This is a follow-up post for the Author Finance lesson. The aim is to show you where to find resources, how to choose which one is right for you, and how to use them responsibly.
Part 1: Images
Whether you’re designing your own cover, or want to spruce up your website or blog with a few pictures, it’s always good to be responsible when looking for the right ones. Do Not use Google search and take whatever you find there. A search engine is just that, it tells you where to find images. It does not give you permission to use them. Be wary of sites like Photobucket and DeviantArt. Those are meant to display images, not give them out. Although the waters are murky with DeviantArt, since it has a Stock Images category. In that case, always contact the artist for permission before you use their images.
There are a couple of great blog posts I’ve read in the past and unfortunately can’t find them to pass on to you. They talked about an author getting sued for using images under “Fair Use,” citing the creator and giving proper credit on her blog, but without permission. Here is the thing: You can’t freely use everything and anything you come across. And it’s not always easy to suss out what you can use and how you can use it. When in doubt, turn to royalty free stock image websites. Royalty free means you don’t pay beyond the first purchase. Meaning, if you put the image on the cover of your book, you don’t have to pay royalties to the creator for each copy sold. The sites I use most are Stock.Xchng, Fotolia, and iStockPhoto. Stock.Xchng is all royalty free and free images. Meaning, you pay nothing. BUT the permissions vary from image to image. I’ve found that most images of people have a different use requirement than landscapes (they require you to contact the owner when using it for public works, or contact them for permission). These are always stated on the image page so pay attention. Fotolia is a paid site, but they have daily free images, which you can download at no cost. They also have subscription plans which makes buying images cheaper, but although you can get images for less than $1 that way you might not necessarily need 100 of them. They also make it easy with licenses and have a general rule for all images. Read it to make sure you know what you’re getting into. iStockPhoto is a little pricier. It works the same as Fotolia and I think they have subscription plans as well.
Part 2: Fonts
I could spend days on sites like DaFont. And there are tons more out there. Most of these fonts are “free for personal use” which means you can use them in images, graphics, etc. Some will allow you to redistribute the font, with the condition that it must be in its original format and cannot be sold for money (in other words, you got it free, it needs to stay free). Some will ask for donations, and others require you to pay a small licensing fee to use it. The toughest part about fonts is finding a site that is easily navigable. Not all of them will give you categories or searches. I love DaFont because it gives you both and the fonts I find there are many, varied, and well made.
One thing to keep in mind is be careful when using exotic fonts on your website. Every computer, browser, operating system, and screen translates fonts differently. If the font you use is not supported on someone’s computer, it will default to a generic, sans serif font (most often) and you will lose your creative flourishes. Same goes for eBooks. Don’t use special fonts or characters because they will not always be translatable by eReaders. I found this out the hard way. The best use for custom fonts is in graphics and cover pages. There, they are embedded into the image, so there is no question of how they look.
Part 3: Music and Videos
Looking to create a trailer video for your newest release? Great! But don’t use songs you hear on the radio. That is a copyright infringement and will get you sued faster than you can whistle the first note of the song. Instead, just like with images and fonts, look for sites with royalty free music. There are some sites which offer musical pieces for a price. Some offer them for a voluntary donation or free. Sites with stock images will often have videos as well. I use Incompetech for music. It is free (although donations are welcome and encouraged), as long as you credit the creator. You will notice that at the end of each of my trailer videos I have a slide that says “Music by Kevin MacLeod.” This is why. With so many people spending hours browsing videos these days, making a trailer for your book might turn out to be a good investment. Just be smart about it and give credit (or money) where it’s due.
Part 4: Application Resources
This is confusing for me. I never know what’s going on with what I can use or how. If you have GIMP or Photoshop, you can do Google searches for brushes, patterns and scripts (more on that in later posts). The trouble is, there are many sites which say “Free GIMP and Photoshop Brushes Here”, and link to places like DeviantArt. Always make sure you are clear on what you can use for what purpose before you make it public. There are artists who require you to give them credit for these resources when you use them, and some ask for a licensing fee. If you’re using a brush for a small part of the border of your cover, it might not make much sense to have GIMP brush artists mentioned in the credits, but you never know. When in doubt, ask the creator. And be careful, especially with GIMP brushes because they are often times adapted from Photoshop brushes created by someone else. Always make sure to contact the original creator for permissions of any kind.
Do you have sites or resources you use? Please comment and share.