Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cover Artist or Con Artist: You Decide. (I've Been Scammed!)

There are many things which come to mind when I think about cover design. This should not be one of them:


But after the experience I have had over the last eight weeks, I am embarrassed to admit that this scene from O Brother Where Art Thou may actually be the first thing that would come to mind if you asked me about covers right now. 

Why?

On July 6th 2012 I hired Joy Stroube of Dreamscape Covers to design the cover for my first novel, Sealer's Promise. She quoted me a price of $115 to design the front cover, back cover and spine. I thought that I was getting an extremely good deal. The artwork on her site was very pretty and I felt that its style would suit my book well.

Unfortunately, as with many things in life, "you get what you pay for". And let me tell you, guys, I got taken for a ride. I'm going to do my best to keep this brief. If you would like more details please let me know. I hate doing this to someone. But I hate the idea that what has happened to me could happen to any of you even more.

In short: "Buyer Beware!".

Here is a list of the unsatisfactory experiences that I have dealt with in working with this artist:

1) Cover Never Received. This is, of course, the big one. I hired Ms. Stroube to design my cover on the 6th of July. I paid her in full on the 7th of July. I last heard from her on the 27th of August. And my cover was "due" on the 31st of August.

This is unacceptable. I gave Ms. Stroube nearly two months to complete the cover for my novel. The majority of that time was spend (by me) wondering what the heck was going on and essentially playing mail tag.

It is now the 4th of September. I have not received a cover. I have not received an e-mail from Ms. Stroube in response to my last e-mail to her. And quite frankly, I am not impressed.

2) Poor Communication Skills / Technical Issues: On the 7th of July Ms. Stroube told me that she would be sending me a list of potential ideas for the cover of my novel so that we could figure out what kind of design would work best. I did not receive any form of discussion actually related to my cover until the 23rd of August.

This was after nearly two months of some of the absolute worst "mail tag" I have ever had to deal with. The first few days, during which I thought I would be receiving the ideas so that I could share them with my readers, we conversed back and forth about everything *but* my cover. Then, for a couple weeks, Ms. Stroube seemed to completely disappear.

I figured that the level of conversation between us as abnormal for the situation and shrugged it off. She had "ages" to design my cover, I figured. But between her unclarity about what she was sending me, the fact that her "due date" file got "deleted", the fact that she became unable to respond to e-mails from my primary account and the fact that I have not heard from her in over a week, am I unreasonble in being suspicious that I just got scammed?

I would not want to see anyone else go through a situation like this. And I certainly have not had "fun" dealing with it.

3) Disregard for important design related questions and design preferences: I am not certain whether my character, Sarena, is impossible to design for, or whether I've just had a very bad design experience. I do know that Ms. Stroube either ignored or was unable to pay attentions to details about the character that she specifically asked me for. (She wanted to know what colors Sarena would wear. I told her light purple, light blue or pink, or deep red or green since my book takes place around Christmas. The models I received images for were dressed in black and dark brown.)

I do know, for absolute certain, that she completely ignored my questions about typography (font choice and placement of my name and the book title, for those not familiar with the word). This made me extremely angry as it's something that I care a lot about. It may seem a little obsessive, but the text choices that accompany the artwork on a cover play a huge role in the overall artistic design.


I could go on and on, listing things that have happened in the past several weeks which have aggravated me about this situation. I can tell you right now -- and this is coming from *me*, guys. How often do I get mad about anything? -- that this working relationship has been damaged beyond any hope of repair. I will be hiring a new artist and hope to put this mess behind me.

But what I will leave you with is this:

Ms. Stroube, of Dreamscape Covers, took my money. That's fine. That's how business works. However:

Ms. Stroube / Dreamscape Covers has failed to provide me with a cover by the appointed due date.

Ms. Stroube / Dreamscape Covers has failed contacted me regarding the fact that she has failed to provide the service I hired her for by the date that we agreed on.

Ms. Strouble / Dreamscape Covers has failed to respond to my last e-mail to her, which should have received a prompt response because it was feedback on two potential cover models.

So now, I leave you with this. The two stock images that I just paid $115 dollars for.



This has been an expensive and painful lesson. Please don't make my mistake. If you are hiring someone to do any type of artistic or design work via the internet, research each option well. There are a lot of utterly fabulous artists out there. But there are also people who are either out to scam others, or who are for whatever reason incapable of completing the work they have been hired for.

I will never truly know whether I got scammed or whether something else happened in this situation. What I do know is that working with Ms. Stroube and her company started out as a great idea but has, over the course of the summer, turned out to be an absolute nightmare.

Let's hope my next post about cover design is more cheerful. :) It's pretty damn sad that something I've dreamed about my entire life -- my first cover for the first book -- has ended up like this. But I will not let it keep me down. And I will not let it keep my book from being finished.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? Do you have any tips to share that can help people avoid situations like mine? Please feel free to post in the comments.

