Saturday, February 9, 2013

Copyright Infringement OR Coincidence: You Decide

Most of the time, my indie author role is unbelievably fantastic (filled with new fans, friends, and followers and amazing reviews). Periodically, this role puts me in situations that are uncomfortable as best. When that happens, I'm left to wonder if the morals and ethics of the world at large have regressed to a level so low that there may be no hope for people who work hard every day of their lives and try to do the best by others every chance they get to survive. 

For those who follow me, you know being an indie author is my second job. It's one I take as seriously as I do my primary job. Typically, I spend forty-five to sixty hours per week working as a director for a not-for-profit hospital system.  I spend another twelve to fifteen hours commuting to work, and the rest of my time is spent being a wife and mother of two while writing, socializing, and performing every last duty necessary to make sure I release books that are as professional as those released by traditional publishers. 

If you are not an indie author, you probably will not understand - or believe - the amount of detail that goes into every book release. Over the course of three to four months (often times longer), indie authors write, proof, edit, format, book cover design, upload the book to sites, market, blog,  and anything else necessary in order to publish our books. 

Given the hours I put in, the sacrifices my family and I make, and the sleep I'm deprived, I can't help but get upset when I see my hard work and the hard work of others infringed upon. It's going to take a few minutes for me to build my case. Once I'm finished, I'll leave it up to you to decide: Copyright Infringement OR Coincidence. 

Here's what I know to be true:  

Several months ago, my dear friend and cover design artist, Claudia Lucia McKinney (Phatpuppy Art), sent a marketing notification to her authors. With it, she let us know that she was having a pay-it-forward day whereby she graciously offered her services to us for donations only, meaning whatever we paid (and we decided) would go to charity. Claudia's been so successful in her career that she wanted to give back to others. I was impressed with her selfless act and paid her exactly what I would have paid if she were not having a pay-it-forward special. 

As soon as I got the notification from Claudia, I went straight to depositphotos and spent hours looking for a photo that would accurately represent the story I was planning to write for NaNoWriMo 2012. With my options narrowed, I sent all of them over to Claudia and asked her to pick her favorite. I was thrilled with the picture she picked because it absolutely was my favorite. To the right is the picture/models in question: 

Within no time, Claudia had a cover design back to me that encompassed my many requests. Like everything Claudia's ever done for me, I was amazed... awed... thrilled. I should tell you that traditionally I write paranormal and fantasy. Claudia knows this; therefore, she added a hint of sparkly magic to the woman's eyes and the hair around her face. To the left is Claudia's finished product as sent to me for my book cover. 

Now, Claudia had no idea I was completely switching genres for this book and writing an adult contemporary. She and I talked, and she recommended that I decrease the pixels to minimize the 'touch of magic'. I did, and it worked. I also went to work adding the title to the design and making it a real book cover worthy of release. After that, I announced my next book and revealed the book cover. To the right is the finished book cover for Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1) to be released 3/1/13. 

I spent November writing 50,000 words and winning NaNoWriMo 2012 (a writing marathon for authors). December was spent finishing and fine-tuning this powerful story. In January, I did my own proofing, editing, and perfecting of the details. This month, Grave Bound is at my editor, Gathering Leaves. Cassie is an amazing woman who takes my book and looks at it with a magnifying glass. She picks out typographical errors, time-line problems, confusing statements/comments, and anything else that will cause a read to pause. In other words, this month Cassie gets to do all of the hard work, and I get to sit back and anxiously await her formal recommendations. 

While I was catching up on my indie author housekeeping chores, ones that had to be pushed to the side while I wrote Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1), I noticed something that may have slipped past me any other time. A fellow author had scheduled a cover reveal. It was such a big announcement that many, many of my author/blogger friends turned their pages over to her so that her announcement could reach as many people as absolutely possible. Imagine my surprise when I saw the picture to the left. 

I can assure you that I would not be saying anything IF the stock photo had been taken and manipulated into something original. Instead, the tiniest details of Claudia's design were present in this cover. I instantly contacted Claudia who began researching and investigating. She's as concerned with the similarities as I am. 

Please know, that I am in no way, shape, or form suggesting Katie Salidas did ANYTHING wrong. She saw a book cover that met her needs, and she's using it. Remember, I know how hard so works because I work just as hard. My 'concerns' lie with the book cover designer herself/himself. 

Telling the whole picture with a side-by-side comparison, I've included each picture. If you study Claudia's design and compare it to the book cover in question, you will see that the 'touch of magic' appears to be there.  
  1. The original picture from depositphotos
  2. Claudia's original picture as sent to me
  3. The book cover revealed

I can summarize this entire situation by saying that I don't plan to do anything about it. Instead, I'm leaving it up to my peers, fans, friends, and followers to study the facts of this case (and the pictures), and for them to let Claudia and me know their opinions (comment below). The one thing I can say for sure is that I will ALWAYS use Claudia so that I'm not put in a position of collaborating with someone whose works of art are nothing more than copies or infringements. I value creative originality and a pristine moral character too much to settle for less.

A thief of someone else's creative work is still a thief.

Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1) by

Emily Riddle has lived her entire life inside a patriarchal commune led by her father. There are many rules, but the most important one, 'keep it in the commune', is the most difficult for her to follow... especially since the only people willing to champion her cause live on the outside.

When Emily learns her father has promised her to Lorenzo, a perverted man who has plans for her that extend well beyond marriage and kids, she rebels. Regardless of the consequences, she refuses to marry someone who'd rather beat her than caress her.

A day of hooky that starts out as a tiny act of defiance - sneaking out of the commune for a swim - turns into a day filled with hope. After spending time with Levi, a man camping near the lake, she finds what true romance looks like and catches a glimpse into a future that's filled with love and admiration rather than hate and submission.

That tiny peek is enough to change the course of Emily's existence and makes it nearly impossible for her to go back to the commune and pretend she'll ever be able to tolerate the life chosen for her instead of the life she longs for. One that includes Levi.

Fighting to escape the commune, its leaders, and her fiancé proves to be more dangerous than Emily expected. The secrets she knows, as the leader's daughter, will either follow her to the grave or send her - and Levi - there.