December 4, 2017

Book Covers: Stock Beware Revisited

I’ve posted before about using stock photos for book covers, which you can find here. In that post, the photo in question lends itself well to steamy romance, so there was no chance it would ever end up on one of my novels.

Conventional wisdom is that indie authors ABSOLUTELY SHOULD NOT MAKE THEIR OWN COVERS. I tend to gravitate to simple covers and have the photoshop skills to at least put together an image and some text. Instead of trying to create original images, I rely on stock photography.

Not only did I win NaNoWriMo this year, I also finished the first draft of my manuscript, The Other Humans1. The cyborg-looking thing I used for the cover at the beginning of the month just isn’t a good fit for where the story ended up. I decided to tinker with some other images to see if I could come up with a cover I liked better.

One of the things I tried was this:

There is an assassin-style character in the story who wears all black, and the background hints at destruction typical of the dystopian genre. It’s not perfect. The colors should be more orange and teal, which are classic sci-fi colors, instead of this salmon/indigo combo. Adjusting colors isn't too difficult, so in theory, I could use this photo to represent my novel pretty well. But given that the source photo is pretty perfect as-is for a thriller cover, I figured it would end up on a lot of books.

While browsing forums early today, I came across a conversation where an author was asking for feedback on a book cover. She felt the original might be hurting sales and presented an image of a woman wearing all black and holding a gun as an alternative cover image. It was exactly the same stock photo I had tinkered with the day before.

I figured that two authors selecting the same image on the same day was way too much of a coincidence, so I did some internet sleuthing. In no particular order, this is what I found:

This woman really gets around!

The part that I find most alarming, at least from what I could dig up from copyright pages, is that four of these covers were professionally designed. They certainly all look nice, but the last thing I want when potential readers see my novels is for them to think they’ve already read it because the cover is too similar to another book.

Please, do your due diligence when deciding on a book cover. Whether you’re like me and take the gamble on making something yourself, or you’ve decided to trust someone who creates covers for a living, make sure you aren’t using a tired or over-exposed image. There’s a simple way to check if a stock photo or image has already been used for other media. Go to, click the little camera icon in the search bar, and either upload the image or type in the image url.

You could also change a stock image you plan to use for your cover in a significant way. I did this for the cover of Quality DNA. The model is one photo, and I added an overlay using a second photo of lights and raindrops2.

I’m still trying to put together a cool cover for my NaNoWriMo novel. This one may just test the limits of my photoshop skills. Or maybe this will be the novel that finally breaks my resolve and forces me to hire an actual cover designer. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. First, I’ve got to edit the thing.

1 This is the working title. I’ll announce an official title as soon as it’s beautifully edited and ready to publish.

2 The cover has changed since I first posted this.

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