View Full Version : Starting a cover business - Legal Questions

10-29-2011, 02:21 AM
Hey, awesomely helpful community, I'm hoping some of you might be able to help me with some legal advice here. I'm starting a cover business for self-pubbed authors to custom commission covers - not sure what I'll charge yet, want to be fair, but I'm thinking probably in the $75-$100 dollar range. A couple samples of my work are below. (Click the thumbnails for larger image).

However, because I don't really have much legal know-how, I'm trying to make sure I cover my bases on all fronts, both for my own sake and my customers. I'm not trying to get rich quick here, just supplement my income a little with my own skills, but not at the expense of screwing anyone over.

So first question: I make my covers with a combination of my own photos and ones on the web I've purchased the commercial license too, usually via subscriptions at the usual stock photo sites. Now, I think this covers me for using those photos in a cover I make and sell to a customer....but what about the customer? Since the photos are used in covers for product they're selling, doesn't that mean they need to own the commercial license for those photos too? If so, how do I handle that? Do I build the cost of the photo/license into the price I charge them and buy it on their behalf?

Basically I want to make sure they have what they need in case anyone ever comes to them and says, hey, I recognize this photo from this place....do you have the rights/permission to be using that?

Second question: Same thing, but with fonts. I know this isn't an issue with fonts like Times and Arial, etc but I've heard differing opinions on custom fonts. Some of my research seems to indicate that fonts (or more accurately, typeface created with a font) violates no copyright in the US, and as long as you credit the source you're legally and ethically sound. Others say that it actually IS copyright protected but if you duplicate the font yourself, which is easy enough, you're then protected....but that seems kinda shady. If I want to make a cover using a custom font that I've found somewhere on the web, how do I go about doing that without screwing anyone?

And third question: what am I missing/forgetting, if anything? Are there any other legal issues involved in creating/selling covers that I'm overlooking and should be aware of?

Thanks in advance for any help you guys can give me!

[/URL]http://www.freeimagehosting.net/t/067df.jpg (http://www.freeimagehosting.net/067df) [URL="http://www.freeimagehosting.net/b9b93"]http://www.freeimagehosting.net/t/b9b93.jpg (http://www.freeimagehosting.net/b9b93)


10-29-2011, 03:56 AM
I am also working on getting started in making covers, so I can understand where you are coming from.

First off, start doing a little research on what covers illustations go for. Granted, self-publishing has a smaller audience, and so print runs won't be that high, so you won't charge as much for a mass market book, but you don't want to short change yourself or other artists. Consider that some have to make a living from this, and they have to charge more money for business costs.

Don't forget to include the cost of stock images you buy, and carefully read commercial liscences to ensure that they cover the usage of the particular picture. Also, make sure you have a contract that insures that you keep the copyright to your cover work. In effect, you would be liscencing the image for use.

Fonts depend. There are sites out there that allow for completely free (including commercial use), but make sure that you choose a font from those sites. Others will have restrictions, and could get you in trouble if someone recognizes them.

If you start to do much work with covers, your best bet is to ask someone who has actual legal know-how. (I'm assuming you're from the US, if not, my thoughts may not apply). Have a written contract.

And good luck. I'm working on the same thing, only I hope to eventually build it into a full time business (or at least part of a larger photo illustration business.) :-)

10-29-2011, 05:00 AM
I would also suggest a contract of some type that spells out clearly the cost, how many revisions can be made (you might work with an author who changes their mind twenty times and how will you handle that and how much time will it take?). Judge Judy calls it a "meeting of the minds." I think it's always a good idea to "get it in writing."

10-29-2011, 05:31 AM
Thanks you two! Excellent suggestions, I'm looking around for a contract template as we speak.

Gale Haut
10-29-2011, 07:02 AM
Why not go for the LLC and start up a business with some other designers? Most designers have different areas of expertise, after all. You'll probably make more money if you combien your skill sets and leads.

10-30-2011, 02:34 AM
Why not go for the LLC and start up a business with some other designers? Most designers have different areas of expertise, after all. You'll probably make more money if you combien your skill sets and leads.

Very interesting idea Gale. To be honest, I'm not sure how to go about that either, but its definitely worth looking into. Particularly because it seems that there's not a lot of places to advertise a cover art business, and a lot of it seems to be word of mouth - with several cover artists working out of one central website, say, you'd get a lot more eyes on your business a lot quicker. Hmmm.