Thursday, February 23, 2012

Whoseewhatsit Thursday: An Open Call for More Stock Photography

It's no big secret that I'm *somewhat* of a cover snob. Even Indies (myself included) really need to have a bang up cover. So we authors go out, hire ourselves a kick-butt designer and then set about to find the perfect picture. Assuming you can't commission your own portrait, that means you start trolling for stock photography.

And therein lies the rub... when it comes to stock art, there just aren't that many choices for YA. Especially pictures that have a mystical aspect to them. Don't believe me? Check this out (these covers, by the way, are what started me on this tangent).
 I was surprised that an Indie author would use the same stock art as a "big house" had used for a well-known, highly publicized author. But then again ... it's stock art.  Big houses don't have a first come, first serve monopoly on stock photos.  In fact, it turns out even the "big boys" use the same stock art as each other.

And if the big houses are having to use the same art as each other, you can bet the Indies are having to do it too. For example, I'd noticed that someone used the same photo as my friend G. P. Ching did on her cover of Soulkeepers. When I wrote her to ask the name of that "other" book, it turns out there was more than one. There were MANY.

 And the same is true even for art. I couldn't believe it when I saw the cover from Brown Eyes. Now, in all fairness, I don't know that Jennifer's book came out first, but let's just say I saw it around WAY before I ever saw the other cover.

But then again... no one owns exclusive rights to stock art. That's why it's "stock." So why should art be any different than photography? Especially when the pickings are so slim?

Which gets back to the point of this post: if you're a photographer, know a photographer, or have a friend who posts on, etc., PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE for the love of all that's holy encourage them to make their art available as stock. The age of the Indie author is rising and we NEED more choices. If you photographers don't help us out, you'll be seeing lots more of this guy!


  1. My sister's a photographer. I may have to convince her of this :)

  2. Wow, that model certainly got his face all over the place. lol

  3. That's another reason I'm SO glad my publishers hired artists to do my covers. Great post, Jessie.

  4. as someone who has designed two book covers, and is looking to do more, this is a very important issue to me...
    except that i argue this:
    hire a professional who will take original pictures. don't cop out and go stock. sure it might cost a tiny bit more, but for heaven's sake it will be an original cover.
    the model will be picked to resemble your character. The cover will be compiled to represent your book.
    novelists know how difficult it is to earn a few dollars following their creative dreams.
    artists feel the same crunch.
    as someone publishing independently you are at an advantage. you actually have the control over your cover art. you have the power to make sure it is amazing. and the cost of hiring a professional artist is much less than you would guess.
    don't settle for anything but the best for your book!
    after all the work you've put into it, it deserves it.

  5. LOL that hoodie guy is everywhere!!!
    Here is another example (not from my blog)

  6. And guess what? I have yet another book with the same pic as Temptation of Angels. Check it out at

  7. Vic -
    Point well made. And I hope you're right about the cost of purchasing original photography/art. I've seen some numbers lately that are unattainable for most Indie authors, but perhaps that's more prices that the "big publishers" pay to established artists versus what Indie authors pay to up-and-coming artists.

  8. I hadn't noticed that one, Jen! Thanks for point it out.

    Good fin, Lexie. I hadn't seen that one yet. The model does make a good cover model, can't blame folks for wanting to use her, I guess.

  9. jessie- i think you nailed it right on the head. if you look to a photographer that is a big name, you will have to pay the big bucks.

    but you mentioned deviantart in your post, which is a great site to find extremely talented up and coming artists who would be more than happy to work with extremely talented up and coming authors. :)

    i'm just really quite shocked as to how many covers you've found with the same photos. wow!

  10. This is why I use my own photos as much as possible.

  11. WOW!!! I...Wow...I had no idea.


  12. Wow. I had thought maybe there would be a risk of some books using the same pics, but I had no idea about all of this.

    I am very, very fortunate to have a wonderful artist friend (who does tons of art on DeviantArt, which, as mentioned, can be a great place to connect with artists) who has worked with me on both books I've published myself. The first book was a learning experience for both of us, as I had never formatted a book and she had never formatted a cover, and we both had to follow specific guidelines. But I am so, so thrilled with what she's done.

