A few weeks ago I was surfing through the posts on a Facebook group I belong to that discusses my favorite topic, books, when a member asked, "Am I the only one who gets slightly annoyed whenever I see the same cover for two different books from different authors?"
I know you, like this person, are wondering how two books can have essentially the same - or similar- book covers.
Well, it all comes down to the stock images. A book cover is created when a book cover designer combines images and text to create a book cover. Unless a cover artist uses a photo or a vector that they've either photographed or created themselves it is very possible that the same image can be found and used by more than one cover designer.
Where do these images come from? Stock images are sold on websites such as Shutterstock, IStockphoto, BigStockPhoto, and more. These photos can be purchased and used for magazine and web ads, book and cd covers, editorial, journalistic uses (like a photo of a motorcycle could be used to go along with an article on motorcycle history or road rage in America), and much, much more. Anyone anywhere in the world can view and purchase these stocks so chances are more than one book cover designer has set eyes on the same stock image.
Cover Artists always strive to create a unique cover for their client but unless they took the image themselves and keep it in a private file on their computer there's no guarantee that another cover artist won't use that same image in another project.
How is a Book Cover Created?
A book cover artist takes the purchased stock images, cuts, pastes, and manipulates the images to make a new picture using a process called "Photomanipulation" then adds text. Sometimes they'll change a model's hair or clothing color, make the image darker or lighter, texturize the picture or otherwise manipulate the new image to create the look they and their client want.
Sometimes a cover artist just picks one image and makes the cover out of it which is how some books have ended up with the same cover.
I as both an author, a cover artist, and a person who creates photomanipulations like mixing different images together.
Here is an example of my cover of Out of Darkness and another book covers that used the same model that I did:
The models are the same but you can see they're used in two different concepts. My novel, Out of Darkness has a forest background while Emerge has a water background, different fonts, and a lighter color. (I haven't read Emerge but I think it's about mermaids.)
The image I've seen used over and over for ads and book covers is some variation of this couple. This couple was even used in a Splat Hair Dye print ad once:
So why does this happen?
Stock images are available for anyone to purchase and use for all sorts of purposes.
Do I recommend a cover artist using the same stock image as another popular book on purpose? No way, not intentionally. But if you didn't know then its just a coincidence. Stuff happens. If an author is happy with their cover then that's all that matters, right? Sure, the cover helps sell the book, but what's inside the book is what will sell all future books by that author.