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.

The Supply Chain – A Problem and Opportunity

The Supply Chain - A Problem and Opportunity

You might’ve heard how this holiday season, it might be more difficult for readers to get the books they want. Blame the international supply chain.

A supply chain is a system that a product goes through to go from raw materials and labor to a product delivered to the end customer. With a book, a manuscript is turned into physical books and ebooks for readers. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this process has been complicated.

The exact causes vary, with CNN and Vox having comprehensive articles. In summary, there’s a book shortage because of the following reasons:

  • increased demand for at-home delivery due to more shoppers staying inside and ordering online
  • increased demand during the holiday season, an already busy time of year amplified by delivery being at all-time high levels
  • increased demand for books because of consumers staying indoors and returning to literature
  • shortage of paper because of environmental concerns and increased need for cardboard in multiple industries
  • shortage of workers because of the pandemic, especially in transportation
  • lack of printing plants in the United States, especially after years of factories closing
  • commercial ship congestion at seaports. And yes, that includes the one ship that went viral after getting stuck in the Suez Canal.

The result? The supply chain has a traffic jam. Demand is high, and supply is low.

Book publishers wait in line for their titles to be printed and shipped at a time where readers want books more than ever. Booksellers and book stores can’t stock enough copies, publishers are postponing releases, and readers contend with delayed deliveries and more expensive shipping and handling.

Ask publishing professionals, and they’ll say it’s hard to overstate how much this is A Big Problem.

But even with these issues, you as a self-publishing author can find opportunities to adapt.

For instance, self-publishing authors can still get their books out there in ebook format. While electronic books still require work to convert a manuscript into a readable format, they don’t require paper, they can be read on devices that most people already own, and readers can buy and download them in seconds.

With these benefits, you can essentially skip the supply chain line and get your book to readers months before traditional publishers. This is an opportunity for new authors, because there’s an influx of new readers looking for stories to fall in love with.

What if you still want your book in print? While the publishing industry thought that ebooks would supplant physical books, printed books continue to outsell their electronic counterparts, even as ebooks are here to stay. With the two formats coexisting, a successful author shouldn’t rule out either.

Self-publishing authors can still get paper copies through print-on-demand (POD) books.

Traditionally, books were manufactured in large print runs, requiring a lot of money up front and a lot of sales to justify the endeavor. This gave traditional publishers an edge over self-publishing authors who couldn’t secure both, with the latter only entering the industry with the rise of computers.

More recently, print on demand has emerged as a profitable printing method. With POD, single copies are printed and shipped as individual customers order them. Furthermore, self-publishers can outsource distribution and fulfillment to an outside vendor and focus more on writing and marketing. POD titles can be restocked on a moment’s notice, and self-publishing authors don’t have to risk wasting money on unsold copies.

Because self-publishing authors retain a larger share of their titles’ revenue, they can take advantage of their leaner profit margins to get paper copies to their readers at reasonable prices. Pair POD with a primary ebook model, and self-publishing can thrive even in the middle of the book shortage.

Now, don’t forget about pre-orders.

Traditional publishers, authors, and booksellers are pushing readers to order in advance to more accurately gauge how many books to print and order and better plan around delays.

Self-publishing authors can also find much in making their books available for pre-order. The other benefits of pre-ordering stand, such as giving you time to do book promotion, allowing you to lock in sales before release day, and getting reviewers sooner.

On top of that, pre-orders can help readers receive an e-book automatically on release day or to shorten delivery times for physical books since you can produce and ship a physical copy beforehand.

Finally, the book shortage is one more opportunity for self-publishing authors to connect with readers. Some readers may not understand the book shortage’s severity, so you can use your social media platforms to practice transparency with why you may encourage them to be flexible with pre-ordering or buying ebooks.

If you’re honest about your situation, your readers will gain a higher appreciation of the publishing process, and your readers will be more invested in your career.

It’s easy to panic about the messed-up supply chain, but don’t let it scare you from self-publishing. The book shortage will remain in the short term, even as experts predict that supply chain congestion will decrease in 2022. The publishing industry has proven itself durable over decades of downturns, and it will survive the pandemic.

In the meantime, see the shortage as a challenge that will push you to grow as an author and a self-publisher. With a growth mindset, you can frame the supply chain problem as another interesting time in which to write and publish.

