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Old 09-01-2021, 05:51 AM   #1
Luffy
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Book Covers and things

So, I intend to write one or several books in hopefully the near future. My question is, am I allowed to use famous paintings for the book covers of my nebulous e-books? What about appropriating titles of famous paintings, such as Girl With the Pearl Earring? RSVP and Happy Reading to all.
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Old 09-01-2021, 07:44 AM   #2
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Yes, depending on how a photo or scan of the image was obtained and if the artist is sufficiently dead long enough ago. The same rules as written authors.
If someone else has used the painting you can still use it as long as the formatting etc is different. The "Girl With the Pearl Earring" painting is used already for a recent book.

Actually there is no copyright on the text of a title, but search to avoid using one well known and confusing people.

Some need a lot of work, retouching scratches, cracks and fixing up crop and aspect. We put the artist, title and painted date (if known) on the front matter copyright page. You need good edit skills and PSP, Photoshop or the GIMP. Work at about 4K resolution, or at least twice the highest resolution required for printed or eBook covers. Different formats may have different aspect ratios. Use layers for title, image, background, author etc. Note that for a paper edition the cover image includes the spline and rear but ebooks only have the front. Dust covers for a hardback also have the front and rear flap.

See Celtic Otherworld and Talents Universe on the Corvids Press.

We created photo montages and models for the SF titles.

Some people licence covers which for under 10,000 sales can be cheaper than hiring an artist. See Of North Blood Drawn (chosen by the author)
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Old 09-02-2021, 12:16 AM   #3
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Quoth sort of covered it, except that copyright for art and photographic works is different to written material. Go with old enough art and you'll be fairly safe, but don't make too many assumptions about more recent works. If you're not creating your own from scratch it can be advisable to source images from one of the various stock image sites available (gettyimages and Wikimedia Commons are well known but there are many many others).

Also, I thought I might emphasise the care needed when sourcing even very old material...

I had epigraphs lined up for each of the three books of my trilogy but ended up only using the first (because the latter two came from songs still covered by copyright and getting permission was going to be more trouble than it seemed worth for epigraphs). BUT even the first, taken from The Republic by Plato was potentially more complicated than it looks because I needed an English translation - so I had to be sure to choose a translation not still under copyright.

You can face similar issues with images where the capture itself may be covered under certain circumstances. (eg: Quoth mentioned some old art needing lots of touch-up, such an image may qualify for copyright in its own right.)


Of course the question remains whether you should actually be creating your own cover anyway. Perhaps you have the skills and experience to do a professional job. Or perhaps you are creating these books for purposes other than enticing the general public to buy them. But if one of those isn't true, professional help is strongly advised.


And lastly. Carts before horses come to mind . Get the book written then worry about publication details like titles, covers, editing and marketing.
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Old 09-02-2021, 02:15 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Quoth View Post
Yes, depending on how a photo or scan of the image was obtained and if the artist is sufficiently dead long enough ago. The same rules as written authors.
If someone else has used the painting you can still use it as long as the formatting etc is different. The "Girl With the Pearl Earring" painting is used already for a recent book.

Actually there is no copyright on the text of a title, but search to avoid using one well known and confusing people.

Some need a lot of work, retouching scratches, cracks and fixing up crop and aspect. We put the artist, title and painted date (if known) on the front matter copyright page. You need good edit skills and PSP, Photoshop or the GIMP. Work at about 4K resolution, or at least twice the highest resolution required for printed or eBook covers. Different formats may have different aspect ratios. Use layers for title, image, background, author etc. Note that for a paper edition the cover image includes the spline and rear but ebooks only have the front. Dust covers for a hardback also have the front and rear flap.

See Celtic Otherworld and Talents Universe on the Corvids Press.

We created photo montages and models for the SF titles.

Some people licence covers which for under 10,000 sales can be cheaper than hiring an artist. See Of North Blood Drawn (chosen by the author)
Thank you Quoth. Hope I do get that far. I have skills in Photoshop. We'll see.
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Old 09-02-2021, 02:16 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by gmw View Post
Quoth sort of covered it, except that copyright for art and photographic works is different to written material. Go with old enough art and you'll be fairly safe, but don't make too many assumptions about more recent works. If you're not creating your own from scratch it can be advisable to source images from one of the various stock image sites available (gettyimages and Wikimedia Commons are well known but there are many many others).

Also, I thought I might emphasise the care needed when sourcing even very old material...

I had epigraphs lined up for each of the three books of my trilogy but ended up only using the first (because the latter two came from songs still covered by copyright and getting permission was going to be more trouble than it seemed worth for epigraphs). BUT even the first, taken from The Republic by Plato was potentially more complicated than it looks because I needed an English translation - so I had to be sure to choose a translation not still under copyright.

You can face similar issues with images where the capture itself may be covered under certain circumstances. (eg: Quoth mentioned some old art needing lots of touch-up, such an image may qualify for copyright in its own right.)


Of course the question remains whether you should actually be creating your own cover anyway. Perhaps you have the skills and experience to do a professional job. Or perhaps you are creating these books for purposes other than enticing the general public to buy them. But if one of those isn't true, professional help is strongly advised.


