In Praise Of Libraries

Oak And Mist final cover

So today something kind of cool happened. My daughter was using my phone and decided to Google Oak and Mist. She then became very excited.

‘Mummy, someone’s drawn your book!’

I had a look and, sure enough, it was my first piece of fan art. I can’t share it here as it’s not mine to share, but the artist, a teenage girl, had drawn her own representation of the sword image from the cover and written a short post to go along with it. On looking further, I could see it was done through a site designed by young people for young people and working in conjunction with area libraries – the idea was that readers 11-18 could post reviews and artwork about books they enjoyed, something that seemed to me to be a great initiative.

At a time in the UK where a recent BBC report uncovered increasing library closures, a drop in paid library jobs and an almost 100% rise in the number of library volunteers, it was nice thing to see evidence of libraries being used within their communities. In these days of free books and easy downloads, I suppose going to the local library and browsing the shelves might seem a bit old hat. However, free internet, e-book downloads, classes and book group initiatives such as the website described here are just some of the services offered by local libraries. As an independent author, I’ve also received a fair bit of support from area libraries, being invited to speak with reading groups on several occasions and having my very own book signing, as well as the pleasure of seeing my books available to borrow on their shelves.

The BBC report generated a fair amount of interest so I hope it’s been a wake-up call and that local libraries will start to thrive, rather than gradually fade away, as the services they offer to the community in terms of opportunities to learn and grow are, in my opinion, invaluable. After all, it’s a sad thing when a flagship library such as the one in Birmingham are so short of funds that they have to put out a call for people to donate books.

Today it was a thrill seeing my first piece of fan art, which wouldn’t have happened without the library supporting my work and making it available to borrow. So I left a comment saying how much I liked the image and the interpretation of my book. And I think next week it might be time to visit my local library again…

Picture Perfect

In a past life, I used to work in advertising. I had a few different roles – print production, casting, photography producer, general dogsbody. One of the roles I held involved purchasing all stock photography for the large agency where I worked at the time, meaning I had to negotiate rights and usages for each image, so it would be fair to say I know a little bit about the process.

Many people who choose to self publish also choose to use stock images for their cover artwork. There are several reasons for doing so: the images are sharp and professional, they are easily found online, and it’s not always possible to take the photo you need yourself. Stock photos tend to fall into one of three categories:

Rights managed. These are images which require rights to be purchased for their usage. These fees are based on number of uses, the area where the image will be used, the length of time it will be used for and a few other variables, including fees paid to models who may appear in the image. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend using this type of image for your cover, as it’s quite difficult to predict how many copies you will sell or where, and to purchase a blanket usage license would be quite costly!

Royalty Free. These are images for which you pay a single fee, then you are free to use them as often as you like, wherever you like. Therefore, they are quite useful for use in cover designs, though one downside is that you do not own the exclusive rights to the image, so it can be used by somebody else at any time.

Free. There are lots of sites offering free stock images, some of which are excellent. However, some downsides can include the images not being of the best quality, or that you have to enrol and pay a subscription fee to access the images without watermarks. Also, I have seen some of these free sites with the disclaimer that the images are not to be used for commercial purposes, which then discounts them as being used on the cover of your book. I recommend to always check the fine print before using any of these images.

You will also have to give credit to the photographer as well, so make sure to do so when using any stock image in your books.

One way around all of this is to take your own photos. You don’t need to be a Photoshop whiz to create your own effects either – even Microsoft Word has a whole selection of filters and effects you can apply to your images. For example, here is a photo of some tulips I took with my IPhone (inside the Eden Project, just FYI):


It’s rather pretty, isn’t it? (if I say so myself) 🙂

And now here it is with several different filter effects added:

Tulips effect 1 Tulips effect 2 Tulips effect 3 Tulips effect 4 Tulips effect 5

This was the result of about ten minutes messing around with the images in a Microsoft Word document, then saving each one as a JPEG. As you can see, you can get quite a few interesting effects.

Just something to think about, if you are considering designing your own cover.