Monday, September 17, 2012

Copyright Protected Images and The Blogger

Image courtesy of SEASKYLAB

It has been a while since I've found the time, and the inspiration, to write an article for Dawn Smith Books. Dark Dawn Creations has consumed about every waking hour of my time for the last several months. Still, while I work to create cover art for my wonderful Indie authors, I'm always watching everything that goes on.

I've been compelled to sack an hour of work time to talk to my readers about copyright. We all love to blog. It can be an outlet, a source of information, a way to connect with our readers, and a marketing tool. It can also cause a barrel full of grief for those that are not prudent about the images they display on their blog.

depositphotos x-small image
I read an article recently by another blogger Roni Loren, who was sued for posting Google images on her blog. A few weeks later a friend of mine was contacted through facebook by a Deviant (Deviant Art Member) who saw their art on his blog and asked him to take it down claiming copyright.

I can not stress enough that you must not post images found on the internet ANYWHERE, unless you have purchased them or sought out the permission to use them. None of the images on this blog have ever been posted with out purchase or permission, (note the accreditation under some of the  pics in early posts). The later images were purchased by me for use on this blog so no credit was needed.

dreamstime free
Please think twice about posting what ever image shows up in your Google image search. It isn't worth the headache and money you'll lose if someone claims copyright and sues. Luckily, you are reading this on my blog, that means I have super helpful links and places for you! I would never just say don't do it, and not give you places you could go for super cheap or even free images!

Dreamstime has a free image bucket. You sometimes have to wade through a sludge pile to find a good one, because you can't use the search feature in the free section.

Pixmac free image has a good supply of images suitable for blogs that can be used with accreditation to the copyright holder. also has a free image bucket that's a bit more user friendly than dreamstime, you can use search on theirs.

 If you want better quality images and a whole lot more selection I have the cheapest paid way for you to go. has small 72 dpi images for as little as 50 cents a download. The draw back is you have to purchase twenty dollars worth of credits. (It used to be ten but they recently changed it). Still at 50 cents an image, for the average blogger twenty dollars will go a long way.

 Last  but not least, take your own photos! There is no better way to make sure your not stepping on anyone elses copyright because you own them! 

Just like an authors words, photographs and art are the spirit and heart of the people behind them. Just like an author, a photographer or artist feels stolen from and jilted when their work is used with out permission. Even at over thirty, the golden rule I was taught as a child still rings true for me: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Purchase or ask permission to use images! Just like you would want some one to purchase your books to read them!

Until next time, may your muse be at your side,
and your writing the light that guides you,

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Aspiring Self-Publishers, Start Here

Now is the greatest time in history to be a writer. Self Publishing has taken what before might have been an insurmountable task, and put it only a mouse click away. The chance to have your book published. No more do the agents and publishing houses have power over the "unmarketable". Our readers get to choose who they want to read, and what they want to read about.

Unfortunately they also get to wade through the sludge pile of unedited, poorly thought out and poorly executed work. Not long ago I was also in awe at the concept of getting my work out there for others to enjoy. Excited that I would not have to worry about the rejection letters that I was sure would rain down on my mail box. (If I'd ever had the guts to send out any queries.)

My first novella was written for Harlequin nocturne cravings, and was studiously ignored for what seemed like forever to me, but was more like three months. During my wait, I discovered that you could self publish. I did my homework and found that the benefits of Independent publishing far out weighed the stigma. I took my little novella and self published it for the first time in December 2011. And never looked at a publishing house again.

Unfortunately I was not ready for publishing. All of the wrongs I previously stated ran through every inch of my book. Sales went through the roof, but it sat uneasy with me the more I learned. I fixed everything but the cover and today it is still one of my best sellers. 

More and more on the forums I frequent I see newbies posting looking for feedback on a book they've already put up for sale. This is not the time to ask for help! That time is before you even upload. Writers groups are around for your benefit. Use them. This is the best place to ask some one for opinions on what you might be doing wrong. 

Your mother, brother, friend, co worker, do not qualify as editors. Even as proof readers they fall short. None of them will want to hurt your feelings, therefor, they will not tell you when your story isn't good enough. Grammar, spelling, syntax, flow and story progression, can only be remedied by an editor. No, your Microsoft Word spell checker does not count as an editor.

Self Publishing is the most rewarding thing I've ever done, but like any thing that's worth doing, it requires hard work, determination, and drive. Slow down, take a deep breath, and polish your work before you start selling it. You will be rewarded in the end. 

Til next time, may your Muse be at your side, and your writing the light that guides you.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Judging A Book By It's Cover. The Evolution Of An eBook Cover

-Mark Barry
I always wanted to write a football hooligan novel. 

Most Americans would never have heard of the pastime which dominated male culture in Cities across Great Britain in the seventies and eighties, but the hobby was pretty widespread. 

I was actively involved in my younger days and had a resource to draw from.

In November and December last year I put together 60k novel on er, off-field activities at Notts County Football Club, in Nottingham, England - the oldest football league club in the world. 

Then, after getting the bug bigtime, and discovering a talent for fast writing, I started writing other books and before you know it, I had four, one planned and a publishing company. 
Trouble is, while I can write a storm, I am an idiot when it comes to Art.

 I have to say that I have no artistic talent whatsoever. 

