How to Include Images in Your Book Without Getting in Trouble

Image permissions are one area where I advise authors to be careful. If you include a photo, illustration, or another image in your book without understanding its copyright, the image’s owners can send you a cease-and-desist to compel you to remove their image—or even worse, they may sue!

Fortunately, it’s easy to learn the fundamentals of image permissions. Now, this doesn’t cover the full extent of copyright laws. However, I’m here to teach you the importance of terminology, how to obtain images legally, and when you should consult an attorney.

The Keywords of Image Permissions

The cornerstone of image permissions is copyright. Under U.S. law, a copyright is an intellectual property that protects the owner’s right to an original, fixed work, such as an image.

Usually, a work’s creator gains ownership of the work’s copyright. So, if you take a photograph of your garden for your photography book, then you’re the copyright owner.

But what if you want to use an image and don’t have the copyright?

First, check if an image is in the public domain. Public domain means anyone can use the image without permission. A work enters the public domain if it’s old enough or the creator intentionally places it there.

In these cases, double-check before using an image, but public domain images are especially useful if they’re relevant to your book’s subject.

However, what if an image is still under copyright law? Look into fair use when one is allowed to use work even under intellectual property law. Sadly, this is more complicated, but you’re more likely to be able to use an image under fair use if your book is noncommercial or for a nonprofit educational context.

But if you intend to sell a book, especially for entertainment purposes, then your opportunities for fair use are more limited.

In many cases, your ability to use an image in your book will likely come down to requesting permission from the copyright holder. This can be a complex process, but it’s safer than relying on fair use, and you’d earn both legal protection and the good graces of the image owner.

How to Obtain Images for Your Book

You may also be interested in finding artwork for your book cover or finding an illustration for the interior.

As previously mentioned, the most legally straightforward way of obtaining an image is by creating it yourself. By doing so, you control how the image appears and own the copyright.

However, not all authors have the talent to create an image up to fluff. If you aren’t already a cover designer, I recommend not designing your cover, as a bad cover can alienate potential readers.

Another way of getting images is to get stock photos. Stock photos are made to serve many purposes; many are royalty-free and free to obtain. Some websites I sometimes peruse for this blog include Unsplash, Pixabay, and Pexels.

Royalty-free images are nifty in having no strings attached, but the downside is that no strings attached mean anyone can use these images. Then if you decide to use free stock photos for your cover art, you risk customers recognizing your image from somewhere else and dismissing you as a cheapskate.

You can instead opt for paid stock photos. Some websites that provide paid stock photos include Adobe Stock and iStock.

Of course, getting a paid stock photo means paying money for permission, but you’re less likely to share a similar cover as another author, especially if you buy exclusive rights. Just check the license when you pay for a photo; some licenses may limit how you can use the image and for how long.

The last option is to commission an image. You can reach out to an artist and sign a contract for them to create an image to your liking. For many authors, this is the best option: you can have a professional create an image and tailor the contract to obtain the rights you want for the image from the creator.

But with paid stock art, the downside to commissions is still money, and you must oversee negotiating the contract. However, you could alleviate this if you barter with a mutual connection by offering some of your writing services to pay for the commission.

When to get a professional for permissions

Sometimes, you can’t handle permissions on your own, especially if you must obtain a specific image for your book.

At this point, it’s prudent to consult a permissions lawyer or another expert on book permissions. Fortunately, many attorneys are open to giving a free consultation before taking your case, but consider how much you’re willing to pay.

And this is when one of the perks of traditional publishing comes in: if your book gets acquired by a press, they’re likely to have a rights and permissions manager, or even an entire department,

that can work to secure that image. Just be prepared to learn that paying for a specific permission may be too much for their budget.

But if you’re aiming for a small press or self-publishing, don’t fret. There are many ways to obtain images for your book without breaking the law, especially if you’re open to using a different option. After all, the image is not what will make your book successful, but rather your writing.

Over to you: What’s YOUR experience with including images in YOUR book? What options are YOU considering the most for obtaining images?

