I’m a self-published author. I published my first Steel Goddesses novel via CreateSpace. CreateSpace makes it easy to format manuscripts and design covers. I chose my cover photo from a website that offers stock photos at reasonable prices. The first edition of Steel Goddesses was published in 2009. The second, revised edition (with more content added) was published in 2016. For the revised edition, I selected another stock photo from the same website and used the cover creator template on CreateSpace. I uploaded the finished product, which went live on Amazon an hour later. Easy peasy. I didn’t give the process a second thought.
As I was scrolling through posts on Facebook, I came upon one from an author friend which stopped me cold. She was sharing another post, from the cousin of Lee Ching, a young woman who makes her living designing book covers and logos for independent and self-published authors. The young woman had apparently been bullied so badly by a writer’s fans, she’d attempted suicide.
Her cousin posted the message Lee wrote before overdosing on pills:
“I am sorry to those I have hurt
I am sorry to everyone affected
I am sorry to those who don’t and won’t ever believe me
I am sorry that I am shouting in a empty room and no one hears me
I am sorry.”
I went to the Lee’s Facebook page and read other posts. Slowly, the full picture emerged. Someone had taken offense to the young woman using a stock photo for a book cover. Being a stock photo, it had appeared on at least one other cover and someone took umbrage. Before long, dozens more piled on, spewing insults and abuse via Facebook messages; some vilely calling on her to kill herself.
Over a stock photo.
I understand how competitive the self-publishing world can be. I mean, so many authors, cranking out novel after novel, hiring independent artists, editors, and others to help their books stand out in a field becoming more overcrowded by the minute. Many self-published authors have limited budgets. Most work full-time jobs or are supporting families. Stock photo sites come in handy, especially those that offer photos at very low prices. Anyone who uses stock photos runs the risk of seeing what they consider to be their photos appear on other book covers, magazine ads, etc.
To attack a book cover designer for using a stock photo is ridiculous. To castigate a designer and demand she kill herself for using a photo that happes to also appear on another cover is downright vile.
The last I heard, Lee survived her suicide attempt, but as her cousin states, she is in no way okay. I hope her spirit bounces back and she’s able to heal. From the supportive posts on her Facebook page, she’s surrounded by friends and supporters who are protective and loving.
Others have created groups aimed at stamping out bullying in the indie publishing world. Here are a couple of Facebook groups to check out:
If you’re looking to support Lee Ching, start by liking her two pages:
Social media can be fun but it can also be dangerous. People forget that words hurt. They can shit all over someone then go enjoy dinner, having no clue (or not caring) just how much damage their words have caused. Some people enjoy hurting others, safe behind a barrier, never having to apologize or be held accountable or their actions.
To those who think they’ve dodged the proverbial bullet, think again. It might take minutes or it might take years, but Karma finds us all in the end.
P.S. If you don’t want to see your cover photo on someone else’s book, pony up for a licensed photo.