CSE Grade 5 Art in 1980. 

My Art teacher, the glamourous but waspish Mrs Dowell, in the days when these things were allowed, humiliated me in front of 25 other children by laughing at my publicly displayed effort. 

And that was that with my aspirations to paint landscapes in Sherwood Forest.
UV "Kent Cover" Version One Feb 2012

So when it came to covers, I was worried. 

Then, I thought, how difficult can this BE in a world of technology! With all the packages available, you too can be Picasso, a Renoir, a David Bailey.

So in February this year, I travelled to Kent and started designing the five covers.

Using Open Office Draw, Google and a notepad and pen, I came up with the above for the football hooligan novel.  

At the time, I wanted a pseudonym for the book - hence, Simon Haddow. (Shadow - Mask - Geddit?) 

This is a photograph of some West Ham fans taunting Millwall supporters stretched a bit in a Cubist, Twilight Zone, dreamlike state

When I showed him the finished product on my now defunct website, a friend asked me where I got the photograph. 

I said Google. 

He then went into a ten minute rage about copyright (being a top photographer and graphic designer.)

I never gave it a second thought. I thought Google Images was a public access thing. 

It took me about a day for my friend Kelly and I to design the above, choose the colours, the fonts and all that - and ten seconds to delete it.

Version II didn;t take too long. As Trainer (Sneaker) Culture  was a key aspect of the football hooligan scene in the eighties, I decided - indeed, became fixated - upon the notion of using a sneaker on the front. It seemed to say everything to me. 

Ultra Violence "Diadora Plain" Version II March 2012

I took a photograph of one of my trainers, a Diadora Borg Elite with Gold Epaulettes, and messed about with it on Open Office. 

Notice that the font layout and texture is the same as Version 1. Just different colours.

A week later, I was on the treadmill in my local gym and my trainer came up to me and told me he'd seen all the new covers on the website. He asked me what I'd used to design them. I told him. Open Office. Great JPEG conversion reliability.

Well, he went quiet. 

A lovely young lad called Adam. Top notch gamer. Has a Solid State hard drive and that.  Knows Java. I like to think he's a good friend of mine and as I plodded along at 8k an hour, I realised he didn't like the covers but he was far too nice to tell me. 

Not just the Ultra Violence one. 

All of them.

Gulp. Launch date for the books coming up like a bullet train in open country and five new covers to design.

Version 3 below is my attempt at a Seventies "Reader's Digest" approach. A thematic branding in trendy black and white, with a stark bottle green afterflash. I like the symbolic flash of red.

All five look identical to this. I loved the big green number and I quite like the aesthetic combination of grey and green. I used Word. 

I spent an entire week doing this and I couldn't wait to put the five covers on the website.
UV "Fifty Shades of Grey" Version III April 2012

I did so.

Sales went through the floor. 

That's where Dawn Smith of Dark Dawn Creations got involved.

In my short time on the Amazon Forum, I met Dawn. 

Early June. None of my books were selling. My friend and close associate, Kelly, had feedback that my covers were unappealing. 

As I have never bought a book in my entire life (and I have a sneaky collection of around a thousand), based on its cover, I didn't think that a cover made a jot of difference.

Maybe when I was about to starve, I would see the error of my ways.

One night in early June, Dawn advertised on the forum as a cover designer saying she had slots available. 

It was just too good to be true. I e-mailed her straight away and she got straight back to me. I asked her to assess my covers and she said she would.


She didn't mince her words. I was chastened.

And with that, I was the last customer to get a deal.

Together, on Yahoo Messenger and Yahoo e-mail, Dawn and I worked on the five covers. 

Here's Version 4.
UV "County Road" Version IV June 2012

I took the photograph of Notts County's Meadow Lane stadium one afternoon in mid June. 
The guy in the hat is a Random from one of the Stock sites. 
I had never heard of Stock, but I had heard of multi thousand pound lawsuits by now and I won't make that mistake again. 
The bloody ball is Dawn's idea. 
All my books have my name in this format - based on Stephen King's First Edition hardback "Skeleton Crew", in solid block letters. Dawn came up with the colours for the title and I added the red graffiti idea. 

In all, it took us about eight nights/days - there are 8 hours between the UK and Arizona - to produce six covers (including one newly written book). 

Dawn suggested I drop the Green Wizard branding as it was fatally flawed after my abortive launch. I did so, with heavy heart, though only temporarily, and the brand has helped the marketing in other ways.

You can see them all in the photo folder of Green Wizard Publishing on Facebook or on Dawn's website.

Together, Dark Dawn Creations and Green Wizard Publishing are working on the paperback cover designs (UV is already out). I can honestly say that visiting the Amazon forum - a battleground if there ever was one - that afternoon was one of the most important (and lucky) decisions I've ever made. 

Thanks, Dawn!!

Mark Barry
Green Wizard

Find Mark at: 

Mark Barry has become a good friend in our months of planning and co-conspiring, and I look forward to seeing his dreams come to fruition. As the founder of Dark Dawn Creations I have helped many authors get the cover they desire cheaper than they could have imagined, and I have gained many friends. I will help any one, regardless of budget or genre. Stop by my website and drop me a line, I'm always here to help. 

Til next time, may your muse be at your side, and your writing the light that guides you.