These are the thoughts I grapple with as my mouse pointer hovers over the image on my screen. I am one week into my DIY ‘Book Cover Boot-camp’ and I do not know the answers. This alphabet soup world of Images and Fonts and Backgrounds is less hospitable than I thought. I should have minions doing this for me. My minions should have minions….
The big question: exactly which internet images am I allowed to use on my book’s cover and which am I not? I’m talking regular mainstream images here, not porn! I know nothing about that despicable industry.
I’m talking about the images (photographic or otherwise) that would look pretty slick on a book cover in your local Exclusive Books. Now some pics on the web are clearly marked as Not For Free. And some pics won’t even let you copy and paste them to your own private, not for commercial use, Art Appreciation folder (there’re just wayyy too many cynics in this world).
But most pics seem to be accompanied by the following tagline: ‘images may be subject to copyright.’ And it’s the ‘may’ in that sentence that disturbs me.
I consider the flawless image of the massive hairy Baboon spider on my screen: Ceratogyrus brachycephalus according to the caption on the web page dedicated to twelve year old Stoffel Van der Horst’s biology project. He’s captured the spider’s aggressive pose perfectly. It has a certain ominous elegance. I drum my fingers on my desk. Exactly how deep do young Stoffel’s pockets go? And what exactly is his appetite for copyright infringement litigation? What would happen if I took his photo, converted it into a mirror image and removed one of the beast’s hind legs? Would this be a ‘new’ image? My image?………………….What about…two legs?
But just how hard can this cover design stuff actually be, I muse?
A voice in my head sings out an answer, ‘when you pay peanuts you get monkeys.’
‘What do you get for half a sesame seed?’ I reply….
I move my pointer off the image of the spider and onto an image of a rearing horse.
Could a horse work? Could a horse work? I wonder.
And, just like that, genius finds me and wallops me up-side the head.
Almost crackling with inspiration, I leap from my office chair, dash to my daughter’s room and plunge headlong into the realm of backyard special effects. I rifle through her chaotic toy basket and fish out a random unicorn. The horn snaps off easily.
From there it’s mere child’s-play to balance it on a window sill next to a bonsai tree for effect. It now rears like a fearless Arabian stallion. I switch off the light, darkening the room and crouch down, appreciating the silhouette the morning sunlight gives the drama of horse and ancient tree, squaring off on a barren skyline that’s flatter than a salt pan. Maybe they’re standing on a frozen pond, I muse. Could be. The water obviously rose up around the tree and froze. Anyone can see that. No matter, I mutter. I can crop the skyline out later if need be. I whip out my ipod and shoot the scene, adding the faintest quiver to my hand to ward off critical scrutiny with an artistic blur. I rush off to my computer and download the image. Against the surgical glow of my laptop screen, the shadowy image looks less like an Arabian Stallion rearing beneath a malevolent tree and more like a pony farting flames, en route to the Magical Kingdom of Ealeantria.
I drift back to the window sill tableau. Who’udda thunk writing the book was the easy part.
I inspect the unicorn eunuch. I could get into kak for this. I squish the horn back on the head with the tiniest snollie of Prestik and balance the unicorn on the top ledge of my daughter’s bookshelf. She’s sure to skittle it onto the tiled floor when she hurtles into her room after school. Clumsy girl.
But there’s no time to ponder my daughter’s failings. The clock is ticking. The kitchen is getting warmer. The cheering crowds are gathering on the balconies….