Judging books by their covers gets even trickier with stock images and stock covers. Browse certain genres in the Amazon store and you’ll find the same images cropping up on cover after cover. Like The Woman with the Birdcage.
Lorraine Molina’s image of a woman in period costume, with or without a birdcage is now a publishing meme. Recoloured, cut-out, superimposed and manipulated for so many covers in over a decade, Birdcage Lady is almost famous. The collage on the right shows only ten repeat uses. There are more. Many more.
You will also find The Shadowy Man by the Fence on a dozen covers at last count. Think of the romantic possibilities if those two should meet. Except, as they stare wistfully into the middle distance, they never will.
There’s a bus-load of Thoughtful Women Looking Down From Bridges reworked on multiple covers. Don’t forget the various Women Looking Out to Sea. A casual search in genre fiction will fetch up dozens of covers featuring both.
Unoriginal? Certainly. Deliberate? Frequently.
The Value of Stock Image and Stock Covers
This is evidence of how affordable and convenient the stock libraries have become. Stock images are a huge short-cut for indie authors and presses. These kinds of covers sell books. Why? Because genre books demand genre covers to both fit into their Amazon category and help them stand out. They guide casual buyers toward books that fit their expectations.
While literary fiction often plays on quirky and strikingly ‘designer’ covers, mass-market and genre authors look to cover images to evoke certain reactions in buyers. The approach is not without risk. Should authors go with the familiar and slide into cliche, or aim for originality and maybe miss the target buyer?
Never judge a book by its’ cover? We all judge books by their covers. RC