…time to get your crayons and your pencils!
The value of illustration to underscore writing is questionable to me. When I see a picture next to a blog entry I set my mind to “magazine” setting, and deal with the piece in the same way I’d deal with something in Entertainment Weekly. It’s automatic, the result of 40 years of conditioning. I just don’t expect as much from the writing in an illustrated piece. On the other hand, when I see a blog entry without pictures my mind tends to treat the writing with a bit more gravitas. The way I’d treat a textbook or a novel. Again, the response is automatic.
I find it very interesting, then, that so many “Build your blog audience” advice pieces tell people to use pictures as a way to draw readers. They say it brings more readers in–how they figure this out I don’t know. It’s certainly not through scientific method. But someone said it once and on the internet that’s as much proof as you need, apparently, and now it’s a “fact”. So blog entries have pictures in them.
The thing is, those pictures are very often copyrighted. On the occasions when I use a picture on here I spend a good chunk of time making sure the copyright situation allows for the picture to be posted on my site. I figure I’d be pretty miffed if a photographer used paragraphs of my writing to make his photography blog more interesting. Sure I’d be flattered initially, but ultimately miffed as hell. My words are my work, my craft. I know that artists feel the same way.
I got into a discussion about this with some other writers (they all have published books–more on that in a minute) and from there hopped to several other discussions. There is an actual belief out there that ‘if you put it on the internet, the picture automatically becomes part of the public domain and is up for grabs.’ Times like this I hate the Internet. This is the same kind of logic that would say it’s okay to steal your neighbours’ ferns off their porch. “If you put it out front on the street where everyone can see it, you’re giving it away. So it’s my fern now.”
Nobody should steal another person’s work, but the published authors who use copyright-protected material are putting themselves in greater jeopardy than the blogger who just writes for her blog. If their blog is used in any way to promote their novels, an attorney can argue that they are indirectly profiting from the blog and–boom! Time to pay up. It’s especially sad that so many of the articles advising on the use of pictures are directed at authors who are just now getting into blogging. They’re being steered down the very wrongest of roads.