And lastly. Carts before horses come to mind . Get the book written then worry about publication details like titles, covers, editing and marketing.
You are absolutely right about carts before horses. If you don't mind, please link to your trilogy. Would be delighted to try your books.
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Old 09-02-2021, 09:10 AM   #6
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You are absolutely right about carts before horses. If you don't mind, please link to your trilogy. Would be delighted to try your books.
I've sent a PM, but there are also links in my signature. Since it sounds like you're going to look anyway, I think it's sufficiently on topic to say here: Yes I did my own covers, and yes I think it shows. I like them well enough, and I've certainly seen worse, but I think they're missing touches that say professional production. I think they actually worked pretty well on the print editions, but not so much for the e-books. I really could have done with help in the blurbs.

So my suggestion about seeking professional help is based on personal experience as well as wider research - watching the results for other authors posting here and seeing the dramatic difference a professional cover can make. I had the technical skills if not necessarily the artistic ones, but mostly I lacked the relevant experience and emotional distance required to create something appropriate for the true purpose: selling the books.
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Old 09-02-2021, 12:32 PM   #7
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I've sent a PM, but there are also links in my signature. Since it sounds like you're going to look anyway, I think it's sufficiently on topic to say here: Yes I did my own covers, and yes I think it shows. I like them well enough, and I've certainly seen worse, but I think they're missing touches that say professional production. I think they actually worked pretty well on the print editions, but not so much for the e-books. I really could have done with help in the blurbs.

So my suggestion about seeking professional help is based on personal experience as well as wider research - watching the results for other authors posting here and seeing the dramatic difference a professional cover can make. I had the technical skills if not necessarily the artistic ones, but mostly I lacked the relevant experience and emotional distance required to create something appropriate for the true purpose: selling the books.
Thank you for this update. I will get your books no matter what. But I hope I don't dislike them. It would make the idea of me writing a good book all the more daunting. But I'm more eager than daunted.
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Old 09-02-2021, 02:19 PM   #8
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You have to make sure you have a good cover. A standard self-published rubbish cover will lose sales. When browsing, if the cover is rubbish or looks like romance, I bypass for sure.
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Old 09-02-2021, 02:25 PM   #9
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Unless you want Romance?
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Old 09-02-2021, 02:31 PM   #10
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Unless you want Romance?
I do want romance. Just not in book form.
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Old 09-02-2021, 08:31 PM   #11
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A comment made outside this thread made me want to add...

A professionally made cover does not guarantee an attractive cover - you've got to shop around for artists likely to be a good match to what you want.

I've been thoroughly disappointed by many covers offered by the big publishers these days - so many made from generic clipart with no sense inspiration or relevance. They just don't seem to care. But what most of them have, even if they're boring or ugly, is that same hard-to-define impression of professional production - it may be generic, but those generic parts were assembled by someone that knew what they were doing.
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Old 09-03-2021, 07:56 AM   #12
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As Quoth stated, make sure the artist is "sufficiently dead long enough" and is not able to be resurrected. There's nothing I hate worse than a dead artist coming back for revenge because I used his or her cover. Plus, the puddling on the floor is simply abominable!
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Old 09-03-2021, 11:34 AM   #13
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[...] But I'm more eager than daunted.
Eager is good. Cultivate that. As far as I am concerned the most important thing is to enjoy the process, because often that might be all you get out of it. I've written lots of stuff that has not gone on to publication and if it felt like hard work I'd resent the time lost.
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Old 09-03-2021, 06:29 PM   #14
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A comment made outside this thread made me want to add...

A professionally made cover does not guarantee an attractive cover - you've got to shop around for artists likely to be a good match to what you want.

I've been thoroughly disappointed by many covers offered by the big publishers these days - so many made from generic clipart with no sense inspiration or relevance. They just don't seem to care. But what most of them have, even if they're boring or ugly, is that same hard-to-define impression of professional production - it may be generic, but those generic parts were assembled by someone that knew what they were doing.
Yabbut, with few exceptions, the trade-pubs already have momentum on their side(s). They are producing a known author, a known quantity and the cover is far less important (they think, wrongly, I might add).

I'm not trying to be Dora Doom, but I do want to say that I have seen EXCEEDINGLY FEW successfully-designed-by-author covers. Is it impossible? No. Is it likely? NO.

Not to mention, as somebody else said, the emotional distance needed is impossible to achieve. No author is truly capable of separating themselves from their work--or, I should say, exceedingly few self-publishing authors. They don't have those years of writing discipline that trade-pubbed authors have, learning to ruthlessly self-edit, and they can't do the same, either--standing back and independently viewing what's needed for a cover--for cover design. You guys have no idea what I suffer, daily, at my shop when I take in covers. It's...sad, really.

I STRONGLY recommend that you consider a paid cover designer. With some patience (!!!) and diligence, you'd be amazed at what you can find for very cheap pricing. (like, no kidding, $15 for a simple genre fiction cover, if you need to keep it that low.) Do I recommend, largely, more expensive designers? Yes, I do. BUT, seriously, for $15-$25 you can do surprisingly well and a s***load better than you're likely to do yourself.

Trust me on this.

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Old 09-04-2021, 08:26 AM   #15
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I STRONGLY recommend that you consider a paid cover designer.
As a reader/bookbuyer: 100% agree. Design is a skilled profession that should be treated with respect. Lots of people think they can do it just because they've slapped up a Powerpoint or two. They can't. It shows. And it raises the question "did they bother hiring an editor for the inside of the book, or was that aspect of book production treated with the same level of care as the cover?"

I just end up never buying any books with obvious DIY covers, unless they've been very very strongly recommended by readers I trust. I don't think I'm alone.
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