Saturday, September 8, 2012

Artistic Identity Theft

I've been playing nice these past few days, but I did hint that I was ready to put somebody on blast in the near future. Well, the future is here. So the first thing I should do is set the table (so to speak). The Indie scene is a growing community. With the movement you will find all sorts of good. Unfortunately, there are also a good number of "snake oil" sales men (women too, I'm sure). People in the fringes are worse than used car dealers because there is really no solid protocol in place. Most of what goes on is the good old fashioned "word of honor" type stuff. Remember when a handshake was good enough? Sadly, those days are gone.

So, let's say I wrote a book. Okay...I have, but we are trying to make a point so play along. Now, I release this book and make my money. A few months later, I use my computer and I just substitute all the character names. Now, I release this "new" story with a different title and everything. You, being a fan (I said we are my pretend, I get there) rush out and buy my new book. Do you feel a bit jilted?

So, let me just say that I feel very fortunate. May December Publications has some fantastic cover artists. When I saw the above picture, I knew that Shawn Conn was who I wanted doing my DEAD series covers. We have added a few other very talented individuals. all of which provide something that we hope makes you want to pick our books up and discover that there is as much talent on the inside as there is on the outside. But here is the thing...when we put a book out, that cover is its identity. Don't you agree? I mean, look at how identifiable certain images become. The band KISS has an iconic logo that is recognizable worldwide. People learn to identify a product on sight. Some day, I hope the DEAD logo is something that identifies a brand. So, are you following me? 

Now...imagine the horror a writer must feel if they see THEIR cover that they PAID for on somebody else's book. Now there is nothing wrong with an artist making his or her money. Sell prints, make t-shirts or posters...that's fine. However, if you sell somebody cover art and then sell that same art top somebody else with "a few cosmetic changes" then you are a thief and a bad guy. And if you get indignant about that...I could give a rip. What you are doing is called a hustle. YOU NEED TO BE STOPPED.
I'm not qualified to comment on the content of these titles. I own one, but have not read it yet. And I may not be the most observant guy around ...I lose my wallet and keys AT MY DESK about five times a day, but are you seeing what I'm seeing? Zooming in and adding red to the eyes is NOT creating something new. I don't care if the "artist" zoomed in on the hand clutching the shoulder...still wrong. Now I don't know if some sort of arrangement was made in this case...but in this next case I know for a fact that at least one of the authors was mortified when the following discovery was made.

The "illustrator" in question, Neil Jackson, doesn't see a problem. In fact, he is pounding his shoe on the podium of social media about "whining writers" who just don't get it. He works SO HARD...and is the victim here. curtains...white bet that was grueling. How many mouse clicks on Photo shop did it take? to take a peek at how he deals with his customers? Just click here. is another one of the problems I have with making deals with people you can't look in the eye before entering into a deal. That little crowbar comment...any loud-mouthed horse's ass can talk big on a keyboard. repercussions because there isn't somebody there to stuff those big words down his throat. I may not be the meanest dog in the yard, but I am far from dainty and have a few scars on my forehead and I am fairly certain he wouldn't talk that way to me if I was standing in front of him.

A few days ago, I said that real revolution starts with one or a small group. Well, I am calling on anybody who believes that this kind of crap needs to stop and heels like this need to be run out of town on a rail. I know that ever since the Mandy DeGeit "incident" when a publisher whose initials are AG got tarred and feathered...the world has been just a bit sweeter. Pure and simple, the guy was an abusive punk who ruined other peoples work, plagiarized, and wrote unauthorized sequels. People just kept walking away with the thought of "What can I do?" By yourself...very little...but together, we can make a difference. Tell your friends...spread the word.


  1. Wow! Disgusting behavior.

    I bought a pre-paid cover from someone. On her website, she says she doesn't resell those. However, I've since found out that she's done several others with the same image with different colored backgrounds, or reversed images, birds added or removed. But since I neglected to take screen shots and now can't find them again, I don't have any proof, so I won't name her.

    I loved my cover for a novel that will debut this fall and have received tons of compliments on it. Now I'm torn about using it. I wanted something that was unique to my story. Plus I paid for it and I don't really have the money to pay for a second cover right now. It really sucks when things like this happen.

    Thanks for posting about this guy to avoid.