Self-Published Book Review: “Here Comes Ingo”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.
When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review:

here comes ingo odeta xheka

Here Comes Ingo

by Odeta Kheka

ISBN: 9781977207180

mom's choice award honoree


Here Comes Ingo, a Mom’s Choice Awards Recipient is a great example of the benefits of art in early childhood development. This unique picture book encourages children to switc hseats with the illustrator via painting, coloring and drawing directly ON the page in order to tap into their creativity and let th eimagination soar. As with the best of books, at the conclusion of the story, the journey is not over. Ingo invites children to visit again and again in order to expand on Ingo’s dream world following into the tradition of classic books such as Good Night, Gorilla, The Adventures of Polo, Tuesday, Where’s Walrus, Sea of Dreams and The Red Book.

 * courtesy of

Featured Review

The Mom’s Choice Award® Names Here Comes Ingo Among the Best in Family-Friendly Products

The Mom’s Choice Award® has named picture book Here Comes Ingo as among the best in family-friendly media, products and services. The MCA evaluation process uses a proprietary methodology in which entries are scored on a number of elements including production quality, design, educational value, entertainment value, originality, appeal, and cost. “I am thrilled to earn the Mom’s Choice Awards Honoring Excellence Seal of Approval,” says  Odeta Xheka, the creator of the book. “I know all the great things the MCA does to connect consumers, educators, and caregivers with the best products and services available for families”.

To be considered for an award, each entrant submits five (5) identical samples for testing. Entries are matched to evaluators in the MCA database. Evaluators are bound by a strict code of ethics not only to ensure objectivity, but also to ensure that the evaluation is free from manufacturer influence. The five evaluations are submitted to the MCA Executive Committee for final review and approval. “Our aim to introduce families and educators to best-in-class products and services,” explains Dawn Matheson, Executive Director of the Mom’s Choice Awards. “We have a passion to help families grow emotionally, physically and spiritually. Parents and educators know that products and services bearing our seal of approval are high-quality and also a great value. The MCA evaluation program is designed to incorporate the expertise of scientists, physicians and other specialists; but we also engage parents, children, educators, and caregivers because they are experts in knowing what is best for their families.”

With the evaluation now complete, the testing samples of Here Comes Ingo will be donated to schools, libraries, hospitals and nonprofit organizations.

About Here Comes Ingo:

Created by Odeta Xheka of Odeta Xheka Visuals, Here Comes Ingo is a great example of the benefits of art in early childhood development. This unique picture book invites children to switch seats with the illustrator via painting, coloring and drawing directly ON the page in order to tap into their creativity and let the imagination soar. An artist first and foremost, Odeta Xheka came up with the idea of this book after observing her children spend longer and longer stretches of time “painting on mommy’s art” using their crayons, color pencils, stickers and glitter to add their own ideas to the art prints in their room. Soon after, Here Comes Ingo a book that offers children an unparalleled sense of agency which in turn encourages exploration, self expression, logical thinking and creativity came to life.

Here Comes Ingo was released on January 13, 2019 and is available in hardcover and paperback formats. Readers can get their copy on Amazon, Barnes&Noble or on the publisher’s website.

About the Mom’s Choice Awards®:

The Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA) evaluates products and services created for children, families and educators. The program is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. The organization is based in the United States and has reviewed thousands of entries from more than 55 countries. Around the world, parents, educators, retailers and members of the media look for the MCA mother-and-child Honoring Excellence seal of approval when selecting quality products and services for children and families.

– Courtesy of PR Underground

Other Reviews

Beautiful colors, great message of kindness and tolerance

– reviewed on Amazon by Bernard Topi

How to be curious and brave to the unknown ( in the most colorful way )

– reviewed on Amazon by Ejona Xheka

Book Trailer


tuesday book review

Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space!

Self Publishing Advisor


Self-Publishing News: 10.15.2018 – New Releases!

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically new releases written by self-publishing authors and published by independent presses! Today we’ll be featuring brand-new releases in the Outskirts Press Bookstore!

If you are looking for a gritty period redemption story, this may just be the book for you. Set in a 1930s port city somewhere in the South, it features Joseph Curcio–homeless, disillusioned, recovering alcoholic–and Amanda, his former student,  who gives him shelter. Their platonic friendship gives him the stability to heal and a foundation upon which to resurrect his career in the writing of a diary–a diary he hopes to use to confront and understand his own failures, and recover his sense of self. Despite his best efforts, though, it seems as though his project is doomed to failure, and that the flaws which brought him down the first time will do so once more. Portrait in Broken Glass is written in sharp and incisive prose, with all the humor, humanity, and realism of the best fiction out there.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist with a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology, Lari Kathleen Quinn specialized in domestic violence treatment and prevention–and her expertise shows! Teddy O’Brien, the protagonist of Kiss the Doors, finds herself stranded and struggling to get by in South Dakota when a road trip with her fiancé ends in tragedy. Later a witness to a domestic violence incident and surrounded by hostile strangers, Teddy begins to seek help–and begins to understand more about her own past as a survivor of domestic violence. As she slowly begins to rebuild her life and emerge from her depression, things in town take a sudden unexpected turn (or two!). This book is full of heart and, like Portrait in Broken Glass, finds its feet in a voice of sincerity and insight.

