Thursday, May 22, 2014

Why stealing cover artwork is bad for you

A few months ago, I received an email from a fan who just happened upon some of my cover art being used illegally on an independent "author's" book. It turns out there was some girl writing e-books for sale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other sites using my artwork she lifted from somewhere online. She removed my copyright line in an image editing program, altered the images to her liking and added her own title. The cover art she stole is not only copyrighted to me, but was commissioned for two different legitimate publishers (Harper Collins and Penguin). After discussing what to do with my agent and his lawyer, we decided to give the "author" a chance to remove the artwork from her titles or just make them disappear altogether. As it is with the internet these days, it can be hard to find an email address or contact info for someone you don't know. After some searching, I was able to find an email address, but opted to instead inform the online shopping sites that one of their customers was using stolen artwork. Fortunately, every one of the retailers got back to me promptly and just as quickly removed the products from their stores.

These days, it is so easy to just take what you want from the internet without giving much thought to whoever created the work you wish to use for your own purposes. In this case the "author" willfully took copyrighted artwork, deleted the copyright information, modified it and used it for her own gain. To her it was just an image that she liked. She gave no thought to the creator and owner. The fact of the matter is, it takes many people to create my work. There is me, obviously, but there is also sometimes a photographer, models (I buy props and wardrobe) and paying client. All of whom are paid or pay for the artwork that is created. By stealing my artwork, she also stole from the photographer, model and publisher.

All of this brings me to my point. Stealing cover artwork for you own gain hurts yourself as much as it does the other parties involved. If, as a legitimate author, this person valued her work to any degree, she would have sought to have artwork created by a professional or at least bought royalty-free stock images (there are numerous stock houses out now that practically give you everything you need to create a cover for VERY little money) and created her own artwork. If she was a good writer with the potential to sell books, I would hope she would have a little more pride in what was associated with her hard work. It takes time and hard work to create great cover art, and I'm pretty sure it takes time and hard work to write a book.

So, if you or someone you know is a self-publisher, please inform them that if they value their hard work, they should pay a professional or create their own cover art using stock and their own skills- don't steal something from the internet. If their cover isn't the greatest, at least it will be theirs and they will have the satisfaction knowing they valued the cover as much as the words it's attached to. Also, if it's a great book, it won't matter much what's on the cover-- great books sell because of the words, not the cover.

I recently started selling "stock" cover art to appeal to self-publishers. I have created a library of high-quality cover art similar to what's on my website. The artwork is already created and not customizable, but the prices are very fair and the artwork is great (if I must say so myself ;-)  If you are interested, email me and I can give you more information.

-Best, Craig

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