In September 2011 I was lucky enough to stumble across an ad on Kindle Boards, posted by an artist offering her photomanipulations for exclusive cover art at an incredibly reasonable price. I couldn't believe my luck. I'd already had a cover created but it never seemed quite right. Upon perusing the artist's gallery I was stunned by an image that was absolutely perfect for The Sphinx Project. The colour, the composition, the character. Everything fit just right. I hurried to claim the offer and I paid the fees.
I set to creating a cover out of my newly purchased art and, when it was just right, began showing it off. I was utterly in love with it. I still am. The picture embodied everything I felt about my book, The Sphinx Project, and to me it was like realising a dream. That was the point where it finally felt real. This WAS going to happen. Then the responses started flooding in and everyone else agreed it was pretty amazing. The pride I felt... I just can't even explain it...
Everything was fine until a few months ago. The first time I had any inkling about what was happening was when a friend messaged me on Facebook:
the cover on your book did you buy that picture exclusively?"
the cover on your book did you buy that picture exclusively?"
I read the words and my stomach sank. I knew something was wrong. I hadn't talked to the artist much but I felt like I could trust her... she hadn't ripped me off... had she?
While I waited for her response my eyes never left that little chat box. I watched her typing, and then pausing, and then typing again until. What felt like an age later, she pushed send. All that came in that message was a link to a blog.
I held my breath and clicked. The page took forever to load, but when it did I was gobsmacked. My heart rate accelerated and I could actually feel it beating in my chest. You know that feeling when you're terrified of heights and then you look down only to realise you're further up than you thought? Or how about giving a speech in class when you're terrified of public speaking.
Right there, on another author's blog, was the artwork I had been sold exclusively. Upon investigation I found that the other author had been using the image, the one I'd used to create my cover, to illustrate his serialised fiction, posting new chapters as he wrote them. I won't comment on the quality of the writing, but I will say it is in the same genre as The Sphinx Project and the blog seems to reach quite a readership. His Facebook page alone has 5500 friends and several hundred subscribers.
I was furious but I could see straight enough to realise I didn't want to do anything I'd regret later. I ranted and raved to my friend, but left it at that. When I cooled down a bit I began analysing the situation. As far as I could see there were two possible scenarios. The first involved the artist selling the image to someone else, but the much likelier version, to me anyway, was that this author had stumbled across the image somewhere on the internet and decided it was just right for his story.
I decided to give both the benefit of the doubt and sent two emails. The first was to the artist to ensure that she hadn't, perhaps inadvertently, granted this author permission to use the artwork. Perhaps she'd said yes in passing before she'd even thought to sell her work. In that case it would be easy to fix and she could just email the author and request he take the image down from his blog and anywhere else he'd been using it. The thing was, the artist had disappeared from Facebook some months before, since (I think) her laptop broke and I wasn't sure she'd even see the email. As a precaution I also emailed the author, politely explaining that I had purchased the exclusive usage rights from the artist and could he please remove the image from all locations he'd posted it. If, I thought, it was an honest mistake he'd be more than willing to remove it and maybe even apologise. I know I would.
Some time later I received a response from the artist confirming she'd never granted permission to anyone else and asked for links. I provided them and gave an explanation of the email I'd already sent, asking her to keep me in the loop and let me know what she plans to do. It has been several weeks and I still haven't heard back. As far as I'm aware she's never done anything about it and he's still using the image.
As for the author in question, he never even replied. I know he got the email, I submitted it through his website and received confirmation it'd been received sent to my own email, but he has blatantly ignored it. Not only has he ignored my request, but he has continued using it. He has since posted several new chapters, each illustrated with my cover art.
The thing is, I have no idea what to do any more. I am not the copyright holder, that's the artist. I only have the usage rights so I can't send a DMCA notice to his web host or Facebook requesting they pull it down. I don't want to continue emailing him because, quite frankly, he doesn't seem like someone I'd get along with and he has a lot of followers. I've seen how messy these things can get and I don't want my book slammed with one-star reviews.
Please, if you have any suggestions please let me know. I've been trying to deal with it in private for quite some time but now I'm getting desperate. I'm clueless about where to go next.
Edited to add clarification:
This post is about my book The Sphinx Project. A book that has been published with this cover since February 28th this year. I will not be changing the cover. I can't afford to pay an artist and there is no way I'm replacing it with a stock image after I've had something so wonderful for so long.
There is no signed contract between myself and the artist. At the time I was not aware there was any need. I thought it was a simple sale and purchase, like most other goods. She stated her terms in her thread, I agreed and paid the asking price. All I have is the original forum post (which is still live, although I've also saved a copy as a screen cap) and our email correspondence which is primarily about the actual payment. Yes, I know this is stupid now but I had no reason to know otherwise at the time. I can only blame ignorance.
I am not looking for any form of compensation. I simply want the other author to cease making use of this image. I do not want to be associated with him, nor his work, in any way, shape or form.
I currently live in England, the artist lives in Croatia and the other author lives in America.