Thursday Tech Tips: Can’t Use it Just Because It’s on the Internet

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Hello everyone! Welcome to a fresh post in our Thursday Tech Tips series. Last time we talked about web tools and apps that you can use to help you with your writing and promotion work. Among those tools, I mentioned one to help you design your own banners and teasers. That leads to today’s topic:

What Photos and Music Can You Use to Promote Your Books?

As the main headline says, it might be on the Internet, but that does not mean you can use it. And sometimes, even if you use it, the how is as important.

There are a lot of images and songs floating about the social media sites and author websites that should never, ever be there in the first place. Songs on trailers that we have not contracted as a soundtrack, images that we don’t have the right to use, they all come at us every day. There is a right and a wrong way to do this. As authors, we should know better than any other people how copyright works and how it hurts when someone infringes it.

But wait, Alina, you’re missing something! Some of these trailers and promo videos are made by fans!

True, some book trailers are fan-made. That does not make it right. If you as an author use that trailer to promote your work, it’s just as bad as making one yourself. You should never encourage fans to wrongfully use pictures and songs to show love for your book. Just as posting a review for a pirated book does not make it all better. You still downloaded a pirated copy.

There are lots of images out there that are either completely free to use, or quite inexpensive. Same goes for music. And sometimes just asking for permission can still result in you using something for free or for a small fee.

If it’s Not Okay for Your Book Cover, It’s Not Okay for Your Teasers

Authors and graphic designers tend to pay a lot more attention to what they put on their covers than on any other promotional banners and teasers. The rule is if you can’t use it for your cover without paying for it first, you can’t use it for your teasers either. And if you bought an image for a cover design, make sure that your licensing model allows you to use it for further promotional banners first. If you are not allowed manipulate the same photo for more than its cover illustration purpose, then use your entire cover on the banner.

Of course, you might not know wheter you can or cannot use a certain song. Well, search for the song in libraries that include free to use music. Start with YouTube! They have a huge library of songs that aren’t under any copyright. To adapt the above rule about covers – if a TV station or movie has to pay to have a song on their soundtrack, the same applies to your book trailer.

Can I Share Photos Just to Illustrate Settings and Characters?

Sharing stuff on social media is not wrong if you mention the source and don’t alter the content. If something has been posted on a website, you can share the link and preview to it. If it’s shared on a social media site, you can share it on your profile (as long as it’s allowed by the audience selected by the initial poster). Slapping a quote over it and sharing it with no credit to the creator and no prior consent from them? That’s no longer cool. Slapping the name of your character on top of it isn’t that cool either. But simply sharing who your inspiration is for a certain character is not that much of a problem.

But I Want to Share My Playlists!

That’s easy to achieve. There are several sites where you can create public playlists without getting into trouble. Or you can simply make a text file with the band/artist names and the song names that either inspired you or that describe your character and plot.

So Many Rules! Can You Come up With Solutions?

I know, it sucks, and it’s not easy, especially for beginner or indie authors. Doing it all professionally costs a lot. Yet you demand the same respect you have to show: don’t steal stuff unless you want your stuff to be stolen. Or otherwise put, if you don’t want it to ever happen to you, why would you do it to someone else?

In order to help you stay on the straight and narrow, I will follow up this post with two more highlighting where you can get photos and music free of charge or for small fees. I’ll also tell you how to refine your google searches so you can avoid copyrighted material. Stay tuned if you want to find out more about the topic and do let me know in the comments what your thoughts are so far!

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