Purchasing Your Graphic Design Work Online…Really?

People are always trying to cut corners.  And why not?  Money is tight, the economy is getting better, but we are not quite there, yet, and let’s face it, we are fighting a global economy where we compete with foreign countries who ask for only pennies on the dollar.

Small companies or entrepreneurs need to find ways to be competitive.  This is no different for writers.  Let’s face it, the written word doesn’t fetch the income it used to.  Companies are willing to sacrifice proper spelling, grammar and in some cases facts for cheap content.

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend and fellow writer of mine about self-publishing and book covers.  She suggested my boyfriend offer his talent at a reduce rate to new authors to help design book covers for novels.  She mentioned a few online sources where you could purchase a completed book cover for just $40.  She thought if my boyfriend could be competitive, he might be able to get some freelance work.

I become very nervous when people start talking about finding someone “online” to do work for them.  It’s not that some of these people are not reputable, (though many are not) but you don’t get the same personalization you do when working with a graphic designer in person.

Case in point…During his time at one of the publishers my boyfriend worked for, one of the marketing people happily bounced into his office to tell him this “great news” about this online website that would make his job “so much easier.”  This site would submit front panel book designs.  Hundreds may be submitted and you could choose one and purchase that submission.

My ever-rational boyfriend explained to this marketing person, that there are many legal issues when it comes to working with online sites.

Does this online person who is offering a templated version of the book cover, have the rights to the photo?  How do you know?  Will they ensure that the pictures they use can be done so, free and clear?  Can they supply the template in production ready format?  And what if you like one element of one submission, say the font, but a different element from another, say the color?

As it turned out in this scenario, thinking my boyfriend was just being difficult, the marketing person and the author went with the online template and photo.  When they finally received the photo (after many delays) the photo came through in thumbnail size and couldn’t be resized to fit the book cover and was not production ready.  It took quite a while to get the correct size.

Then they also wanted the originators sign off so they could publish the book cover using the photo.  After several weeks, they finally found the original photographer who had no idea that someone else was trying to sell his work.

Had this photographer seen his photo on a published textbook, could you image the lawsuit that would have ensued?

If I am starting to make you nervous about using an online source for doing your book cover (or other graphical design work for that matter) then good!

You must remember that not all countries have the same laws regarding copywriting and plagiarism.  Countries like India, Pakistan and South Africa may not understand the legal ramifications of using other people’s work here in the U.S.  The last thing you want when you are self-publishing your new book, is to have someone sue you for using their material.

Let’s face it, creating your marketing material, logo or book cover is a very personal thing.  This material will reflect who you are.  Do you really want to leave it up to some person in Pakistan?  (No offense to the people in Pakistan, but you get my point.)

If you are insistent on using one of the online web sites to do your book covers, marketing brochures or any other graphical design work, remember…you get what you pay for.  You may be better served (and receive better customer service) from someone closer to home.

On the up side, with a little research, you can probably find someone right in your own backyard who has a graphical design degree and is willing to do a little freelancing on the side to help you out.  You may pay more than $40, but you can feel more confident that what you are getting is more customized to your wants and needs and less likely to come back and haunt you (legally, that is).

So my question to you is, would you prefer to take your chances with someone unknown in a far away country who is offering to create your website for $5?  Or would you sleep better knowing you had hired someone local who was going to work with you and help you design that perfect whatever to meet your needs?

If you are curious, you can check Dennis’ website to see the difference at http://www.dschaeferdesign.com.

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