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.

Pitfalls of Grammar Checkers

Grammar checkers, sometimes known as spell checkers, have the power to correct typos (misspelled words) and grammar errors in your writing. These days, you can find grammar checkers with almost anywhere where you can type words: word processors like Microsoft Word, online apps like Google Docs, and even online browser extensions like Grammarly.

But while grammar checkers can be for zapping typos in your texts or personal messages, don’t over-rely on them in your professional writing. Grammar checkers are not enough when self-publishing a book.

Your self-publishing author career relies on you building a team of editors and other professionals to assist you and your book. In this endeavor, it’s good to understand why computers are yet to replace human editors, and why it’ll likely stay this way.

Here are some pitfalls of grammar checkers that you can fall into when you rely solely on them, instead of hiring an editor.

Grammar checkers can miss grammatically correct errors.

You may use the wrong word, and because that word doesn’t cause a grammar issue, your grammar checker won’t flag the culprit.

Assume that you have a character named Mr. Petersen, not Peterson. You may write this sentence:

“Mr. Petersen will read the proposal and get back to you by Friday.”

Here’s a rewritten version that uses a different but incorrect spelling of his last name, but doesn’t trigger my grammar checker:

“Mr. Peterson will read the proposal and get back to you by Friday.”

See the difference? What if a reader notices that you spelled the same character’s name two different ways? You may get a bad review for poor editing.

While modern grammar checkers may flag the most misused word choices, you must check between the gaps for mistakes that the grammar checker misses, because you know your manuscript better than your computer.

Grammar checkers can interfere with your writing voice and style.

How many times have you typed a real word, only for the grammar checker to flag it as a typo?

Grammar checkers can wrongly flag new words, alternate spellings, and uncommon names. Names can be a particular sore point, as it’s not a good feeling when your software claims that your first or last name is spelled wrong.

You can address these situations by adding words to your app’s personal dictionary, or right clicking the word and selecting “Ignore.” Even then, your checker’s inaccuracies can distract you with its misplaced colored underlines.

At worst, grammar checkers can nudge you to “correct” sentences and push you from your personal style and toward the app developer’s biases. A skilled writer knows when to put style over “correctness,” and grammar checkers can sabotage these decisions.

Even the best editor needs a second pair of eyes.

Here’s a saying among lawyers: He who represents himself has a fool for a client. You can say the same thing about authors without editors.

Editors who publish their own book have an editor too, because they know that even the best editor needs a second pair of eyes.

A writer can be vigilant with using a grammar checker while editing. That said, a writer’s proximity to the work is a double-edged sword, as it’s easy to pass over mistakes that a second reader might spot.

Do yourself a favor and get a second reader to double-check your edits. And sometimes, even more.

Grammar checkers can’t do high-level editing.

Maybe you are the best grammar checker in the world, and you can check your writing perfectly. That’s not enough.

“Editing” can refer to different levels. Typically, a grammar checker only handles mechanical editing / light copyediting, checking for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Other levels of editing include:

  • proofreading to check what the manuscript will look like in print and ebook formats
  • heavy copyediting to correct non-grammatical errors and inconsistencies, such as style and word choice
  • line (or substantive) editing to check the tone and flow of paragraphs and chapters
  • fact checking to uphold creditability in non-fiction books and verisimilitude in novels
  • developmental (or structural) editing to revise a book’s more “macro” elements, like chapter order and the book’s big ideas

Some professional authors hire one editor for most of these editing levels. Others may hire separate roles, such as a developmental editor alongside a copyeditor.

You may also need other readers that don’t necessarily edit, but help you shape your story. For example, you can hire a sensitivity reader to check your manuscript for potentially offensive and inaccurate content, like with race or indigenous culture.

No matter what, even the most well-used grammar checker can only handle a narrow section of editing. For other levels, you must get an editor or other reader.

While technology is pivotal to the modern writing process, no app or tool can replace the human touch of an editor.

When you give your book to an editor, don’t think of it as admitting failure, but as your showing respect to your professionalism as an author and your manuscript’s potential.

Leave the grammar checker for your personal Facebook profile and give your book an editor.

What’s your experience with spell checkers and grammar checkers? What are some other pitfalls you can think of? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Self-Publishing News: 12/21/15

‘Twas the week before Christmas,

and all through the blog,

not a book was neglected,

not even the news …

[we just couldn’t help ourselves! – SPA]

This week in the world of self-publishing:

“Have you ever thought of yourself as a brand?” asks Anastasia Crosson in this December 18th article for the online journal, Business 2 Community. She advocates for anyone seeking influence in a public conversation to make personal branding a priority: “A brand can make all the difference in standing out in a crowded marketplace. A brand can make a lasting impression. A brand can grow your network and business.” She particularly emphasizes the value of self-publishing “through blogging, or whatever medium is the best fit” for a person or author to share “content that tells a story about your work and shares your unique insights. […] Becoming a contributor to a publication you trust and respect is another great way to amplify your personal brand.”

Says Crosson, we indie authors can’t forget the importance of authenticity: “You don’t have to take yourself too seriously, try to fit a mold, or fall into the imitation trap. Your personal brand should look and feel like the best representation of you.”  There’s a lot to be said in defense of brand marketing, particularly when you’re an indie author looking for that breakout moment!  To read more of Crosson’s excellent article, follow the link.

In this week’s featured interview with an indie author, we’d like to point you to Meagan Meehan’s December 18th conversation with self-publishing groundbreaker, Ally Nathaniel, for The Examiner.  In her prelude to the interview proper, Meehan writes that “Indie publishing is becoming more and more commonplace, in large part due to Amazon’s accessible and easy-to-use self-publishing platforms […] which have opened the door to many people who are turning their love of writing into a full-fledged, full-time business.”

