On why you might want to research that stock photo

Mar 19

Hi-dee-ho, neighborinos! So today I want to take a break from the usual whining about book progress, and talk a little bit about the more superficial side of book publishing. No, literally, the superficial. As in, existing or occurring at or on the surface. Yep, I’m talkin’ ’bout covers.

Now, I’m very fortunate to have someone in my life who is both a friend and a faaaabulous graphic designer, with an aesthetic that matches my own almost perfectly. My girl Cassie from Back to Her Roots did the cover design for Terra, and I’ve heard pretty much nothing but positive feedback about it.

And you can see why! I know I’m a bit (okay, a lot) biased, but I absolutely love this cover. The textures, the ratios, the typography… I think it just looks really great. And one of the things that I love most about it is that it maintains a degree of uniqueness, in a world where there are literally thousands of book covers that all look the same.

I mean, it’s not a bad thing to model your cover after things that people like. And this certainly isn’t a singularly unique cover, since, yes there are about eleventy billion young adult covers that feature a girl on the cover in some capacity. Maybe she’s in a prom dress, maybe it’s a close-up of her beautiful modelly face, or maybe part of her face is cut off, like Terra’s. But I haven’t seen a ton of covers that follow the kind of “divided into thirds” thing that this one has going on, with the awesome textures that are both beautiful AND story-relevant. And even if everything else were essentially the same as other covers, I know that I can feel confident that no other book will ever be able to completely replicate my own. And that is because of the cover model herself.

Some of you may already know this, but my brother is actually a professional photographer. Not only that, but his fiancee (my future sister-in-law) both shoots with him, and models for him. So when it came time to decide who to put on the cover of my book, I had it pretty easy. I didn’t need to scour the interwebs for a stock model in the right pose or with the right hair color or what have you. I was able to get a photo that was not only free (heh), but I knew would not be replicated on another cover… EVER.

See, it’s recently become starkly apparent to me just how many of the same stock photos get circulated around the book cover world. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing–people like what they like, and if they liked a model couple on one cover, it stands to reason they might like them on another–it certainly doesn’t do anything to help you distinguish your book from the rest. This is why, if you are using or planning on using stock photos of models for your book cover, I urge you just to do a little research beforehand. Otherwise you run the risk of turning a potential reader away because they’ve seen it all before.

Still need convincing? Not to fear, I brought examples!

The Lux Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout is a very popular YA sci-fi (well, sci fi in that it has aliens, but is still set in our contemporary world) set of books, which feature a pair of models representing the two main characters. They look pretty great together, so I can see why. And apparently, so did all these other people:

The examples actually go on much further. There’s even an entire Goodreads list dedicated to sussing out all the many, many covers that same couple is featured on, and last I checked, the list was over 60 titles long! Crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for covers that feature a hot couple but… I mean, c’mon, guys.

I’ve only found one replication of the coupl efrom Tammara Webber’s self-pubbed sensation, Easy, so far. That said, when the guy is as distinctive looking as the one on this cover (or at least has as distinctive hair, haha), it’s impossible to miss. At first, I thought that Vacant by Evelyn R. Baldwin was tied into Easy in some fashion, when in fact they are two completely unrelated works by two completely unrelated authors.

With my last example, I actually can’t find the second work that I recently saw which features this same fierce warrior chick, but I KNOW it exists. Anybody know of the book I’m looking for? For a while it was showing up in the “Customers also bought this…” list on Terra’s Amazon page, but it isn’t there anymore. Regardless, the covers are almost identical, mainly because the model is so distinctive. Even though I remember her being is in a different pose on the second cover, I definitely thought that the two books were part of the same series until  saw they had different authors (the titles are also somewhat reflective of each other, if I remember correctly).

I think the examples pretty much speak for themselves. I just think that, especially for self-published authors, who already have a hard enough time getting readers to take our books as seriously as “real” books, we owe it to ourselves to do the appropriate research before putting our blood, sweat, and tears (or our money, for someone else’s bloo, sweat, and tears) into our cover deigns. I do know how hard it is to find the balance between appealing to what people want to see, without copying what’s already out there too closely, but I also know that people absolutely, 100% judge books by their cover.

So, on that happy note, happy cover designing! 😉


  1. You know, when we had the placeholder photo in the cover before we got the real shot? I actually had a stock photo in there before that one and decided against showing it to you because a reverse Google image search showed that it was on no less than 10 other bookcovers. I’m SO happy we went with a custom-shot photo.

  2. I can totally relate about the confusion regarding the covers of Easy and Vacant! I had to Google it — brought me to this site. 🙂

  3. Catching Liam by Sophia Bleu and Knock Love Out by Pella Grace


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