Copyrights, Cover Thefts, and Cake!
The past few months have been, well let’s put it nicely, bathing in the fires of Satan’s hot tub would have felt wonderful. We bought a car — the dealer tried to hide a faulty engine. Four conventions in a row were phenomenally bad. Artists and authors walked out of one early. That’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Imagine when I find an email from CJ, a fantasy author, asking if my Fury cover was made by a certain designer — let’s call them Bob — when it wasn’t.
*smacks head on the table*
Bob didn’t design my cover. Ivan, a highly skilled graphic artist, worked on all but one (Greed) of my Fae Awakening covers. Thankfully, CJ contacted me and we were able to straighten things out over email. After a few back-and-forths, I realized it wasn’t a cover theft.
Let’s dig in…
How I Found My Designer
When I started researching covers, I knew one thing — it HAD to be professional. I’m a freelance web developer and designer. Pencil and ink artwork is one of my skills, too. However, I’m no designer when it comes to complex, visual graphics.
I needed a pro.
Pros cost money.
Lots of money.
I could’ve hired friends, colleagues, associates, but I wanted someone versed in book covers and fantasy elements. So, I went straight to 99 Designs where I could see many covers for one price, instead of one cover by one designer.
99 Designs allows you to run a contest for a designer. You pay a one time fee, and get to see a variety of designs. During the contest, you work with the designers, tweak, and whittle down to those you want to use.
It worked great. My Fury contest had well over 100 submissions from probably 40 or so designers.
Picking The Winner
Picking the winner came down to a few things.
1) Visual Design
Bob won the visual category. The readers loved it. I loved it — although I liked the dark grittiness of Fury better. Bob almost won the contest.
Creatively, Ivan was the first to come up with the concept of the unicorn covered in fire. Shortly after, designs flooded in using his concept and the bigfoot on the back.
He was the original.
It was so bad, that one designer, we’ll call him Tom, reported Ivan for stealing his work. He left an extremely sour taste in my mouth.
Ivan pulled his design from my contest. I loved it, so I asked him to resubmit and challenge Tom to a dual. A dual to the death with lightsabers. I’d reward the winner with cake.
The cake was a lie.
Ivan came around and challenged the report.
Ivan’s re-submission made #2. Tom wasn’t happy. It was easy to figure out who Tom was, too. Bad for him, because I liked his design, although it wasn’t as good as Ivan’s. Worse yet, Ivan said this happens more often than you’d think. I was the first person to actively push for his re-submission… and he has designed every Fae Awakening cover since.
When it came to communication, Ivan was lightning fast. His English is a little broken, not being his first language, but we always beat the hurdle.
Bob, on the other hand, wouldn’t respond to my questions. He would simply resubmit a new mockup a day or so later.
I had questions. I wanted answers.
When it came to picking the winners, readers agreed that Bob’s design won. It was sharp, polished — too polished in my opinion — and had what I needed to convey the story. Ivan’s was darker, grittier, more mysterious.
As I reviewed, I ended up picking Ivan due to his communication, visual design, AND that he was the originator of the concept. When picking designers, it’s not always about the design.
It’s about the future relationship and growing your author business.
Ivan was creative, everyone else ran with his creativity. There really is no original art. Everything starts from some sort of inspiration, but to straight up copy in a contest, I draw the line.
A Theft That Wasn’t A Theft
In a way, Tom and Bob stole Ivan’s concept and ran with it. Bob wasn’t communicative. Tom, well Tom was just plain stupid.
I’m happy to say there is no copyright infringement on the cover that CJ reported.
The funny thing is, there was theft, false reports, infringements, etc. during the whole cover process. Bob did own the design he created. He doesn’t own my name or story, but I opted out of using his design.
Infringements in General
I’m an artist, too, and I watermark everything I put online. People will steal it. Another artist friend found her work being used for product promotions and direct sale by a company claiming it’s their own.
It’s horrible. Those people deserve to be ground slowly from the feet up. Yet, it happens.
When You See It Happen, Report It.
We’re a community that succeeds together.
Although this situation threw me into a frenzy like a shark to chum, I’m glad CJ reported it to me. I’d rather found it was a legitimate design, and not infringement, than an author get tricked.
If you’re interested in where I grabbed my cover, check out 99 Designs.
Note: I do get credit for sending you, but I would never send someone to a place I don’t use. They’ve been instrumental in my self-publishing success.
Will writes the action-packed urban fantasy series The Fae Awakening. He writes about depression, anxiety, and the writing life. You can find him active with the writing community on Twitter and the artist community on Instagram.