They tell you not to judge a book by its cover but let’s be real, shall we? We totally do. When you find yourself staring at a sea of book covers on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble or Kobo, and none of the names are familiar, you end up looking for a cover that jumps out at you before you click on it to read the description.
Some covers stand out because they use exclusive photos, while others will look familiar because they use stock photos. These are photos that are licensed for specific uses and can be available to anyone who pays the license, which means that some photographs will appear in other places.
Some sites, like Unsplash, feature free stock photos and people can use their photographs any way they want, from book covers to print and photo ads, quote art, and even book covers that you can sell. Just know that in the case of stock photographs, unless you tweak it or combine it with another image in a composite photograph, it just might be easily identifiable.
For an author, that means that the image you totally plan to use for your clean and wholesome romance may have been used for something else, like a BDSM novel.
But how would you know?
There are ways and this is one of them. It’s called Google images. First, let’s find a stock photo to use as a basis for a search. I really like these two blonde models because they fit perfectly with my idea of Riley Eames from my novel, Loving Ashe and because I’m probably going to change the cover of the series in time for the second book to be released, I’m on the lookout for a sweet innocent and sexy blonde. The images below are from my lightbox on Shutterstock, a stock photo site.
It’s not really a “lightbox” but in photography, back in the day, you’d lay out the filmstrip proofs on a lighted box (similar to slide film) and with a magnifying viewer, look at each photo that you’d end up using for whatever campaign you just shot for. These days, we do digital so we don’t need a real lightbox anymore though we call it that so we can store the pictures we’ve picked out from a search for, let’s say, “blonde woman.”
Armed with an image url that I copied to my clipboard (Edit > Copy), I then go to Google Images via this url: http://images.google.com and then click the camera button.
I then paste the url of the image (Edit > Paste) and voila! You get to see exactly where your favorite image is being used at.
So from this one stock image:
Come various incarnations in the form of already released books, from English-language gritty dark romance novels to Italian ones. Oh, and just for the heck of it, I added a cover I made for Loving Ashe.
So as an author faced with these existing covers above, would you still pick the stock photo you had your eye on, or would you rather move on and find another one? Maybe even pay for or come up with an exclusive photo shoot just for your book?
What would you do?