Friday, September 21, 2012

Tips N Tricks: Avoiding Cover Art Duplicates

I have two friends who recently used the same cover art for their books. This is something that happens all the time, not just for indie books, but trad-pub as well, because publishing houses use stock art as much as indies do.

(These were all published 2005-2008)

There's even apparently a term for it! Cover Twins
(These are all trad-pub covers BTW. The top ones were released within months of each other.)

This happens because when you buy cover art, you ARE NOT buying the exclusive use of that image (that would cost oodles of money). What you're doing is licensing the ability to use the image. 

There's a simple, but little known, way to find out if the cover art you're considering using for your book cover has already been used (and if so, how much). 

Here's How:
  1. Download the stock art photo with watermark that you're considering using.
  2. Go to Google Images, click on the small camera icon in the search box.
  3. It will give you an option to paste a url (of your image) or upload an image from your computer. (Note: you cannot paste the image URL from a site like istockphoto.com, because they are not searchable) Upload your stock art photo here.
  4. Search. The results should show any places that the image is used.
Easy Peasy.

Here's the original stock art for the cover of Open Minds.

A search on this image brought up:
Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce
(note this is published by Scholastic - also note that this is the OLD cover, and she has a new one now, but the old one comes up in the search)
(Sounds like a cool book, too... :)

The eyewitness
Also: The Eyewitness, by Dee Henderson (in German)

Both substantially different from Open Minds, so it wasn't much cause for alarm:
(and now you know the hand was not originally in the picture!)

So, once again, Google is your friend (also a good cover designer).

UPDATE: See the comments for great additional questions/info on this subject.

More Tips N Tricks to come ...

Back to the Writing Cave...

~*~
Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young Third Daughter (The Dharian Affairs #1) which is her excuse to dress up in corsets and fight with swords. She also has a dark-and-gritty SF serial called The Debt Collector and a middle grade fantasy called Faery Swap. It's possible she's easily distracted. She always has more speculative fiction fun in the works. You can find out what she's up to by subscribing to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!) or by stopping by her blog (www.susankayequinn.com).
adult science fiction. Her latest release is

Third Daughter (The Dharian Affairs #1)
Kindle | Nook | Print
The Third Daughter of the Queen wants to marry for love, but rumors of a new flying weapon force her to accept a barbarian prince’s proposal of a peace-brokering marriage.



43 comments:

  1. Great information. I see duplicate images all over the place! Most recently, I not only saw a duplicate image but almost an exact cover on two trad. pubbed books. Maybe you should send them a letter about this trick. I mean that SHOULD be a benefit of going trad. is that the professionals will make sure you at least have a unique cover!

    But, overall, duplicate stock art doesn't really bother me. It doesn't prevent me from reading a book. I don't see the author or trad. press as less professional. I recognize it and then move on. Of course, having unique art is preferable. But I do understand that there are budgets and limited stock art options for young adult.

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    1. I feel the same way - it's by no means some kind of horror, but you should avoid it, if possible. And it's reasonably possible. I would think trad-pub houses would be less likely to do this than first-time indie authors, because the pub-houses have been around the block a few times, but that's not true! If anything, it's the opposite. Baffling.

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  2. Great tips Susan. I haven't noticed duplicate covers but they obviously exist. I do notice when I search for a book on Goodreads by title how many books use the same or similar titles though.

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    1. I think there's a lot more room for duplicate titles - and it's hard to avoid it, since you're competing for two or three words against all books ever written. Tough.

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  3. I had to stop for a moment when I looked at the book covers you shared. The bad part is that it is funny that the same cover model is apparently such a stock that it almost makes me feel the descriptions of the characters are incredibly "similar" and "stock"-like. Probably not the case, but still...I appreciate things being added and turned to make your cover extra unique so it doesn't feel like a Cover Twin.

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    1. I think that's why people are appalled when they find out they have a cover twin (although, honestly, it doesn't bother me that much). For Open Minds, I really didn't worry about it - the other covers were either old/replaced or in a different country. And in any case, looked very different. If you didn't have them side-by-side, seeing one probably wouldn't trigger thoughts of the other.

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  4. Thanks for the tip on searching Google images. I really am shocked by how many traditional pub houses are using the same stock photos. It's rather silly. Great job adding the hand to your cover. It adds a lot of depth and tension.

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    1. Thanks! I'm sure trad-pub houses have the same problem that indies do in lack of funds for original art (generally speaking). But a simple check should be part of everyone's process.

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  5. This is exactly why I went to so much trouble to get original art for my cover--I want my book to stand out. My biggest expense was hiring a photographer to shoot a drawing my husband did for me. I went with a photography student who charged half of pro rates. So that's always an option if you want unique work--hire a pro-in-training! It helps them build a portfolio.

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  6. That's a great tip! And there are reasonably priced professionals out there too, for illustration, for custom photo shoots, for all kinds of original art. But it can also be pricey. Being creative helps too, looking in places that are not the "typical" stock photos, like deviant art.