And while Nathaniel is certainly a case study in proof of this statement, she is also as Meehan points out, a kind of pioneer and indie mastermind: “Ally has literally written the book on self-publishing, and built a business for herself,” writes Meehan, all while “guiding other authors through the process and helping them self-publish their books too. Ally has turned her business into a cottage industry.”  The interview covers a number of topics ranging from Nathaniel’s inspiration and reasons for electing to self-publish to her ongoing and upcoming projects.  Hint: they’re all interesting!

Innovation in self-publishing doesn’t stop with words on a page, as Susan Lahey of Silicon HIlls fame reports in this December 17th article: indie authors and entrepreneurs continue to push the evolution of their own platform, as Monica Landers has done in co-founding  Landers, a producer for ABC News, pitches her website as a “platform to connect writers to agents or publishers.”

According to Lahey, “helps writers create a profile with all the information agents and publishers need, and can arrange the connection between, say a Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy writer and the companies that are looking for that kind of book. Since the site launched in July, they’ve facilitated 15 book deals.”  Thankfully, it’s not all about a numbers game, as Lahey explains: “It’s about user experience.”  Citing the traditional publishing process as a “soul crushing experience,” Landers (through Lahey) also touches on the difficulties inherent to reading and writing within the indie universe. Landers’ website, which “gives both parties a place to communicate without a hailstorm of emails,” serves as a discovery tool for both readers and publishers to filter through the maelstrom of self-published work out there in search of new material. And a new discovery tool is always good news!

It’s not every day self-publishing is mentioned in the Chicago Tribune, but in a December 17th article, contributor Sara Clarkson has proven herself a firm (if occasionally skeptical) advocate.  Writes Clarkson, “The tired Scrooge in me has latched on to this quote from poet W.H. Auden: “Thank God for books as an alternative to conversation.”  She goes on to explain that she is in the habit of giving books for Christmas gifts, and lists those she’s already purchased for the purpose.  “Though my list this year is small,” she writes, there are still some books worth passing on.  But how to discern “the worthwhile from the worthless?”  Especially when it comes to the famously gatekeeper-free indie market?

“This is where our librarians step in,” says Clarkson, “especially those librarians who have an interest in the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project.”  The project is accepting e-books through January 4th of 2016 from Illinois authors with self-published works in the adult fiction genre.  The only requirements?  The authors must be from Illinois, have already self-published a digital copy of their adult fiction work, and be willing to promote that work “at libraries and other locations throughout the state.”  The books can be either purchased online or read for free at local public libraries.  According to Clarkson, the Soon to be Famous competition serves an excellent starting point if you’re looking to break into the indie market as a reader or author–and we couldn’t ask for a better Christmas gift!


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.

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer: 12/04/2015



“There was a MOMENT—just a flash of an idea—that would not let me go.” My friend Lorry Lutz (author of ten books, soon to be eleven) was explaining that she simply had to write her most recent book. “I don’t remember exactly how I came across this woman’s life story, but when I did I felt like I knew her. Her Faith was a passion and her compassion for women who were being forced into bondage led her into many dangerous situations. I simply had to bring her story into today’s world, so people will realize that each one of us can make a difference.”

And, there we have it—the Personal KEYS to writing—the moment (idea flash), the message (expressed through actions/events), the memory (personal connection) and the miracle (making a difference).

For many writers I know, the moment the writing idea formulates is when we’re half-asleep—or half-awake—whichever side of the moment we’re experiencing. Other times of awareness hit us when we’re driving, stopped at a red light and happen to glance across a beautifully landscaped park, or up into the brilliance of an evening sunset. And, of course, there is the shower moment or the kitchen-sink-full-of-dirty-dishes moment or the changing diapers moment. I’m certain that you can add many such idea flashes of your own to this list. The point being—these inspired moments DO come and we need to grab hold of them as quickly as possible.

Grasping the idea is crucial and so exciting! From that momentary idea flash comes the whole.

  • The Headline that will be highlighted on the back cover of your book.
  • The Summary and/or synopsis that will draw readers and publishers.
  • The Heart—or Thread—concept that will carry your main points throughout.
  • The Passion that you will exude when presenting your book to agents, publishers, and most importantly, to readers.
  • The Significance or Take-Away Value that readers will grasp and carry into their own lives.

Author Lorry Lutz will see her book Boundless (her working title) released in December, 2016. The heroine of this historical fiction novel is Katharine Bushnell (February 5, 1855 – January 26, 1946) who became a medical doctor and social activist at a time when very few ladies were willing to take the risks she did. Her desire to reform conditions of human degradation took her to back-country mining and lumber camps in America, villages in China and palaces in India. I hope you will bring Lutz’s excellent story into your homes when it appears online—an exceptional example of grasping an idea and developing it to its fullest.


Lorry Lutz  (courtesy of her Twitter account)


Of course, timing is always a factor: the moment in time when the idea hits us, the months and quite possibly years in the research and writing, and the investigation and decision-making season when publishing options are weighed. Authors today have a quiver full of possibilities when reaching the moment to publish. You already know that mainstream publishers will not come knocking on your door to hand you a contract. However, if you know someone (who knows someone) in the big houses, there is at least the possibility that your manuscript will be read and considered. For those of us who are not in that position, the self-publishing presses have multiple packages that will not only get your book in print, but ONLINE for all the world to see. So talk to your author friends, query writing conference directors, read the Writers Market and Writer’s Digest, and discover where you and your book fit. Then … get it published!  ⚓︎


RoyaleneABOUT 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. This is a nice fit as she develops 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, is already receiving 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.