Elizabeth Javor Outskirts Press

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Reposting Royalene Doyle’s Conversation on DON’T FORGET AUTOBIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS!

Just yesterday, a neighbor asked me a few questions about the “easy way” to pull the time-frames together as he writes his Memoir. Then he wondered: “Is a memoir the same as an autobiography?”

There was a time in my early writing career when these two categories were quite different, the memoir focusing on one brief period of time in someone’s life and the autobiography creating as complete a picture (from birth to present time) of a living person’s whole life. However, today, all the major bookstores I visit combine these two genres in one area: Autobiographies. So does Amazon, even to the point of blurring the lines between all three classifications (biographies, autobiographies and memoirs).

However, as I did my research for this month’s blogs, I came across an interesting quote from the famous writer Gore Vidal who wrote two personal memoirs: “A memoir is how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.” I like the clarity of that definition, and plan to use it when talking with future clients. So it is that I’ve given myself a brief bullet point outline and will share it with you today.

The Memoir:

  • Written in 1st person—the “I did this” perspective.
  • Uses less formal language/word choices.
  • Focuses on one (or two) main events/times in a person’s life, but can include birth date and short paragraphs of early memories.
  • Speaks from the more emotional perspective—how they felt when events occurred.
  • Dates/places may not be exact, such as: I was about 33 when I began this career.

The Autobiography:

  • Although “written by” the individual person(s), it often requires the assistance of a “collaborative writer.” Superb example: Having Our Say by Sarah and Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth (Amazon lists this as a biography when it is clearly an autobiography. Grrr)
  • Offers their life history from birth to present day.
  • Written with detailed chronology facts of personal, political and/or world events, places, and the people they met and interacted with along the way.
  • Authors must also consider who they are writing this book for—their audience—and what aspect of their life is most useful to those Readers.

When I was teaching in a school setting (versus my workshops today), I loved to lunch with the teachers of World History and American History. These inspired people were always telling me about the latest autobiography (or biography) they’d discovered. Of course, the first autobiography they assign to students is Ann Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl. These books not only reveal historic events,” one teacher told me, “they demonstrate the strength people have to survive great tribulations in life which shows our students that they, too, can survive life’s challenges.”

picture of Anne Frank's Diary

SO…have you added a bunch of books to your resources bookshelves this month? I hope you’ve selected a few. The individuals you’ll be reading about will, indeed, enlighten you and the author’s writing techniques will be instructive, too. Take time to talk with your local librarian about these genres and the people (subjects) who might be most interesting to you—who have lived in a time period you’re intrigued by or succeeded in a career that is appealing to you.

Then…once you’re comfortable with the flow of these books, look around for potential clients. I’ve worked with a ninety-year-old who could tell me his life stories all day long and barely need a break for lunch. And, I’ve worked with a gentleman who gave me several pages he started writing “years ago,” then gave me additional outline points, but passed away before we could meet again. Yes, being the “writing assistant” to people seeking help with these genre categories of writing can be an emotional rollercoaster. Yet, I wouldn’t trade those days/months for anything. My writing skills and abilities have been sharpened by the experiences and so will yours. ⚓︎

ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. She developed these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, has received excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena. December 2017 marked the end of Royalene’s tenure at Self Publishing Advisor. and we will be spending the next few weeks celebrating some of her all-time hits, her most well-received articles for our blog, in thanks for years of generous service.

Book Endorsements: How to Leverage Expert Praise for Your Book

Obtain a book endorsement if you want to give your next self-published book professional treatment.

A book endorsement (also called a blurb, testimonial, or advance praise) is a brief quote from a fellow author or notable figure that goes on a book’s cover. Secured before publication, an endorsement includes a positive quote from the endorsee and the endorsee’s name and title.

While you can publish and sell a book without a book endorsement, I recommend against skipping this step. Almost every professionally published book includes at least one endorsement. Including one can become one of your title’s strongest assets.

Why book endorsements are important

First off, a book endorsement is a prime example of social proof. Social proof is a marketing psychology concept for social indicators that influence buyers.