As the season begins when we must close down and mulch our own gardens for the winter, Debra Hester chronicles the days leading up to her mother’s death, and seeks to paint a portrait of all of the wisdom she left behind even while showing, in unflinching prose, the challenges remaining for those left behind: fear, anger, grief, and loss. Debra sets much of the book in the family garden as she grapples with all of those things and more, seeking healing in the beautiful backyard garden which was their shared legacy. A powerful, if heartbreaking tale, My Backyard Garden doesn’t flinch away from the difficulties of loss, but it ends on a hopeful note–reflecting the healing which is ultimately to be found in shared memories and a life well lived.

Last but certainly not least, we couldn’t close out this week’s new releases without mentioning Gabriel F.W. Koch’s latest book: And Comes Day’s End. Koch’s credentials are stellar: winner of the 2004 L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award, winner of the 2016 CIPA EVVY Award for Fiction/Science Fiction and Merit Award recipient in 2018, finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Award in Science Fiction and Mystery, a nominee for the 2017 CIPA EVVY awards, and the second-place winner of the Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year award, Koch knows his stuff. This book features a new and compelling voice for Koch, and centers on Michael McKaybees, a private investigator working in New York’s five boroughs. When his best friend is killed and he himself is implicated in the murder, McKaybees must fight to clear his name by investigating the city’s criminal elements as well as its most preeminent citizens–all before he himself is locked away for crimes he did not commit. Murder gets personal in this great new mystery, and it’s a definite must-read for longtime Koch fans!


As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.


Self-Publishing News: 9.17.2018 – New Releases!

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically new releases written by self-publishing authors and published by independent presses! Today we’ll be featuring brand-new releases in the Outskirts Press Bookstore!

Colorado native Katie Patterson brings us Ride, her first novel, a story about a city girl forced to reconsider her life of privilege, wealth, parties, and independence in the midst of rural Minnesota. Daughter of two Hollywood professionals, Alyson Butler happens to make an unwise decision at the beginning of the summer between junior and senior year of high school–the consequences of which have Alyson’s parents sending her to spend that summer with her grandparents at Davis Lake, far from the glamor and parties she’s so used to. And just when things are looking like she’ll have the most miserable summer of her life, Alyson meets Marc Maylore and his friends. And that’s when the secrets spin out of control, and Alyson is forced to contend with the fact that there may be more to those who live around Davis Lake than she thought, and that love, loss, friendship, lies, and self-discovery all await her should she find it in herself to open her heart.

Anyone who’s been pregnant in the last decade–and anyone who’s stepped foot in the “used books” section of their local thrift store–will likely be aware that there is a certain book series out there which claims to offer all the wisdom a pregnant person and their loving supporters might need to know during the pregnancy process. Spoiler! It doesn’t. And for many years, readers have been asking for a more nuanced approach to pregnancy. Dr. Nemchenko is here for those readers! And she has the experience to back it up; Dr. Nemchenko has been seeing my obstetric patients for over 10 years. This book addresses pregnancy and pregnancy-related issues in a holistic, effective and efficient way, giving attention to parts of the experience which are often neglected in public discourse, including myths about pain and second pregnancies. With positive reviews from other medical professionals, this is a book with the pedigree and the accessible voice we’ve long needed.

Last but certainly not least, we switch emotional gears to bring you word of this dark thriller from M. J. Meister, a writer with plenty of experience cataloging the human experience in an Emergency Operations Center. The press copy for this book lays some eerie groundwork: “With a dangerous cop for a father, a mad beauty for a mother, a grandmother in denial and unforgivable deeds secreted away within the shadows of Dead Man’s Woods, Josie had been forced to find a way to survive. No one had a clue about what was going on behind closed doors at the McGinnis home.” And that’s how this book begins–no one outside of the McGinnis home knows just how deep and dark the secrets are within that house, or how the perfect facade conceals unfathomable cruelty and pain. Little Josie grows up behind closed doors, tempered by her family’s harshness to become something else entirely. Dead Man’s Woods is her first novel, and it’s a killer.


As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.