planning on shifting over half a million units? AmIright?


The same as the Basic License.

So, buy the basic license unless you're expecting to sell over half a million copies of the book.

Okay, that was simple. Anything else down there in the legal jargon?

Well,there is Multi-Seating. This appears to be legal jargon for 'using it more than once' at any one time. So you'll need to shell out for this if you want to make a book cover, and a marketing banner out of one image. It'll set you back around $180.

So what about the other big player, Shutterstock?

Well, it's much the same, the numbers are a bit different (substitute 500,000 for 250,000), and there is a clause that on print books with print runs over 250,000 (which requires the Enhanced License) you have to place a credit to the Artist and to Shutterstock themselves.

Okay, fine. So expecting to go with less than say, 100,000 copies and ebook imprint only, I can buy the picture. But there are also free sites. Yeah, it's this complex.

Stock Xchng have free photos for corporate use. Yes, free. You can stick them on your book cover. Yes, I know that perhaps there is not the choice that that others give, but hey, budget, remember? And yes, if you have a grasp of Photoshop, you'd be surprised how you can warp a stock image to look like... well, anything.

So there you go. I've rambled a whole post talking about stock images, and only on three of the hundreds, possibly thousands of sites.

So next time it'll be more Creating Your Own Cover...

PS: These ramblings on licensing are libel to change, so always check the site when you're looking at purchasing.

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