    Here's the first cover she did:

    And here's the second one:

    My first book, published by a publishing company, was a stock photo and I could see that it had been purchased before, but I have no idea if it's been used on another cover.

    I think that, if indie authors can manage it, having unique artwork or photography done might be the best way to go. At least you'll know that your cover will be unique.

  13. I'd love to be able to hire a photographer and have copyright on my covers but I just can't afford it. It's a lot of money for us struggling indies!
    You've made some really valid points here. Great, great post!
    Suzy Turner

  14. LOL! I love your conclusion. I've been on a cover rampage lately and absolutely engrossed in book covers lately. I agree. More stock art is needed. I think sometimes authors get blames for being a rip-off, then bashed, and never knew they were ripping someone off. ;) Great post.

  15. I have totally noticed this. The guy with the hood one really surprised me ! I also can't figure out why the big house uses the same as a small house publisher. I mean, is there really that much of a shortage on cover art ?

  16. Wow, this is an eye opener. But does it really stand out to the average reader that doesn't compare covers?

  17. I am a photographer and never considered adding my work as stock. My question is how do stock images benifit the photographer? Do they get a credit? Is there a pay day? And if not what is the motivation, is the photographer even notified if thier image is published.

  18. A good cover must surely make as much money on book sales as it costs. There are so many bad covers out there. At least with the guy in the hoodie there is a GUY on the cover for a change!

  19. I'm a cover artist. I do original artwork for my clients that range from self publishing authors to MM paperbacks.

    Several people have mentioned dA. There are plenty of stock artists out there that allow their images to be used for FREE. Others allow them for a small price and some are expensive. As a artist we have to factor to your budget. So I can't use XY's image as they charge too much but AB's image off Dreamstime is a fraction of the cost. The difference is if I use a readily available stock its up to ME as the ARTIST to make it unique and to stand out from the bunch.

    If I have a artwork you would like to license for cover art - be aware that because there is only one of them, the cost will reflect that. Depending on the image of course and I'm not talking 4 figures for the license. The "lower level" of artists will probably do it for next to nothing. I dread to see them in print though. Plus have they got the model release for it to be sold commercially?

    Professional photographers have issues with allowing images to be used commercially. They will want paid. The model will want paid, mayhap the MUA/Hairstylest will also want paid. So where does that leave the budget when my costs have to be added on? If you get a decent image of X photographer (evan pro) and say you will give them credit and a small fee - happy days, they may go for that. However have you told them your giving it to me to edit? Some may have serious issues with that. If they are fine with me editing it, I also require credit. So you have two credits, two payments, and why not the model? Have you made sure to get the model release off the photographer - because I want a copy for my files. An awful lot of photographers do not want their images ripped apart and cant be bothered with the whole model release/commercial end of it.

    You want me to do a cover. I find a image thats suitable on dA for example. I have to contact the stock artist/photographer, get their fees add that to my fees and give you a price. Also find out if they have any conditions of commercial release like crediting etc. Get a model release if you agree to it. And even then it can all go down the swanny if I cant get the photographer to get the release. Publishing is the only print industry where the artist is always credited, and if a second one is done its the photographer.

    If you come to me and say, "I want you to do everything from model, costume, editing through to print final plates" then yes it will be more expensive than your average cover. But oh yeah, you get a completely unique cover and it may not be as expensive as you think. Save up. Ask them can you pay in installments and offer to pay the fees as well. You wont get a un-watermarked final until you pay fully, but it allows you to pay more.

    I've stayed Anonymous because I'm here to give authors some advise re approaching artists and photographers. I cannot stress enough the importance of a Model Release form. If the artist or photographer or whoever your dealing with does not get it, the model can take you to court for using their image without their knowledge. Oh and they will win.

    Everyone is broke, its the way of the economy's. However, if you have only 300USD for the cover, add on another 50USD over 2 weeks because it'll make your artist love you more. For any budget always add on a extra wee bit - its well worth it in the end.


  20. I was searching for images of the guy in the covers, in Spain we have some more covers with that guy, I counted 10 differents covers with the ones you put here... OMG...

  21. I finally found 19 covers with the same guy!!


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