Specifically to this topic, a book endorsement proves that not only a notable person liked your book, but that person liked it enough to send you a statement to publish on the cover.

(If you can’t find anyone notable, a glowing review from a reader could serve a similar purpose. But this falls under reader praise and is usually unsuitable for the cover treatment.)

Second, who you request an endorsement from matters. For instance, if you’re writing a nonfiction book, a blurb from an expert in the book’s subject demonstrates to the reader that an authority figure finds your writing legitimate.

Even if you’re writing fiction, an expert endorsement may be beneficial if your book centers around a milieu. For instance, if you’re writing a restaurant-based mystery, praise from a famous critic may attract prospective buyers.

Another strong type of endorsee is another author, preferably one that has written one of your book’s comp titles.

When an author in your niche praises your book, that signals to that author’s fans that it’s worth checking out your book. This is one of many reasons why you should view other authors as potential collaborators.

Finally, book endorsements don’t just have to be on your book’s cover. You can repurpose the endorsement for other marketing and promotional materials, such as your product page or social media banners. This makes the book endorsement high-quality material for promoting your book.

Advice on getting book endorsements

If you’re a greenhorn self-publisher, it may feel intimidating to secure a book endorsement. After all, you may know no one in the industry. Plus, you don’t have the resources of a traditionally published author with connections for reaching out to potential endorsees.

However, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Here are some tips you can use to search and secure book endorsements:

  • Connect with authors early and often. During the drafting process, join an author group and get to know other writers in your niche, genre, and category. In addition, leverage your social media to interact with other authors. You may find that authors are more accessible than you’d think, and introducing yourself early will increase your pool of endorsees.
  • Prioritize the most relevant endorsees. Top of your list should be the authors of your book’s comp titles. From there, contact authors within your genre and category and figures whose expertise or profession relates to your book’s subject.
  • Draft and tailor your pitch. Create a template for the message you’ll send to your prospects. Summarize your book, explain to your prospects why your book’s relevant, and be respectful. Make sure to personalize your template for each endorsee; each one is special. You want to reflect that uniqueness in your message.
  • Generously give out comp copies of your book. Regarding book endorsements, it’s no time to be stingy. Of course, some endorsees will prefer physical copies, so budget out some comps to send, as the cost of printing will be outweighed by an endorsement. But for other endorsees, an eBook will suffice, which makes the process faster—and free!
  • Give endorsees plenty of time. If you’re looking for an endorsee days before publication, it’s too late. Ideally, give them a few months to read the book, or at least a few weeks.
  • Make the ask, and be prepared to face rejection. The worst thing a prospective endorsee can tell you is “no.” In this light, it’s worth being bold in who you ask. Many an author’s book has been elevated by an unexpected yet famous endorsee giving your book a shot. Give your book that chance to shine.

Book endorsements don’t come easily. So you may receive rejections (or no responses back) before you get a yes. But it’ll be worth the effort to garner the praise your book deserves.

Your turn: How do book endorsements influence your book habits as a reader? What advice do you have on obtaining book endorsements?

Elizabeth Javor Outskirts Press

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Reposting Original Book Review: Rambling with Milton by Richard Siciliano

Rambling with Milton by Richard Siciliano Outskirts Press


After a long, successful career as the author of an esoteric newspaper column, “Rambling with Milton,” Jock Petitte finds himself unfulfilled and at loose ends. However, two failed marriages have not diminished his romantic ideals or his youthful desire to become an actor, so he begins composing one-man plays based on historical events and performing them at senior centers and retirement homes.

Prudence Rogers, beautiful and intelligent, has struggled with clinical depression and chronic anxiety throughout her life. So, when Jock meets her at the rehabilitation facility where she is recovering from an overdose, and he is performing a Christmas play, he is instantly smitten. Rambling with Milton is the deeply touching story of their romance and their attempt to save each other . . . and themselves.


