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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cheating Cover Models

How to find out if your cover art has been used elsewhere

It's bound to happen whether you're an indie or published with the Big 5. Occasionally, you'll find your cover image reused--sometimes straight out of box on someone else's book.

It's irritating, but it happens. Popular images tend to get overused.

If you'd like to see if your cover art has been used elsewhere (and how). Right click your cover and click on View Image Info. The url of that image will already be selected. Copy and paste into Google Images.

If Google has found that image anywhere, it will spit out all the places it's seen it. It will even list any images that look similar to it.

By the way, this is how photographers and artists find out if someone has used their images without permission or payment.

It's also a reminder that you are simply buying the license for the art, not the art itself.

There's not much you can do but either customize an existing image, or have a cover designed and buy the rights to it.

Does it bother you to see the same image used on different books? I think it dilutes the message a little. And I can't help but feel a little sorry for the authors. Everybody wants a unique cover.


34 comments:

LD Masterson said...

There are times when I'm book browsing and it feels like all the covers are clones (especially in historical romance). I'm not sure if this is deliberate within the genre.

Thanks for the tip on tracking images.

Stacy McKitrick said...

I'm not crazy about seeing the same cover on multiple books (it screams "laziness") but what I dislike more is seeing the same model on book after book after book (a certain one by the initials JT come to mind). Probably why I prefer covers that do NOT show the model's face. If I go the self-pub route, I'll make sure no identifiable faces show on mine.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: I'm with you on historical novels. They all look alike to me. It makes me wonder if Diana Gabaldon's publisher deliberately uses an object rather than people in her book covers to distinguish her titles from everyone else's.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: It's not laziness at all. With so many covers being produced, we're bound to gravitate to certain images--especially for genre pieces.

The stock art companies don't sell you the image, just the right to use it. This is how they (and the photographers) make their money.

raelynbarclay said...

I don't have a problem with the same models being used on covers. Though I do tend to gravitate more to the cropped face covers these days.

What frustrates me, maybe even lends to a feeling of laziness, is the same exact image being used repeatedly, without any customization. Within a series, it can work well. However, different stories, different authors, maybe even different publishers...blah. LOL.

Thanks for the tip!

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: I don't know what to say when the image is 'straight out of the box' other than maybe the author felt it told the story well. This is why I like to customize my images so even if the face is the same, details are different.

Re: off with their heads
I'm amused at how divided the issue is. I've met people from both camps wanting cropped bodies or full bodies. People either like it or they don't.

Interesting.


Angela Brown said...

As a reader, I find the overuse confusing, especially if it is a straight-out-the box situation. I seen a particular book cover for two different books that are exactly the same. No differences.I'd associated the image with one book so when I saw the cover image again I thought it was the book I was familiar with only for the title to be different.

Very confusing.

As an author, the lack of differentiation can be disconcerting. That's probably the reason I hope to always go with an artist who can customize an image instead of using stock and nothing more.

Jackie Burris said...

As a reader only can say that it has very much driven me crazy lately to keep seeing the exact same cover models used time and time again. For me it does not speak of laziness it just means there are not enough available models that meet whatever criteria an author/publisher is looking for.

It really drives me nuts with they use the same model(s) without any change of hairdo or facial expression, in YA genre especially have noticed it recently lots.

Anne Gallagher said...

Because I wanted a certain "tone" for my covers, I chose to use portrait paintings from Wikimedia. Unfortunately, someone else saw them and decided to do the same thing. With one of my original pictures. Yes, she changed the hat and the color of the background, but it's the same portrait.

Unfortunately we both write in the same genre and if you put both covers side by side, you can't really tell them apart.

There's nothing I can do about it so I just won't show my covers before the book comes out anymore.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: Exactly. If you don't customize it at least a little, it reinforces that cookie cutter look of covers.

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: You're not the only one to be confused. When I first started noticing it, I was baffled. I thought maybe I had made a mistake in choosing a book, thinking I had inadvertently chosen a different book.

It's worse when big publishers do this because you expect them to have the money to buy original art.

Maria Zannini said...

Anne: That's unfortunate. And that's the same situation as using stock art. No one can stop you from using the same image.

And I'm with you about showing cover art. I guard mine jealously until the last moment. I've spent too much time and work on it to just give that idea away to someone else.