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  7. Fascinating! BTW, I've met Tamora Pierce, and she is a Class A bad ass. Funny as hell, too.

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  8. Such great information, Susan. I was shopping for my new cover image this past week and thought I came across yours. But it was different enough from the original, that I questioned myself.

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    1. Do you have the link? I'd be curious to see it... there was one a while ago, looking through a keyhole, but I can't find it anymore...

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  9. Maybe it's the Addams Family hand...

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  10. Wow, what a great tip! I'm saving this one in my folder. I'll be sure to talk to my cover artist so she can check for me before she buys any images she's considering. Thanks, Susan!

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  11. i go original all the way! :) I would hate it if a cover was duped...

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  12. This is beyond awesome! I'll be doing this from now on for sure. The key to using stock photos is to combine and alter images until there is no way someone can have the same cover. A lesson I learned the hard way.

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  13. You are a wellspring of wonderful information. Thanks for posting!

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  14. More hats for the author to wear! ;) As always, you give great advice, and your cover is awesome.

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  15. Thanks for the info, Susan! I had no idea you could check something like that on Google. I'll have to keep this in mind when it comes time for me to design my own cover. :)

    I have seen that book by Tamora Pierce before, but your cover for Open Minds became such a unique cover in itself that it didn't spark any dejavu within me. :P Love how your cover was designed!

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  16. You always have the most helpful posts, Susan! Thanks.

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  17. I just had a cover finished in which I took the picture of the model (who happens to be my daughter), so I know I won't be seeing her face on other covers. Lol

    My cover designer is also fabulous, which helps, too.

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  18. So interesting! I HAD NO IDEA that there could even be duplicate covers!

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  19. Great tip, Susan. Very interesting. I'll have to give it a go. And wow, so many duplicates!!

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  20. Great tip! Thanks, Susan. Also exciting to know that Google doesn't think I have any cover twins : )

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    1. That’s always nice to find! LOL But, hey, I see from your newsletter that you’re getting a new cover? Cool!

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  21. So what are the advantages of using a stock photo instead of your own photograph? Is it hard to use your own art?

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    1. Using your own art (photos, etc) is fantastic, as long as it's of professional quality. Or you can have a photographer do a shoot just for you. The price will vary on that, though, and could be as little as a couple hundred up to a couple thousand dollars. And you'll still have to pay to have the photograph digitally designed and made into a cover. But some digital artists will do both - photography and design - and give you a better rate. It's worth looking into if you want original art!

      Here are some great posts on covers:
      Create Your Own Cover
      Open Call for More Stock Art

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  22. It's not just book covers either. I happened upon this book (http://www.amazon.com/Once-a-Good-Girl-ebook/dp/B006IIWZ42/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1348269649&sr=1-1)and realized the image on the cover was the same one the hospital I work for used on their hand washing posters.

    Great post! :)

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    1. That is... not good. Harlequin Medical Romances? Do they think that people who want to read medical romances also like looking at hospital posters? *shakes head*

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  23. this is a big reason why i don't use stock photography. the biggest problem i have with this is reader confusion. i know that i remember the cover more than the name of a novel. and i wouldn't want a reader to buy someone else's thinking of mine. that said, your designer did a fabulous job ensuring that open minds looked unique. :) and this search tip is something that i find absolutely fascinating!

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    1. And Vic is someone you can go to for your cover design services - and original photography too, if memory serves. AND she does gorgeous illustrations. Seriously check her stuff out - if I ever do an illustrated cover, I'm going to her. :)

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  24. Geez --I can't believe how many books have the same cover! Great tip on how not to have that happen.

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  25. That's amazing. I've never seen a duplicate cover before, and your examples are just insanely identical. I wonder how often titles are duplicated and if there has ever been two books with same title and same cover art!

    Actually, it shocks me that publishers use stock art. I always assumed they commissioned original art. Luckily I do not intend to use stock art for my cover(s). My friend is making it all from scratch.

    Great article.

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    1. As long as your friends has pro-level skills, that's fantastic! But don't shy away from stock art, just to avoid duplicates - most professional covers use it to great effect, and it's far better to be "professional" than "original" in this case. Readers may never know if your stock art was used somewhere else, but they will definitely be able to tell if your cover isn't up to professional standards (they are insanely perceptive that way).

      Good luck with your books! :)

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  26. Wow -- that's fascinating! And I'm really surprised those publishing houses didn't go to the trouble of altering the pictures more -- like you did -- so they aren't immediately recognizable.

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  27. Susan, you are incredible. I had NO idea this was an issue. I thought all published books had original art. Silly me, huh? I've honestly never seen a duplicate. I'm bookmarking this post. Thanks so much!

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  28. Great post! Definitely bookmarking this one :D

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  29. Yes, Google is my friend!

    I think you were very clever in disguising the picture and making it unique.

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  30. This explains why I saw one book with an image and another with the same image. I was wondering if I was seeing things and never thought much of it.

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  31. Thanks, I didn't know that I could do that! Very useful!

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