Rambling with Milton opens with a unique dedication, informing readers that the book was inspired by and contained excerpts from Senator Charles Sumner’s “Rape of Kansas” speech on the Senate Floor in 1856. This speech, also known as the “Crime of Kansas” speech, was delivered by Sumner in response to the “Bleeding Kansas” crisis, a series of deadly disputes over Kansas’s boundaries and slavery-related policies. (There’s a lot of history here, and I went waaay down the rabbit hole on Wikipedia reading up on the context.) Sumner, a fiery abolitionist, specifically denounced one particular (and influential) slaveholder who happened to be directly related to another senator, Preston Brooks, who went the extra mile in supporting South Carolina’s official stance on politics––by viciously attacking Sumner on the Senate Floor and stopping barely short of killing him. The incident helped inflame the intense emotions and political divisions of the wider American population in the years leading up to the Civil War. Nevertheless, the event was considered symbolic in 1856, and Richard Siciliano utilized excerpts from Sumner’s speech symbolically in Rambling with Milton in 2020.

With such an opening, you can be confident that I was hooked . . . even before I’d started the first page! If there’s something that I love, it’s a great historic textual reference, and even more specifically, a reference to a historic speech, as well as a reference to abolition, the Founding Fathers, and the hard work of shaping a new way of living. That I happen to be rewatching the drama John Adams on DVD with my father for the third time (a number that does not include my own personal private rewatches) is entirely incidental. (Ha!)

I am happy to report that Rambling with Milton more than lives up to its source material. And for those coming from the same place as me––not quite convinced that there’s a romance book out there for you––I would argue that this book is the perfect introduction. It’s a beautifully written, incredibly detailed, and thoroughly compelling novel about triumphing in the midst of a truly difficult moment of life. It follows many characters but centers on Prudence and Jock. They meet when he is living the life of a starving artist, performing one-man plays at community centers like retirement homes––and rehabilitation facilities. At one of these rehab facilities, he stumbles across Prudence, a patient recovering from an overdose. He, an author whose bestseller days are far behind him, connects with her, a former librarian who remembers having seen his book on one of the library’s displays and read his newspaper column, “Rambling with Milton”––way back in the days before they became who they are at the book’s start: two people very far from the golden days of youth.

But having found each other, they also find that their lives are filled with opportunities they had never before expected and that there is still the possibility of finding joy, no matter how difficult the present moment. Having found each other, they find a way forward. What follows is itself a bit of a ramble but a pleasant and delightful one that elevates “ramble” to the heights of a slow-but-steady romance of the highest quality. It is a romance that cares about its characters and in so doing, convinces its readers to love them as well. And that’s the kind of romance I can unabashedly and publicly recommend!

I’ve previously mentioned in one of my reviews that I am somewhat at a loss when reviewing romance novels, simply because I haven’t read many of them to date. For many years, I deliberately steered clear, thinking that the genre was limited when it came to the literary qualities that I look for in books. However, I have since learned that even old dogs can learn to like new genres and to both honor and celebrate the sheer diversity of books and qualities that appear in and are specific to the romance genre. Of course, all of this is an awkward way of explaining that: if a romance novel impresses me, the grumpy hermit with a really high bar when it comes to new things and changing my mind about something, it truly is a remarkable book.


A well-plotted romance with more than the average novel’s quality of backstory and character development, Rambling with Milton is a thoughtful look at everything that can go wrong in life—and everything that can go right.


You can also learn more about Richard Siciliano’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press Author Page.

*Courtesy of Barnes & Noble book listing.

ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, and extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve the most to be heard.

A Guide to Promoting Yourself as an Author Online

A point that I keep returning to on this blog is that to be successful as an author, you have to market and promote yourself.

Furthermore, it’s important to market early in the process, even before you publish your book. You want to come into launch day with momentum, and the way to do that is to build up an audience of readers eager to read your book.

You may be wondering: How do I promote myself online as an author? Where can I promote that I’m an author?

In this guide, I’ll get you started with tips and advice on how to do self-promotion, along with the types of websites and online platforms you can go to for promotion so that both you and your newly found readers walk away happy.

