Just a note about book covers and not believing everything you hear.

The amount of information out there is insane, right? You don’t know who to believe, what to believe, if anything is true, and I’m not talking about what’s on social media right now with regards to COVID, but with indie publishing. There are scammers out there, people who want to make a buck off of your inexperience. These people aren’t nice, and you’ll run into them time and time again joining FB groups and Twitter people tweeting their “services” such as they are.

But when you get up into the bigger indies, the ones who are making a bit of money and they turn to the non-fiction, or entrepreneurial side of things, you do expect them to know what they’re talking about.

I’ve mentioned Nick Stephenson on the blog before, incidentally when I was blogging about book covers not that long ago. Because I love all things book covers, when I got an email (yeah, I’m signed up to his newsletter) saying he could make a book cover in 10 minutes using BookBrush, I was intrigued.

I already know I won’t ever use BookBrush, I prefer Canva, and they’re cheaper. I know BookBrush is specifically created for authors and Canva is meant for anyone who needs to make a quick graphic design. I like Canva, know how it works, and I’ve loaded quite a few fonts in my kit over the past couple of years. I don’t think I’ll change anytime soon.

Anyway, so I settled in to watch it, and you can watch it, too.

I had a hard time with the video, and not only because it’s basically one big BookBrush commercial with a probable affiliate link included that he failed to mention was an affiliate link. I could be wrong, but why take the time to make a video and not include a link where he could make a bit of money if his watchers decided to try it out?

So, I watched it, and didn’t really like the cover he came up with at the end and here’s why:

  1. He advocated using Unsplash for photos, and anyone who does book covers knows that using free photos is a no-no. Especially with people in them. Websites like Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay do not collect model releases and these websites do not vet photos. There are things in these photos that are not for commercial use. I went to Unsplash and typed in tennis shoes. There were several photos of generic shoes, but there were also some photos that came up with Nike (the swoosh is a dead giveaway) and Adidas. To a newbie wanting to make a book cover about say, running or a personal journey or something, they might think a nice looking photo with a pair of Nike shoes would be okay because they found it on a free-for-commercial-use website. Do the same search on Deposit Photos and not one pair of Nikes shows up at all, or any logo for that matter.
  2. He chose Romance and that is a very nuanced genre. The couple he picked had all their clothes on, and in romance (read: reader) circles, that would indicate the book to be sweet and or clean. Heat levels are depicted by the amount of skin showing on a cover, and that’s something Nick didn’t mention in the video.
  3. He didn’t do a full wrap. I admit his way could be okay for a short story or a reader magnet that may not need the level of quality a book cover would need to promote sales. Reader magnets are supposed to bring signups to your newsletter though, and I wouldn’t imagine anyone signing up for a newsletter if the draw is going to be a short story with a crappy cover. So while you may not want to fork over $100.00 for a premade for a short story or novella that won’t go on sale, eventually your newsletter subscribers are going to be your bread and butter, and you need to treat your fans with the respect they deserve.
  4. Not all fonts are free for commercial use. I don’t know if the font he picked is included in BookBrush or if it’s free for commercial use. I looked at the site I commonly go to for free for commercial use stuff, and it is featured there.

Not all the fonts on that website are for commercial use. Only the fonts with the green dollar tag are. The other problem I had with the font is that it’s not very romancy. Yes, I get he was trying to make a point in that he could make an ebook cover in 10 minutes, and he did. But font is a big deal when it comes to covers and this one, even though it’s free, just doesn’t work.

I don’t mean to pick on him, and I did make a comment on his YouTube video, so don’t think I’m ragging on him behind his back. My comment isn’t as long as what I wrote out for you here, but enough that maybe I did slap him down a little bit. I don’t mind calling out people who aren’t being entirely on the up and up. Passing out bad information is bad, no matter who is doing or how cute his accent is. I know us American ladies are a sucker for a cute accent, but don’t let him talk you into using free photos. It’s just bad news.

Here’s my version of a sweet wedding book cover:

Stock photo taken from Deposit Photos. Title font, Calgary. Author font, Bodoni FLF Cover created in Canva

And it’s easy to see if it will make a good cover by plugging it into the 3d cover mock up creator by Derek Murphy:

With the photo I chose and the title, maybe it’s gearing more toward Women’s Fiction than sweet Contemporary Romance, but it just proves my point: you need to take a bit of time to think about your cover and put some effort into choosing the stock photo, font, and overall design.

I know he was trying to prove his own point: that using BookBrush is an easy tool and you don’t have to pay out hundreds of dollars for a simple cover by a designer. And that’s true, kind of. Someone asked in one of my FB groups what is the best software to make a book cover with, and lots of people chimed in with Photoshop, Canva, Affinity Photo, GIMP, the usual suspects. I told him I use a mixture of Canva and GIMP but I said it doesn’t matter what software you use. If you haven’t developed and eye for what looks good, you’ll always make crap.

If the shoe fits, don’t step in it.

Until next time!


Free for Commercial Use*

I had an interesting exchange with someone in one of my Facebook writing groups this morning.

She was asking about a website where she could make graphics for her book for Instagram. We like the pretty graphics. I like making them though I don’t post them anywhere very often.

