Whose art is it, anyway?

30 Jul

Once you’ve written your whatever it is, if you want to self-pub it, it’s very easy these days.

But listen up — first! This is important!

Writers are so danged paranoid about sending their work off – someone might steal it! Someone might copy it. Someone might plagiarize me!  Hah. If you’re a first-timer, chances of anything of that nature happening are none and never. You have to be well-known to have your work appropriated (remind me to tell you my story about that later) or else you were naïve enough to send to a well-known entity with no protection. That’s as opposed to sending it to a publisher or agent. They have tooo much at stake to make off with your work.  Or even to think of trying to.

But funny thing here. Writers are so paranoid about their precious words, yet they’ll turn right around and snatch a piece of artwork from a book or a web-site and think nothing of it! Hey! Who created that art? Not you? Then put it back, and leave it be where it was.

What you do in this case is go looking for clipart.  Royalty-free does necessarily mean it’s no cost. It might mean that you pay one time up-front, and use it as many times as you like with no further payment. Of course, it’s not yours, it still belongs to the artist, so it can be sold again (legally) to someone else. It’s that possibility that helps to keep the prices affordable. Unless, of course, you want something exclusive. Remember: Exclusive = Expensive.  Most likely, anyway.

On the other hand, you might be a decent photographer and can provide your own artwork. I’ve provided a photograph for two of my editing clients for their covers: Late Night Stories by Gloria Hanson and Unplanned Journey by Judy Wallace. I intend to use at least part of one of my photos for my next Kindle release, which will happen sometime in the next week or so. My first exclusive Kindle release (not in print yet) is The Writing Class (hint: available now at Amazon.com!) and I found the exact clip-art that I wanted. Isn’t this cute? Image

I had no idea it would be so easy. It was not expensive (not free, either, but that’s not a complaint!) and I merely added the title of the book and my name to it. Easy? I couldn’t believe how easy it was. The artist may well want to know what your purpose is, and I suggest you be very up-front about it. I did ask before tweaking it even that little bit, and was given the go ahead. The site I found is: http://www.clipartof.com/  and I found them very easy to work with.  I hope to use them again. Many times, even!

Some clip art sites may state that you can use the art for personal projects, but cannot charge for the project. So, it’s important to pay attention.

To settle one long-standing quibble about copying. Anyone may make ONE copy of anything for their own personal use. The problem is: you may not do anything else with it, just look at it. You may not do anything to make money from it. I don’t think there’s a restriction on how many people might look at it – as long as it stays in your own home or office, and you don’t charge admission for the privilege of viewing.

As far as I know, most authors are encouraged to make as many copies of the covers of their own books as they’d like – for promotion purposes. Another author may not appropriate that cover for another book, however, the publisher can – and has!

So, please think twice before you pluck that piece of art out of wherever to appropriate for your own purposes. Someone else has struggled to create it, just as you struggled to write your masterpiece. That artist deserves credit, too!

While I was writing this, a friend told me her tale of cover art (she said I could add it in here, too!): “If you find some artwork you like (in my case it was a painting that appeared in an online gallery catalogue) you can try writing to the auction house, art store, gallery or whatever, to ask to use it. I didn’t eventually use the painting (primroses) but the gallery gave me permission and wished me well. The artist was actually unknown, and it was a very minor work priced at £200. I was not charged at all, so trying this approach is worth the effort.”

And there you have it! Just remember – if you want others to protect your words, you also need to protect the work of other artists!

Happy Writing!


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