Advice for Forming Your Promotion Plan

Either take out a blank piece of paper or open up a new word processor document. You’ll want to brainstorm the ways you want to promote yourself and your work and pin down the platforms you want to use.

First point of order: where do you find books you want to read? In all likelihood, the book you’re writing is in the same niche that you read in, so by thinking about how you fill your bookshelf, you can retain the perspective of the reader so you can meet your audience from the other end of the bookselling process.

Beyond that, compare your manuscript to similar books (comp titles), then look up where their authors are promoting. Google will often pop up the major platforms that an author uses, and their website will often link the entire repertoire.

Even as you research other promotional models, reflect on the platforms you’d prefer to use. Every author has a different approach to promotion, so your strategy will likely be different than your competitors.

Once you’ve listed the platforms you’re thinking of joining, then comes another important part: choose only 1-3 platforms to promote.

You may feel some pressure to promote yourself everywhere. After all, they say that more is better. However, I urge you to resist this pressure. One of the worse things you can do as an author is to try to do everything, stretch yourself thin, and then burn out.

Instead, start with your foundational platforms. Take the time to master a website’s software and best practices and evaluate how sustainable your efforts will be on that platform. If you find a platform to be fruitless, phase it out. If you find success, maintain and build through that avenue and gradually expand your promotional network.

Platforms for Author Self-Promotion

Now, on to the online platforms. The following section will list both specific platforms and their more general categories. Websites rise and fall in popularity by the year (remember MySpace?) and some may even cease to exist (rest in peace, Google+). On the bright side, categories last a little longer, and the fundamentals of promotion transfer to any platform.

Let’s start with the social media platforms, the ones you’ve most likely heard about: Twitter and Facebook. While both of them are facing major competition these days, there’s a lot of established advice out there for how authors can promote on these two giants.

Twitter tends to be more fast-paced and concise, while Facebook tends to be more concentrated in groups with slightly longer posts. Facebook has also traditionally had a reputation of having an older audience than Twitter, although even Twitter these days is no longer as hip as its heyday. Overall, these two platforms have proved their staying power, so picking one or both comes down to which style you prefer and where’s your book’s audience.

For other social media platforms that are centered around text, LinkedIn is the prime candidate for business authors and professionals writing non-fiction. Reddit is also growing as being even more community-based than Facebook. Tumblr has waned in popularity but remains an option for writers with younger audiences.

With the above in mind, don’t write off the platforms that rely on images and videos. Meta/Facebook-owned Instagram has a “Bookstagram” community full of authors leveraging visuals for promotion. Snapchat is more insular but may be worth considering for YA authors.

And of course, there’s the newest big new thing in social media: TikTok. Traditional publishers have been taken aback by how effective “BookTok” has been at elevating backlist titles to young yet enthusiastic audiences. No one can predict if BookTok will continue to bear fruit for authors, but with video clips as short as 15 seconds, you would have the opportunity to push your book out in a fast-paced environment.

We’re not done yet: there are even more platforms beyond what’s usually considered social media. Amazon-owned Goodreads is designed for authors, in that you can claim your author profile, engage with readers with content such as author Q&A, and even run giveaways.

You can also start a blog and either set one up on your website (see below) or use a blogging platform such as Medium. Newsletters are also gold, with options out there such as Mailchimp and Substack.

And finally, I recommend that all authors at least build a website. Starting out, you don’t have to go with a paid option (although I still urge you to eventually pay money), but websites make for a reliable central hub that you can funnel readers to from external platforms. While social media websites may shut down, you always can keep your website.

There are thousands of more websites I’ve yet to mention, but that’s the beauty of the Internet. There are platforms for every niche, and new websites come into being and popularity by the month.

This is only the start of your promotional journey. I hope that I’ve given you plenty of pointers on how to launch your writing campaign.

Over to you: Where do you promote yourself online? What pieces of advice do you have on author self-promotion?

Elizabeth Javor Outskirts Press

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.