Anyway, she didn’t like using Canva because the learning curve was too steep. She asked for other suggestions, and she always had an excuse why she didn’t want to try other design programs. I told her to try BookBrush, since I’ve heard good things about that, but I told her, she needs to make sure the photos she’s using are for commercial use. I read a discussion about BookBrush in one of my design groups on Facebook and they said BookBrush’s terms of service won’t cover you if you use a photo that’s not available for commercial use. Canva probably won’t either–not everyone using the software is going to be trying to sell books. Some people do use the photos and fonts for personal use, such as wedding invitations, and you just have to be careful. We’re part of the writing community, so naturally we think everyone is using everything for book marketing.

This aggravated her, and she said that she just wanted to make some graphics for Instagram. Simple. Easy-peasy.

If you’ve been in the game for any amount of time, we know that it’s never that easy. It’s intimidating and scary because using something that you don’t have the right to use can be very very costly. I wasn’t telling her to be careful to give her a hard time; I only wanted warn her that using a stock photo for book marketing is considered using it for commercial use.

She said she’d hire someone.

That’s fine, but in this day and age of scammers, hiring someone doesn’t always take care of the risk.

Finally I realized the problem: she didn’t want to learn a software. Canva is simple, but she didn’t want to bother. She turned down others’ suggestions and BookBrush, as well, because she simply didn’t want to take the time. That’s a whole different ballgame–I mean, how do you expect to get anywhere if you’re not willing to take the time to learn? When you’re an indie author, you’re suddenly a marketer, graphic designer, maybe a book formatter, and editor. It’s a lot to take in, and if you’re in it for the long haul, some of those things are unavoidable.

But anyway, what can you do to safeguard your business?

  1. Make sure the photos are for commercial use. 
    This doesn’t mean you can’t use photos from Pixabay or Pexels or Unsplash. Check the photographer’s guidelines and attribution requirements. I use photos from Pixabay, but never anything with people in them. The free sites don’t secure model releases.
    More often than not though, I buy my photos from Deposit Photos. Right now you can buy 100 for 39 dollars going through AppSumo. They don’t expire, and you know you’re safe using a photo from there. Click here for the deal. If you don’t have a Deposit Photo account, you’ll need to create one to redeem the deal. (The link is David Gaughran’s affiliate link. I used that because he was the one who posted it on Facebook where I first found out about it. If you don’t want to use it, Google for the deal and find a separate link for the promo.) I’ve redeemed a couple of these AppSumo deals and now I have 300 downloads that will never expire.
  2. This goes for fonts, too.
    It doesn’t matter if you Google free for commercial use fonts, or if a font is free for downloading. You still have to do your due diligence and make sure the fonts you use, especially on your book covers, are available for commercial use. There are a lot of free for commercial use sites out there, but artists who want their fonts to be used for personal use only also list their fonts on these sites. InkyDeals and Dealjumbo have font bundles that are inexpensive and you can use the fonts for more than one project (although always make sure of the extended license before buying). Bookmark these sites because they give you lots of good deals around the holidays, too.
  3. Be careful if you hire someone on Fiverr. 
    If you hire someone on Fiverr, make sure you know where they purchased the photos and fonts. It never hurts have the licenses for your records so if you are ever approached you can defend yourself. I’ve heard lots of stories about artists stealing art or using photos that aren’t available for commercial use. When you hire someone, you are taking the responsibility that they are on the up-and-up. After all, it’s your name on the book, not theirs.
  4. This goes for hiring anyone, anywhere.
    So many premade book cover websites offer a free photo with font slapped on there for the title and author name. Anyone can start a “business” doing that, and even if they have some skill with Photoshop, that doesn’t mean they have a legitimate business. Always cover your butt and make sure you know where the photos, elements, and fonts came from.
  5. Offer attribution even if the photographer or artist says it’s not necessary. 
    I always put the photographer’s id and photo id in the copyright page of all my

    Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 12.02.59 PM

    It’s easy to offer attribution in your front matter. It’s professional, and not to mention, kind. 

    books. I credit Deposit Photo as the source, and credit Canva as the website where I made the cover in the first place. It’s the polite thing to do. In the acknowledgments always credit anyone else who has helped you. I listened to a podcast by the SPA Girls and they interviewed Rebekah Haskell, and she said it was common for authors not to offer attribution to their cover designer because they wanted to keep the designer for themselves so they didn’t get too busy. That sucks, and it’s selfish. This is a professional business. Act professionally. (If you want to listen to the podcast, Rebekah offers good info about book cover design click here.) Do you see what I did there? Offer attribution.

In the end, it’s not hard to safeguard your business. It might take a little money (buying stock photos isn’t always cheap and I think that’s why free photos offer such an allure) but I would rather spend for a pack of stock photos on Deposit Photo, or buy credits on CanStock Photo and cover my butt instead of having trouble down the road because I used something that wasn’t available for commercial use.

I don’t know what the woman I was speaking with today will do. I feel bad that it seemed like I was telling her information that scared her, but not knowing what you don’t know can be dangerous in this business. We all make mistakes, and there’s a chance that nothing will come out of it if you happen to use a free photo with a person on it that doesn’t have a model release, but why take the chance? Pixabay won’t cover you if a photographer goes after you for damages. Especially, if by chance, your book does really well.

I recommend Facebook groups like the Indie Cover Project and Book Cover Design Marketplace. The admins and moderators don’t let fishy people post, and they seem to know what’s/who’s legit and what/who is not.

Canva and BookBrush are only machines–if you use them without knowing, you, the operator, will definitely be held accountable.

Take care, and stay safe!


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