There's an old marketing ploy that releasing the cover early increases buzz. But with self-publishing, I'm not sure it's effective if someone can take that idea and publish before you.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Hi, Maria. Yeah, I agree with you on this. I think it does detract from the message. I have seen this quite a few times, and it bugs me each and every time. Each story is original and deserves to be represented by an original cover.
How are you, my friend? Well, I hope. You take care, ok?

-Jimmy

Maria Zannini said...

Hiya Jimmy! I hope you're feeling better.

re: Each story is original...
I think this is why it hurts me to see copycat covers. I know you can't always foresee when a cover might be used again, but if you at least try to modify it enough so it doesn't come straight out of the stock art site, it stands a better chance at being unique.

I feel bad for the authors.

Shelley Munro said...

If it's really obvious, it's a bit irritating. A couple of my covers are the same as others and that's within the same publisher reusing the stock image :(

Mike Keyton said...

I think covers are, maybe a little like 'genres' For period vampires may be hot and you get a lot of similar stories. In the same way, with book covers, 'blue' maybe in one season, 'hot red' another season - sexy man or woman on both. A decade or two ago it was the swirly gold embossed titles on a pale background. And then you had the golden age of pulp before that. Those covers are magic - though it maybe age lends them patina.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Oh, that would really aggravate me if it was the same publisher. I'm never satisfied with the cover I've been given.

In the old days, they were good about making changes, but no longer.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: It's true. There's a lot of trendiness that goes on. I'm not sure if it's an organic shift or just a copycat syndrome. Probably both.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've only seen it a few times but it does bother me. I've also seen some that are so similar they have to be a variety of the same picture.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: It's so disheartening to see your cover model on someone else's book. And as a reader, it's confusing. I tend to remember stories by their cover art. If I see it on someone else's book I get confused over which story I've read.

Suzanne Brandyn said...

You've got me thinking. I'm off to see if my upcoming one has been used. I'll die if it has. Well, I know it has but too much and I'll have a fit lol

Maria Zannini said...

Suzanne: I don't mind too much as long as my cover looks better. :)

Hope you find the same thing.

Southpaw said...

I've never noticed that. I do think it would be weird to see two different books with the same cover. Heck, it would be confusing.

Cate Masters said...

I'm noticing the same images on different books. It's inevitable, I guess, but interesting to see the variations.
Thanks for the tip!

Carol Kilgore said...

Maria - My cover designer combines elements from more than one image to make my covers. But so far only one model in each. So far I haven't seen either model on another cover, but I'm sure it's inevitable that it will happen one day.

Maria Zannini said...

Southpaw: It's become almost a game to pick out elements that have appeared before. Not a fun game if you happen to be the owner of that cover.

Maria Zannini said...

Cate: That's a positive spin on it. At least we can see all the ways to use the same stock art.

Maria Zannini said...

Carol: Most artists use at least a composite of two or three photos to create one picture.

Models are the most distinguishing feature, but I also notice when certain background elements are used.

You're right. It's inevitable. All you can hope for is that your cover is better than the other guy's. :)

Giacomo Giammatteo said...

Maria: I had this happen to me, long before I knew about it. I had my second book cover all designed and ready to go, and then, WTH! I saw someone else with the same basic cover. I decided to do a different one, and now I'm glad I did. I also learned a valuable lesson.

Maria Zannini said...

Jim: Doesn't it make you crazy? I'd hate to go through all that work and then find someone with a similar cover. The only thing worse is if it had the same title too. I'd have to down my sorrow with alcohol. ;)

Gwen Gardner said...

It would bother me a lot to have the same cover as another author. I recently saw the same photo on two different books, but the designers had each done something different with them, so that's better than just using a stock photo and calling it done.

Lynda R Young said...

I like this nifty trick, but it makes me sad how often my own work has been stolen...

Maria Zannini said...

Gwen: Occasionally, I'll see a stock photo and think, wow, that's exactly what I need, but even then I'll change out little details, just to prove it wasn't straight out of the box.

Maria Zannini said...

Lynda: Stolen? Unless it's your photo/art (in which you have legal rights to sue), the other users bought the same license as your publisher, so it's not really stolen. But it does make me grit my teeth to see the same cover with a different title. Hazards of the industry.