Images, Images: Turn “What can I use?” into “This I can use!”

By:  Daven Anderson

When you’re an independent author, one of the first quandaries you will encounter is your book cover. To be more specific, what image should be on said book cover.

Most authors are not as skilled with the arts as they are with words, which rules out drawing or painting your own professional-level cover illustrations. With the ever-growing numbers of independently-published novels out there, the right professional cover image is crucial in differentiating your book from the herd, and making it stand out to your potential readers. The old wisdom of not judging books by their covers may still be true in the ultimate sense, but an unprofessional cover design can cause the good words inside such a cover to be dismissed or ignored.

Also, most authors are not skilled photographers, with access to high-end digital cameras and the physical settings to photograph dramatic, high-resolution images worthy of a book cover. Given the profusion of images all over the Web, many would say this is not a problem. A few minutes of searching can find almost any image one could ever want to use on a book cover.

The big question is, can you legally use that image on your cover?

When you are selling your books, any cover image is being used in the commerce of selling those books. Thus, the cover image for any book sold on a retail basis must be licensed for commercial use. In many instances, even images that can be used on a ‘non-profit’ basis such as a personal website or blog may still be restricted from use where commercial gain is involved.

Of course, there are many sites out there where you can buy royalty-free stock images for commercial use. If you find an image you love, and you have the money, you’re all set.

The problem with this approach is, most authors starting out may either lack the funds to buy such images, or they would rather allocate their money to other project costs, such as professional editing.

Renowned blogger Kristen Lamb observed the need for an online resource for free commercial-use images, and founded the WANA Commons to provide a home where WANA members can share these images for the benefit of all who can use them.

Courtesy Pixabay

Courtesy Pixabay

This Verve UK article lists 27 different sites which offer royalty-free stock images suitable for commercial use. Sites like Pixabay and Gratisography, which operate under the Creative Commons licensing terms, which allow for use, reuse and modification of their images, even for commercial use.

It may take some searching, a bit of Photoshopping and some time to learn to do it right, but these are options to creating your own cover working of a bookshelf. There is one caveat! Read the licensing requirements carefully since individual photographs may have reserved some of the rights. If you are unsure of the language, email the source.

Even more commonly, authors are forever looking for images to spice up their blogs (such as the case with us). These resources are also available for that application. Just remember to credit the source and you’ll find just the thing.

Happy image hunting!



A couple of years ago, Daven Anderson accepted the challenge to craft a saga featuring a brave, wise, dignified hero with special needs, which would reach an audience that would never dream of reading a novel like “Forrest Gump.” Like “Gump”, a story where a hero with special needs proves that quick wit and cunning do not equal wisdom. Unlike “Gump”, a story where danger stalks the hero from beginning to end, from Jack’s well-meaning but devious human Vampire compatriots, to the carnivorous alien Pure Vampires that strike fear in the hearts of all human Vampires. In the Vampire Syndrome saga, Jack struggles to survive and find acceptance in a world where the “human” and the “monster” are one and the same.

PDMI Publishing LLC brought Daven’s creative vision to print intact. Daven was so impressed with the “authors-first” culture of PDMI, he joined the PDMI team as a marketing director. Daven assists his fellow PDMI authors in navigating the worlds of social media and promotion, helping all of PDMI’s team to acheive their mutual goal of spreading their literary dreams throughout the world, via the power of publishing.
Follow Daven on Twitter @DavenAnderson

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