    1. Rhonda, you're right, that sucks! I hope you figure something out--though it should be the cover artist fixing things, not you.

  2. It seems every profession has hustlers. Writers and actors and dancers all seem the most vulnerable. I agree, we should stand together to stop this abuse.

  3. Thank you for everything. For those wondering I was the one mortified. I am lucky enough to have good friends and Jeffrey Kosh provided me with a free original cover for 'Oh, The Horror' when he saw what happened.

    I was a wimp and said nothing in public about what happened because I didn't want to be blasted for making a fuss. Thank you Todd (and a few other amazing folks) for not only helping me but for speaking out.

    1. Sometimes the good guys do win. I am glad to hear you got a new cover.

  4. I am a friend of Rhonda's and have shared her upset over the book cover she paid to have done and is now not sure she wants to use.

    Like I said in response to your earlier post where you hinted at this topic, it's crapshoot if you don't know somebody who has used that particular service provider. One idea is this: if that service provider has a list of authors with whom they've worked, contact those authors.

    When I was looking for an editor for the novel I intend to publish next year, I got a particular author's name off the website of X editor. I contacted this author and she advised me against using X editor and gave the name of the editor she is now using. I was glad I took the time and trouble to contact this author and appreciative of that author's candor. Doing my homework was worth the trouble.

  5. This is infact not something new, but it is something every artist should pay attention to.

    The misunderstandings is all in the deal when you buy or sell the rights to your work. You have to make sure, you have a written deal pointing out, what rights are being sold - and what rigths are not part of the deal. I myself work on both sides of this fence. I am a writer, a publisher - and an artist. I have negotiated cover arts, movie rights, rigths to publication in foreign languages, etc. - AND if the deal isn't precise, you'll end up in a bad place.

    The issue here is what was sold and what wasn't sold. Did the writer or publisher buy the exclusive rights to the art, or did they just buy the rights to use them on one book - leaving the artist with the rights to sell and resell the art over and over again?

    Most often when dealing with cover art for books you only buy the rights to use it once - leave all other rights to the artist, and then you must be prepared for something like this.

    I am not trying to sound like some old school teacher raising my finger, believe me, I have been there, I have felt cheated, I have misunderstood what I sold and bought as well. I have even been there, loving the cover of my book, only to see the same image on the cover of a Black Sabbath album. I learned these things the hard way.

    This was my book cover, the book was published before I went indie. The publisher Gyldendal is the biggest Danish Publisher:

    This is a link to the Black Sabbath cover using the same image:

    So, this happens to even the big publishers and the big record companies.

    The same rules apply when a writer sells a story - or the movie rights for instance: If the written deal is not exclusive, the writer can, and should, resell if possible. I have resold some short stories over and over again. Remember, an artist or a writer do not work for a living, we make a living controlling the rights to the work we have already done.

    1. As for me I bought the cover not knowing it had already been used and was told by the artist that it was original and he changed a few things to make it "fit the mood of the book better". The original image I bought was the exact one on the young man's book. The curtains were turned red and some blood smears were added but it's quite obviously the same cover. Also the young fellows book was first published in September of 2011. Mine was published in March of 2012.

      I understand images being reused but to tell the person buying the image that it's not ever been used before and was just something the artist had created for them is in poor taste.

      I had been told by many Indie authors that this artist was amazing and as you can see he's very talented. I was shocked when a friend sent me the link to a book with the exact cover I bought. Keep in mind Mr. Pate's cover is the one that was sold to me. The artist changed it only after the agreement to purchase it and affirmation that it was a unique cover.

    2. Of course, it is the same picture used in both covers.

      Did he mare the art work or did he make the full cover - with the words etc.?

      What happened in my case was that the publisher hired a guy to do the cover work and he bought the photo somewhere - and that somewhere only sold him (and Black Sabbath) the rights to use it once.

      In this case this is what happens. If you on the other hired the artist who made the art and the written agreement says he'd make a unique cover for your book - and he clearly didn't do that, I would do three things: 1) Claim my money back, and have a new cover done elsewhere, 2) Never use him again, 3) Warn everybody I know about him.

      If the agreement don't say anything about unique art work, execlusive rights to use it at least in a limited area or time, it might be hard to get the money back - and you might have to put this down to learning money, so you make sure the agreement says it all next time.

