Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book Cover Deja Vu

It's been a while since my last post, but this entry has been simmering on the back burner for a long time as a followup to my last cover art post. I figured it was finally time to put finger to keyboard and write it.

The first time I experienced a feeling of deja vu when looking at the cover art on a book was when I saw this book sitting on the front table at Barnes and Noble:

The reason for my startled reaction was that I had just finished reading this book:

Looks very familiar, doesn't it?  After some digging around, I found out that the use of stock images for covers is a fairly common occurrence. The ability for a publisher to buy exclusive rights for life for a photograph or other form of illustration is often simply too costly for many a small press. Even large publishing houses, which might have the resources to buy all rights for more expensive stock art pieces, are also feeling the pinch right now, so those exclusive rights to an image might make the difference between the book going to print, or not..What made the example above so obvious was the fact the books were published within a few months of each other. But how many other examples of this are there that I've never noticed?

As it turns out, the amount of lookalike book covers is amazingly high. I don't want to hog too much bandwidth to display all the images here, so I'll merely provide the links and you'll have to do your own clicking to see the copycat book covers.

A triple header:

Next Thing on My List, by Jill Smolinkski
Falling Apart in One Piece, by Stacy Morrison
The Decoding of Lana Morris, by Laura and Tom McNeal

Here's an example of the same image on not just three, but five book covers:

On War, by Bernard Shaw
Beaufort, by Ron Leshem
War; Stories of Conflict, by Michael Morpurgo
In Country, by Bobbie Ann Mason
Hiroshima Joe, by Martin Booth

You think that's a lot of deja vu? The following piece of cover art is on so many books I'm only going to list some of them:

Skeletons at the Feast, by Chris Bohjalian
Lives of the Saints, by Nino Ricci
Blaming, by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not THAT Elizabeth Taylor)
Verbena, by Nanci Kincaid
Eventide, by Kent Haruf (Australian edition) What happened to the scarf???
Oh My Stars, by Lorna Landvik
River's Edge, by Marie Bostwick

The same painting is often used on a variety of historical novels:

Here Be Dragons, by Sharon Kay Penman
The Illuminator, by Brenda Vantrease
Canterbury Tales, by Chaucer 

Or how about these?

October Horse, by Colleen McCullough
Lady of the Reeds, by Pauline Gedge
The Memoirs of Cleopatra, by Margaret George

And these?

In Our strange Gardens, by Michel Quint
Facts of Life, by Graham Joyce
German Boy, by Wolfgang Samuel

Here are two examples that are not identical photos, but they might as well be! The first is a very popular book that most people will recognize by sight:

Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer 
Now look at this copycat cover:
Words to Live By, by C.S. Lewis

A couple more:
Fantasy Made Flesh, by Deborah Addison
The Awakening, by Angela Hunt

Seen enough? I could go on and on with examples of similar or identical cover art, but your mouse-clicking finger would tire. Keep your eyes open the next time you browse a bookstore. I'll bet you can find plenty more.



  1. Yikes! I never knew this. Authors should resent the lack of originality. Or at the very least, be allowed to design their own covers....

  2. In this tough market, authors are simply thrilled that their books are being published. Unless they're bestsellersauri like Stephen King, they generally have no say at all on book layout, font, or cover art. Children's book authors, if they do their own illustrations, might have some say on which of their own illustrations grace the cover of a picture book, but I'm not certain of that.

    I imagine that a publisher might be embarrassed if it sees the cover art for its own book displayed on another book that recently preceded it (as in my illustrations above). It would be even more embarrassing if both books were from the same publishing house.