Memo to Fiction Authors–Make Sure It’s Fiction!

Boy did I learn a thing or two after submitting my complete “three-books-in-one” e-book, The Prodigal Band Trilogy, to Lulu.com for publication and distribution! NEVER, and I mean, NEVER, indicate in any way shape or form that anything in your fiction is “based on actual events” or “based on true events”…or, perhaps, “based on a true story.”

Why? Because if you say anything on any copyright page or whatever that anything in the book/novel is based on any actual event, that (unlike the old days when one could write a novel “based on a true story” and call it “fiction”) apparently that is no longer the case.

In these days when it is so easy to “offend” someone–and I’m not just talking so-called “SJWs” here…does no one have the capacity to develop thick skin anymore? Is it against the “law” to develop thick skin these days? In these days when “getting offended” is the prevailing narrative, can a fiction novelist such as myself get into trouble for putting actual “brands” into my novels?

Here are some of the “brands” I have used in my three published books and copyrighted with the Library of Congress:

Musical instrument companies Fender and Gibson–Gibson guitar and Fender bass.

Car companies–Bentley, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, BWM, Mercedes-Benz, Lamborghini and others.

And other brands. But guess what? NONE of these brands appear in The Prodigal Band Trilogy. Why? Because I could be sued for LIBEL! Because someone at one of the instrument “brands” might get “offended” that I used a competitor’s brand in my book! After all, any use of any brand could be construed by someone as being “negative.”

Gee, will someone get offended because one of my band characters is bisexual? And, when he repents of being bisexual, will an actual bisexual be offended?

And then you have record labels and media outfits. Back in the late 90s before zillions of indy recording artist labels came about, I could take an actual record label that had been around since the 1960s and change the spelling of it a bit–no problem. For instance, I could take the actual Atlantic Records label (that Led Zeppelin among others used) and fictionalize it into “Atlantis” and no big deal. Well guess what? Atlantis is now a record label! Found that out on a site called “Discogs” which lists EVERY song by EVERY recording artist on EVERY label that has EVER existed (and even lists VINYL records for sale! Would you believe they still make VINYL records?). So then I had to change that label name to an actual FICTIONAL label name! It only took me two days to figure out what the fictional record label would be! I spent two days on this! Another record label I used had to have its spelling changed as well, because the actual label had a couple of “discogs” listed! I had never heard of this label, but never mind…

And two more days on changing the names of the media conglomerates I mentioned in my novels! Thank God I’m not a best selling author–I’d have been sued a zillion times by now!

Finally, EVERY real person known to be a real person had to be expunged from the e-book. AND I COULD NOT EVEN MENTION THE BEATLES, THE BAND MY FICTIONAL BAND IS FASHIONED AFTER! No Elton John, no Jimi Hendrix, no Jimmy Page, no Kurt Cobain, no actual rock band, no actual pop star (I even removed the late Michael Jackson! Just because…).

No actual business, government department or agency, non-profit org, no actual religious group except for the fact that major religions exist, no actual churches, no mention of actual books, records, movies, works of art, buildings. And no mention of actual presidents, prime ministers, royalty. Even historical figures are taboo..but I did mention William the Conqueror aka William of Normandy. Will that have to be expunged also?

And I am NOT BLAMING LULU.COM for this! I am not blaming Lulu.com for me having to take two weeks to revise my manuscript. Lulu is only doing what any wise online company would do in the day and age of zillions of “libel” suits for no reason. One of my fave news sites has been sued for using a photo without “attribution” to the photographer EVEN THOUGH THE PHOTO CAME FROM A COPYRIGHT-FREE AND ROYALTY-FREE WEBSITE! Because suddenly one day the photographer figured he or she would null the copyright and royalty free status of the photo…just because!

That is why my e-book cover art WILL use a photo that I took in 2009 of a July 4th fireworks show at an actual amusement park at night. Since I can no longer trust actual photographers anymore!

So, my advice is this: before sending any manuscript to Lulu or Kindle or whatever for print or e-book publication, use your fave search engine to see if the company you think does not exist actually does exist. I mean, there are only about a million media outfits these days! Need a record label? Make sure discogs.com doesn’t list it anywhere! If there are only one or two listings, DON’T USE IT! If you need to use an actual well-known person or celebrity, make sure that person is dead! Dead persons cannot sue for libel!

Finally, since you will likely use the name of an actual person who actually exists, make sure you indicate that “names of real people, real places, and real things are used only for fictional purposes.” Instead of using “brands,” use generalizations: car instead of car brand name, hotel instead of actual hotel name, guitar instead of Gibson guitar, etc.

The Prodigal Band Trilogy E-book to be Uploaded to Lulu.com Tomorrow or Monday

All I have to do now is the “Afterword” or something at the end of the book to explain how this book and the three trilogy original books came about. By Monday the latest, the e-book The Prodigal Band Trilogy–the three-books-in-one e-book that should be available on Amazon Kindle, Kobo (now including WalMart), Barnes and Noble Nook, Lulu and other platforms in a few months, after all the formatting by Lulu’s “team” and cover art is done, and I, the author, gives my okay.