    3. Sorry, for my bad English this time. I should never try to write when the children are arguing :-)

  6. I would heartily recommend to forward the names of people like this to Writer beware! (Google it for details). Unfortunately it seems to be one more reason why the indie scene is looked down upon in some circles, it has a diminishing effect on us all. I always (where I can) act as an professional, acting any other way is detrimental to one's own career. Problem is, as one of these kinds of people goes out of business, ten more appear...

  7. Thanks for shedding light on this. I would have presumed that buying the book cover meant you got the rights to that image altogether. However, having worked in the legal field, I also know that you should read the fine print.

    This is yet another area in which the writer community is so important, as we can recommend those whose work is high quality and full of integrity and warn about others whose work is not.

  8. There are artists that do individual works and then there are ones that do templates. For my blog and my Wordpress site, I picked out templates I can live with. I did this because I do not have time or expertise to do an original or money to spend on a graphic artist who will not use a template, only one in their collection.

    When it comes to covers, I do my own with photos I've or relative taken. With my children's series, I use cartoons by my illustrator son {no, he is exclusive to our series which is geared to the 7-12 crowd} or I have friends who will put together what and how I want. In one series I will be using a model and I know some of the pix I will use have been used before - I will try to figure how to make it unique to my needs.

    When using models, you have a choice of spending lots and getting an individual cover or using their photo with whatever enhancements you or your artist decides on.

    All I can say about the graphic cover is I hope the buyer/author was told she/he was picking from a template and is satisfied with the work.

    If said author was led to believe the artistry would be unique, they would have a case for getting their money refunded. Bad press, is bad press - a little of that does more damage than one wants if they are on the receiving end of the publicity.

  9. I had stories ripped by Indie Book lounge for their Memorial day anthology. Alan Schnieder said he would let me have some copies for friends. The two bit shark, I bet he even claimed the one he said he liked a lot. I have seen his books on Amazon and the reviews stink.

  10. I don't know about the second set of covers, but the first set, with the female vampire, is not an exclusive cover. I have seen it on fotolia and other sites that sell stock photos, as well as a movie cover. q=Animals&id=1e239edf-be5b-4f57-8cb5-a233bfafd400&where=&latlon=0%7e0&FORM=DTPSHA

  11. As an artist, I'm of two minds about this. When I create an original from scratch I give rights to that person. They paid for it. I only keep the right to sell prints at places like cons and to use in my portfolio, etc. (You want me to waive that right, you gotta pay for it fairly. I never end up waiving it.) I intensely dislike re-using artwork. However, most won't actually pay for the work and my right arm can't take much more abuse. It just can't.

    On the other hand, I do also use stock artwork. The covers I make using stock art are my most popular. I tweak, I work, I try to make my stuff original. But all of this is knowing that it's stock art. Someone else is going to like that picture. Someone else is going to use that picture. However, I truly enjoy tweaking the pictures. A lot.

    Authors should also be informed where cover artists are getting their pictures. If they're paying me barely an hour's wages for a cover (when I'll work much longer) and they want me to use that photo they saw on Shutterstock, they need to be educated on what stock art really is and where it comes from.

    And I won't digress to the dozens who expect me to use artwork without paying for the proper amount of rights...

    A cover artist who did like those two samples above isn't an artist. Art takes effort. But maybe that's just me.

    1. I thinbk anoother concern, when dealing with "cover artists" who are using stock covers is for them to put, IN WRITING, the rights that they have purchased on the photos themselves--do they even own the rights to these photos in order to resell them? Food for thought.

  12. Traditional publishers often reuse cover art, so it's not at all surprising that indie artists would find this an acceptable practice. If you want the cover art on your books to be exclusive, your best protection is a contract that specifies that the cover art you purchase is exclusive. Without a contract, the law will be on the artist's side.

  13. Thanks to everybody who had their comments here and elsewhere about a topic that may stick around for a few days in the social universe...until the next big dilemma come along at least.

  14. It's possible to have the same cover because all the artist is using is a royalty free image. I don't know the author of those two books that have the cover of the woman biting the man, but one of my books has the same cover. Now since I brought the image from Fotolia, it's my image as much as anyone else's. Just something to think about. However, if the same artist is selling the same cover to more than one person, it's not okay.