Went to a breakfast meeting with other writers this morning, and here’s some of the Useful and Fascinating Things I Learned:

  1. 99Designs is actually, as good as it sounds. A friend tried it: she needed a cover for a book she’s writing and was willing to pay their asking price ($395, I think). Within two weeks, she had 26 covers submitted by participating artists. She had no trouble narrowing the field down to the few best, because a couple of artists had been so quick to respond and there had been discussions with them about what she wanted. The nice thing about 99Designs is that,since you have already agreed to pay the winning designer the money, you are free to talk back and forth with any or all of them. She not only got a cover that she loves, but a professional relationship for more work in future, because the cover designer was able to recommend a cartoonist to illustrate another book!
  2. Another site that two of our group had tried and enjoyed is DeviantArt.com, where up and coming (i.e., amateur) artists can post work.It may be significant that both these folks were male, and when one warned that some of the work was edgy and x-rated, the other chuckled. In any case, they suggested it as a place to find artists with a style you like, you might be willing, even eager, to do a cover at low rates.
  3. I should never, ever go anywhere without at least bookmarks and business cards. Blew it again!

I will try to be better at posting. My life is like whack-a-mole: just when I manage to fit effective tweeting into it, I find I’ve been neglecting Facebook. I bring that up to snuff and suddenly I haven’t blogged in a long time.

Same with housework. I’m cooking regularly, but suddenly realized I have no clean clothes to wear because I forgot to do laundry. I start reducing the clutter but then the dishes get out of control. IfI cared I’d be upset. But I’d rather be writing.

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Got photos? Careful how you answer!

Don’t panic–I’m not trying to make you paranoid (though maybe I should). Let me say up front that I have never, in seven or eight years of blogging, been asked to take down a photo from a blog. Several sites  have let me know via email that using their photos on a blog is fine–and if I want to include a link or nod to the photo owner, great!

But blogs don’t make you money. Putting pictures in books that will be sold is another matter. Those same sites that love to be featured on my blog suddenly get downright Scrooge-ish when it comes to books.

As I said in a recent Webinar, almost all photos are owned by someone.

Right now I’m delving into the Boomer era and looking for ads from the 1950s and 1960s. As I locate images  of old logos, ads, and photos from companies that have gone out of business, I’m learning that those images could be owned by:

  • The heirs of the original company execs, who have inherited all the advertising material and pictures
  • A newer company that bought the older business and acquired all material once owned by the old concern
  • An archive or library that acquired all the old photos and ephemera through a donation

However it happens, those photos have owners who can enforce their rights over them.

What about photos you take yourself? My understanding is (iow, I’m not a lawyer and I’m not offering legal advice) that you own your photos free and clear. Of course! But if there are other people in those photos, you must get permission from those folks before plastering their image over the front of your book. Or the back. Or anywhere. The exception to that rule is if the person is deceased. I’m told that one’s right to privacy ends with one’s demise.

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This book cover to the right, for example–the working cover for my next book–features me and my baby brudder. Typical department store Santa shot from the late 1950s.  I own the photo, even though I didn’t take it, because my parents paid for it way back when.

I love and respect my brother (don’t tell him) so I absolutely got his permission via email before committing his distraught visage to my book cover.

Beyond family photos, though, it’s not unusual for a library or other source to ask anywhere from $25 to $100 for a photo–even though you are only asking permission to download it, and no physical copy of the photo is required. One source I contacted–a movie studio–asked for $2500 to use a still from one of their old movies, even though that picture could be found on the Internet.

Need I mention that my book will be published without that pricey picture?

For your book’s cover, it may well be worth a hundred dollars or more to secure the rights and permission to use the perfect photo–of a desert sunset, say, or a  looted apartment. But if you want to use many photos on the inside, paying large fees–or even small fees–is probably out of the question.

So can an author find pictures that are either in the public domain or can be used for free?

Yup, and here are some sources:

  • Wiki Commons. Now, this is Wiki, so approach everything with a grain of cautionary salt. I have seen some photos up there whose provenance I doubt–for example, movie “stills” that a person snapped while viewing a film at home. Is that legal–especially if the film studio still owns all rights to the real movie stills? I don’t know, so I don’t use those particular photos.
  • MorgueFile. This photo site has both free and non-free photos, so check carefully before using.
  • Alamy. Most of the photos belonging to this UK company are NOT free, but a few are. Be sure to click on “Royalty Free” when you search.
  • StockExchange. Again, they offer both free and non-free photos, so use caution.
  • The Library of Congress, especially their American Memory section. You are probably tired of seeing this warning, but not all pictures here are free for your use. Many are owned by other entities which allow the Library of Congress to display them. On this site, type in your search term, click on Gallery view, and when you find a photo you like, click on “About this Image” to determine whether or not you can use it.
  • Archive.com. This is a non-profit project making images and text available to researchers–but that doesn’t mean that everything on it is free. Sigh. I haven’t quite learned the ins and outs of this site–seems that once you search for something, you should than sort it by Media Type, so that “Images” are in one place.
  • Flickr’s Creative Commons. This has become my absolute favorite site to find Baby Boomer toy photos!  The trick to using the photos is that you must click on a size before you can download them. And not all are free–some want attribution . . . which reminds me, the picture of Vera-Ellen dancing in White Christmas–way back at the beginning of this blog–was added to Flickr by Lori of lolololori. I think that covers me.

Another thought–and I owe this to a GalleyCat article from Mediabistro that you probably can’t access unless you’ve paid for a membership–is that the books at Gutenberg.org are all old, out of copyright, and therefore their artwork is available for pillaging.