When the e-book is being distributed on various platforms, I will likely reduce the price of both printed books, Battle of the Band and The Prophesied Band, but shipping, between four and five dollars, will remain the same.

The FREE PDF The Prodigal Band will remain available for download for Free here.

Above is another possible piece of cover art, based on a photo I took in 2009 at Sea World in San Antonio, Texas. As much as I like Pexels.com, someone I know is now sued by a photographer for “copyright infringement” for using a “free stock photo” from Pexels! Not blaming Pexels here, but apparently that photo he or she posted there was removed by the photographer later so the bogus “suit” could go through. So from here on in, if I need cover art, I’ll just do it myself. And Getty images charges too damned much for the rights to a license over a photo! If Lulu wants to change the cover art that’s up to them.

E-Book Almost Complete. Now for the Hard Part–Cover Art

Having not posted since December and revising the parts of The Prodigal Band that will be included in my forthcoming e-book, the all-inclusive The Prodigal Band Trilogy, I have completed the proofread and edits using large PDF printing through Word’s export mechanism. One final read-through is on the way and I’ll be sending the completed manuscript to Lulu later this week.

Because I just completed the hardest part of the job–the cover art.

Now I used to be an artist of sorts: I’ve done paintings, silk-screens, airbrush including t-shirts, and drawings, and created the covers for Battle of the Band and The Prophesied Band print editions in 1996 and 1998.

The cover art for the FREE PDF e-book The Prodigal Band uses a free stock copyright-free and royalty-free photo from Pexels.com. But I have read about some bloggers and others getting sued for “copyright infringement” when using what they thought were copyright-free photos including a site that is advertising my books for free, and this site has provided hundreds if not thousands of free book downloads as well as book sales. Just knowing a site I trust is being harassed just because law firms love to make money off of phony “copyright infringement” suits brought to bare by shyster photographers and lawyers has turned me away from Pexels and other free-stock-photo sites–at some point, photographers just might want to remove their photos from these sites or the site might remove the photos at photographer request…and then the photographer can sue the user of the once-free stock photos! (In this case, the photographer would have to notify me so I could remove the photo from the e-book cover within a certain time frame.)

In a day and age when “it’s all about the money,” this is not a good time-frame to be using photos or artwork one did not create oneself.

So I went through my entire “pictures” folder of photos taken by me or a loved one on various vacations from cruises to boat rides to graduations to camping trips to whatever and I finally found a photo I took in summer of 2009 at San Antonio’s Sea World at night during a fireworks display. Since the ‘three-books-in-one’ book is about a rock and roll band’s journey to righteousness and victory over evil, I wanted my cover art to feature a bright and overwhelming light above the darkness, and what better image than a fireworks display? Plus there is a pond or water at the bottom of the photo, which represents the “sea” in the Book of Revelation which stands for “the nations.” So, I chose my photo.

Then the problem happened. The photo I chose had 180 dpi, or dots per inch. Lulu’s book packages, as well as self-publishing, requires 300 dpi or greater! Now I had two photos from Pexels (I think) on my computer with 300 dpi, and ALL of my self-produced or family-produced photos were or 180 dpi or less. Most were less than 100!

So, what was I supposed to do while NOT using a Pexel stock photo, or PAYING Getty Images over 100 dollars for ONE STINKIN’ PHOTO? (Because Getty Images requires one to get the usual “premium” pay-to-play account and pay them about 100 dollars when all I needed was one photo! Heck, I have already paid Lulu 800 dollars to assure my book would be distributed over several markets! Because I hate to say it, but if you want results more often than not you must “pay to play.” Because “pay to play” is becoming SOP on the internet!

But then I became the “me” I am and figured–why can’t I turn some photo I am editing in Microsoft Paint into a 300 dpi photo? Believe it or not, one can use Microsoft’s free Paint accessory program to turn any photo in your photo library into a 300 dpi cover art.

Here is how.

And here is what I did. First I recording the pixels for height and width for the photo I wanted to increase the dpi on. One can find this info out by right-clicking on the photo in question, left-click on “properties,” at the bottom of the menu, then left-clicking on details, which shows the pixels for height and width as well as dpi. Jot down the width and height pixel numbers, then open the photo you want to increase dpi for, in Paint, by clicking “Open with” and then choosing “Paint.” Make sure the photo is saved in JPEG or .jpg format! And, while that file is still open, do the same with any file you have in 300 dpi, any 300 dpi photo you have in your library (if you don’t have one, go to Pexels and download one!). Before the edit, though, make sure the 300 dpi photo you will edit has the SAME PIXELS, width and height, as the photo you will paste into it! If not, it won’t work! And what you are going to do is “edit” that 300 dpi photo by copying the photo you want to increase the dpi for and then pasting it in the 300 dpi photo file! Now your original less-than-300-dpi photo (with the same number of width and height pixels) is a 300 dpi photo! All you have to do after that is change the file name when saving it.

To make sure you did it correctly, go here and check their instructions.

And you don’t have to be a good photographer to create your cover art. I should know–I am not a good photographer!

Note that I should have everything for the e-book ready by the end of the week.