20 comments:

  1. That is awful and you are not the first who has been ripped off. So sorry you had to go through this.

    I'd like to recommend my cover artist who did both my novels, Keary Taylor (http://klandon771.wix.com/indiecoverdesigns#!). She's not expensive and both covers she did for me in less than two weeks. I found her thanks to another author who had covers made by her. I'm pretty sure she could use either of those images too (and should be able to tweak the colors to what you want if you ask.) Even if you don't go with her, good luck finding a new cover artist.

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    1. Hi, Patricia! Thanks so much for your kind words and for the suggestion. The sad thing about the images is that they aren't even the real size one would use to make a cover. I honestly don't know how they were obtained or why images without any site's watermark were sent to me. It's rather weird and embarrassing.

      I'll have a look at your suggestion. :) As of now I'm heavily considering Robin Ludwig (she has done covers for my friend Krystle) but nothing is written in stone.

      Have a great day and thanks for dropping by. :)

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    2. Yikes, that would make me suspicious of those pictures. I've heard good things about Robin Ludwig though and she was someone I looked into when I was searching for a cover artist.

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  2. OMG Kat, I can't believe it...what a nightmare! I'm sure this has happened to plenty of other people, which is sad and disheartening. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. I've been seriously considering finding someone else to do the cover art for book #2, but now I'm thinking I might just stick with doing it myself since I can. I hope you get everything sorted out and, like you said, that your next post about cover art is a happy one!

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    1. It's only a minor setback. It sucks, but I can either be really upset about it or I can view it as getting knocked down and decide that I will stand up. :) Provided everything goes as planned, I should be contacting Robin Ludwig later this week. I thought that I was doing a bit of extra good going with the designer I originally choice, since her company appeared to make good art but was relatively new.

      My generosity has gone further then I expected. *rolls eyes* She picked the wrong person to do this to. I'm not some crwzy zealot who will spend the rest of my life hunting down sites to announce this on. But I did put it here, on DeviantArt and on Absolute Write. Had she not messed with me, she would have gotten praise in these places instead.

      It's an odd thing for a writer to say, but sometimes I feel I will never fully understand people. Then again, they say truth is stranger then fiction and my experience here seems to back that up.

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  3. Kathy, I'm so sorry to hear you've been cheated out of your money and a beautiful cover. It's good that you blogged about this so others are aware. But I do know that you'll find a better cover artist and everything will work out in the end.

    P.S. I love "O Brother, Where Art Thou!"

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    1. I think I mentioned this here--though it may have been on my Absolute Write post--but I suspected something was wrong far sooner then I "knew" it was. I already know who I want to hire and I am working on putting together the information I will need.

      I also agree with needing to let people know. That's why I chose to post. It's not about her or me at this point--it's about looking out for other writers. If I can prevent even one person from going through what I have, my post will be worth it.

      BTW, I still need to sit down and look at that darn blurb for you. I've read it and thought about it but I need to put my thoughts together. Between grandma, giving this blog a shot in the arm and doing my final pre-beta clean up round things have been insanely busy.

      Glad to hear from you. :) And I agree, I Brother Where Art Thou is amazing.

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  4. I was also conned not over a cover but Ina business deal with a "friend" and I am in shock. Currently in a legal battle. I lost $25,000!
    I feel stupid!

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  5. Sorry for this late comment, but I need to know if you bought the two stock photos yourself (you have an account on the stock photography website and bought them), or if the cover artist sent them to you. All stock photography websites state in their license that the photos can only be stored on one computer, which is the buyer's computer, and never to be given/sent to anyone else, even the client.

    (I feel sorry for you, and wanted to make sure you won't get a second shock using the two stock photos for a print book or something...)

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  9. Holy screaming crows. I wish I had seen this before I paid Joy $200 to complete two book covers for me on 10/9/2013. It has now been 9 months and I have less than half the work I paid for. I have been nothing but patient with her excuses and long absences, and finally last month I offered her an agreement of two photos from a photo shoot she was to have done instead of creating the entire ebook cover I paid for. A couple of days ago, I posted on her personal timeline asking her to check her messages. She deleted mine and two other presumed authors requests to do the same, and then she deleted me from her FB. I have sent her an email with an accounting of every attempt to communicate with her. There is no way I am letting her cheat me, especially after all of this. And seeing that I am not alone.

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    1. I have received my cover and logo since I commented, so have removed my comment - but I will keep hassling until I get something if I was you? Post on her pages, message her on FB, Goodreads, email etc until you get hold of her!

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  10. I had a very bad experience, too. She is extremely talented, but obviously not very organized. It took me over 2 months to get my cover and I had to call her and rant. And my print edition was a mess. :-(

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  11. Contact KCT Designs: http://kctdesigns.com/

    I used Kristen for my promos and 2 book covers. She is wonderful to work with and creates beautiful book covers.

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