A few days ago my lovely friend Mischa Eliot made a post about scams in the writing world. Specifically, her post warns writers to be wary when it comes to submitting stories to anthologies and magazines. Read her post, it’s good advice. Most of us writers are so keen to get our work out there that we often overlook the potential pitfalls.
But I want to talk about another scam. The scam that I fell for.
A couple of weeks ago I designed a cover for my book “Halloween Hitchhiker”. I liked it, and I released the book with that cover. But I didn’t love it. And the more I looked at it, the more I wanted it to be better. I wanted more tension. I wanted more dramatic colours and special effects.
I wanted more naked flesh and sexuality, obviously.
So last week I looked for a designer.
And I found one. His gallery was amazing. The covers popped with everything I was looking for. He had good reviews, too. I spoke to him, got his thoughts on my project, checked he was happy to design an erotica cover, got a quote and deposited my money. A day or so later, the design was delivered.
You’ve probably guessed that I was disappointed. Not only that though. I was devastated. I felt a little bit physically sick. The quote wasn’t cheap, and the results weren’t just amateur, they looked like the efforts of a beginner.
They might actually have been the efforts of a beginner, too. Because I was so keen to get a good cover design that I didn’t think about the fact that I had no proof the gallery images belonged to this designer. I had no proof that the reviews weren’t faked. All I had was a vague electronic store front.
My one piece of good fortune was that I went through a third party vendor. They took a cut of the money I’d deposited, but I kicked up a stink and got most of the money refunded and the job cancelled. I also got to keep the premium stock images by way of compensation for the money that wasn’t refunded.
So, here’s what I’ve learnt. There is a whole industry of book cover designers ready to take your money. Some, I’m sure, are brilliant, but there are also those who just think they need to throw a few photos at the screen and type in a bit of text. Try to get a personal recommendation if you can. Otherwise, do look for examples of previous work, but check out the authors and see if those designs genuinely seem to have come from that designer. If possible, ask.
Above all, don’t assume. Don’t assume that expensive means quality. Don’t assume that an impressive gallery or good reviews equals happy past customers. Those things can easily give you false confidence.
If all else fails, complain. If you’ve been misled, you probably have consumer rights, or rights through a third party if you used one.
So, is there a happy ending? Did I get a new design in the end? Yes I did. Remember those premium stock images I got as compensation? Well, I spent a day working with them. Not an hour, or an afternoon, but a whole day. That’s the kind of time it takes to make something half decent. And now I love the results: