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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Doppelganger Book Covers . . . BEWARE!



Do you ever see a book cover and think: "Hmm, there's something familiar about those covers. . . I can't quite put my finger on it. . . ." You have? Well, maybe that's because you've read a book that used the same cover as another book.

"Egads," you say, "it's not true, Steve. Covers are sacred. They're designed in such a way that they are not meant to be shared.They're an entirely unique graphic representations of what the reader will experience when they read it. The very notion of images being used in more than one book is . . . well . . . it's sacrilege!" 

Uh huh, sure. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show (Yep, they're all real covers):















Now a lot of people look at these covers and think: “Oh, those poor authors. They must be devastated." I've heard people compare it to  showing up at a party wearing the same dress as someone else (we all know how that feels, right ladies?). Only it's actually doubly worse since you can’t just run home and change a  cover the way you can an outfit. 

But my question is: is it really something to get upset about? Is it really troubling?

Sure, it could be confusing to readers if the two books are in the same genre and would normally be shelved together. But I don’t know if it’s a great deal more confusing than books with the same titles – of which there are piles. Just wander into Amazon and title search “Fallen” or “The Fallen” and see how many matches you get. 

I kind of like seeing twin covers. I find it fascinating to see how each designer approached the same picture differently and made it somewhat unique. Maybe they added colors, or effects, or additional graphics. Or maybe it's just the typography that's different and it's very cool to see how text can change a tone of an image. 

Now, we may stop and stare at these twin-covers, and point, and maybe giggle a bit, but  let’s not forget that for every twin-cover you spot, there are a dozen sibling-covers. That's right, "Sibling Covers." I don't think I coined that term, though I can't recall hearing it before. But just in case I did, what I mean by “sibling-cover” is a book cover that might not be identical, but is incredibly similar. 

Sibling covers would look like these:



They're not using exactly the same images, but they're pretty close. 

So what do you guys think? Would you be horrified to find that someone out there has the same book cover as you? Or do you think it would be something you’d laugh off?

31 comments:

JeffO said...

Seeing those covers makes me curious about a few things. Did the same artists do those twin (or tripleted or quadruplet) covers? Were they all published by the same company? Do they all use the same site for their images? I don't think I've ever been in a bookstore and seen covers side-by-side that were so similar (the same, really) unless they were part of a series.

Steven W said...

@JeffO - You know, I asked the same question. When I was looking for some good examples I did notice that a couple of them were published by the same "company" I put it in quotations b/c I believe they were different imprints. I wanted to have each picture link to their Amazon site, but the only way I could make them fit nicely into the blog post was to make them single images in my PAINT program. I looked into the artists too for a couple of the books, and no, they were different.

I do wonder if there is a site that's most used to get stock art from. I suspect there must be, or perhaps most images are on all the sites?

Dana said...

I don't know. I can only guess since I don't have any books published, but I think I'd probably be devastated. After all, I'd want my book to stand out from the rest, not blend in.

I'm interested in hearing what published authors think.

Stacy McKitrick said...

You can walk (or scroll?) through the romance section and pretty much see sibling covers alllll over the place.

Seeing as I haven't gotten my first cover yet, but anxiously awaiting to see what my publisher has created, I don't know if I would be upset to find a similar one out there. I think I'd be too fixated on my NAME and I KNOW there's only one of ME out there! At least as an author (there is a country western singer out there by the name of Stacey McKitrick).

Thanks for following!

Julie Luek said...

I know my writer friends put a lot of thought into their covers and the reveal is a really big deal. I imagine it would be very upsetting to know your cover was repeated on other books. I think, standing back objectively, as you said, it's probably not that big of a deal. Most readers probably wouldn't see those similarities unless a couple of twin books ended up in the genre they like to read.

Budgeting for a good cover design may be something an indie writer wants to consider rather than choosing from a stock image.

Steven W said...

@Dana - I can understand that. I think I'd be more upset if I discovered my cover was used for another book in the same genre geared for the same market.

Good question about published author thoughts - I'd be curious if any of the authors in the books above were aware of their twin and if so, what their thoughts were. I might have to swim around the net a bit and see if any of them blogged about it.

@Stacy - good point. There are a lot of sibling covers when you're looking at specific genres. Another would be sword and sorcery fantasy. Always seem to have a man with a sword and a dragon breathing fire on something.

@Julie - I agree a good cover can't be understated. I've seen some great covers with stock images, but I guess part of me always thought there was a way to get exclusive rights to it. Perhaps the cost is too great, and you'd have to be really fast.

Gail said...

Something I have never noticed before but recycling goes on everywhere I guess. A different take on the same picture.

I would just be proud to have a book, with or without a cover.

Word verification slows down some people. Check no anonymous and you won't have to use this.

Steven W said...

@Gail - thanks for the tip on word verification. I hated having it, but without it I had 50+ spammers a day. It was crazy. I've adjusted my settings. Cheers

T. Drecker said...

Just having a book would be so wonderful! But I have to admit, I'd be a bit sad if the cover was already some where else. I tend to enjoy originality in many parts of life. I'd like to have my book the same way. But with books from other authors, it doesn't bother me.

MaryAnn Pope said...

Those doppelganger covers are awesome. I've never even thought of this as a possibility. Not sure how I'd feel about this.

Thanks for sharing.

mrsfringe said...

Interesting, I never knew/noticed this--outside of category romance. I would prefer to have a unique cover, but honestly, if it fit the book, and was eye catching, I don't see myself having a snit.

I wonder though, if there have been books I walked past, assuming I've read them before, just because the cover was the same.

Marilyn Almodovar said...

I would be devastated if that happened to me. The book cover is so important when marketing your book. I would like to know why some of the "companies" publishing these books are recycling photos.

Steven W said...

@T.Drecker - I discovered that some of the authors became aware of the similarities their book shared with others and new covers were commissioned. But they still had to sell out of the print run they had warehoused.

@Mrsfringe - As someone who notoriously picks books by their covers, I wondered the same thing. Sometimes I don't even know the name of a book until I get home, it's 100% picked because of cover... those tend to be library books mind you. I'm a bit more careful with books I purchase.

@MaryAnn Pope - You're very welcome. Glad you liked them. I really found them interesting too.

@Marilyn - The pictures are no doubt stock images from a creative commons site (hundreds of such sites exist online). So you pay the owner of the image to use it for various purposes (i.e. book covers), but the rights aren't exclusive.

I suspect the only way images with real people/objects could be exclusive for one cover is if the publisher commissioned the photo-shoot.

JQS said...

Wow, how did you spot all these covers?? I wouldn't be too happy about it...but I wonder if having a similar cover would hurt your sales or help it?

Carissa Taylor said...

Whoa! Crazy post! So maybe in the end I wouldn't be so sad. I'm guessing these pairs were released at a similar time and this wasn't due to lack of market research?

I think I'd be a little sad if I ended up with a twin cover. That said, these are all pretty gorgeous and hence, probably, the tendency toward twindom? ... Twindency?

So maybe it's not so bad after all ...

Steven W said...

@JQS - Oh, there are thousands of lists online with such covers, some dating back decades. Goodreads has them, so does Amazon. I just pulled the ones I thought people would be interested in seeing. There were others where I couldn't find a good enough image to capture, but wanted to. Search for "twin book covers" and you'll see quite a few.

@Carissa - I should have put dates under the images! Next time for sure. I re-searched a couple. The "Return to Paradise" - 2010 published, while "Reaching Through Time" was published in 2012. Both by major publishers. I wonder, too if there wasn't some thought towards riding coat-tails for some of the covers.

Connie B. Dowell said...

I would be pretty embarrassed if that happened to me. I wondered at first if they would all be self published books, by authors who simply chose the same stock image and did little editing to it, but that doesn't seem to be the case, though stock images do seem to play a role here.

Steven W said...

@Connie - It seems most of the people commenting feel like you, too. That it would be a regrettable situation. I seem to be in the minority, but I guess I think it's unlikely that they'd ever be shelved beside one-another, or even listed online beside each-other. I could totally be wrong though, and that could be entirely besides the point to most people anyway.

And you're right, most of the covers above come from top presses. I specifically looked for such examples. Harper Collins, Penguin, Random House, Flux... to name a few, all represented above in both examples (there are a few self published that are in there too mind you.)

Sherry Ellis said...

That's kind of crazy! I had never seen duplicate book covers. I guess I'd be a little shocked if I saw a duplicate cover of one of my books!

maine character said...

Whoa. Never suspected. And surprised they're from big publishers, who you'd think could buy exclusive rights.

But it's cool to know. In fact, I think I'll use that cover of Stranger in a Strange Land for my book on underwater meditation. :-)

Steven W said...

@Sherry - I think if I had a book, I'd be surprised too. I'd probably try to make the most of it, by seeing if the other author wanted to do some kind of contest or something, but definitely surprised.

@Maine - If you can find the image of Strange in a Strange Land on a creative commons site, I'm sure you could use it, and it would be perfect for your underwater meditating book :) May I suggest your second book to be something to do with near-drowning? LOL. I can hold my breath a little over a minute... not sure if I could reach that zen state in that time;)

Donna K. Weaver said...

I think some are worse than others. I guess all the more reason to not just take the cover art and leave it as it is but tweak it. A lot. lol

History Sleuth said...

Saw your post over in AW. OMG. How crazy is that! I would be horrified if I was an artist who produced a unique cover, but certain publishers flip around that clip art faster than a blackjack dealer.

Selma Wolfe said...

It's really cool to see all of them side-by-side!

Realistically, I suppose publishers re-use these images because they sell (also because they're cheap, possibly lol). So getting one of these might be a blessing in disguise.

Caitlin said...

I actually think this is pretty neat! Although, I'm sure that if I had published a book and came across a cover similar to mine I'd probably be surprised at first. Possibly even a bit hurt. But soon I'd be over it and probably share the similarities with others.

Steven W said...

@History - Thanks for stopping in! Glad you found the post interesting!

@Selma - You might be right. I mean, here we are talking about these titles and I've reserved three of them from my local library that might never have crossed my path. And actually a couple of the twins up there I like... both of them.

@Caitlin - Good to see I'm not alone. Thanks for stopping by!

Samantha Veerasamy said...

I have to admit, I would be really cheesed off if my cover art was copied/twinned/duplicated or whatever you want to call it. I think a piece of cover art should be unique and special to that particular book....that maybe me being 'precious' but its just my two penneth :-)

Rockelle said...

Steven, I didn't know you were such a good and interesting writer....I always knew you were smarter then most..And you have gotten me interested enough to order probably all these books from the library.... I talked to your cute sister today and she said she loves your book! I am excited to read it .Maybe my kids will too. I am proud of you..
I am enjoying reading this blog. It will take me awhile...and I am reading backwards.... Anyways CONGRATS...I will spread the word!
~Rocki

Steven W said...

Hi Rocki, great to hear from you, thanks for stopping by the site! And thanks for taking a read of GLIMPSE, I really appreciate it. I'm trying to be better about my blogging, but it can be a tough juggling act with time when I'm trying to get other books written. I tend to disappear for a few weeks and then pop back up when I need air from the novel writing.

Thanks again for the support. I'll be sure to thank my sister for talking up my books :)

Steve

Elle Casey said...

There's a difference between using the same stock art (a license you purchase knowing it will be purchased by others for similar uses) and copying the "trade dress" of another cover. Trade dress includes the font, the colors, the styling, the photo manipulation... Anything that would be likely to cause confusion for purchasers of the books (causing them to buy the wrong book), could be found infringing. To say these covers in your article "don't" infringe, without the benefit of a court decision, is not accurate. I wasn't clear from your article how many of these covers have actually had suit brought and court decisions rendered...

Sharazade said...

Here's another version of your "drowned woman" cover:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009ZL0Z7I/

Great post, really interesting. Underscores the importance of having a designer who can really 'do' something with a stock image. Like your examples of the ones with the guy by the gate--they really are different.

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