This week and last week I’ve been working on cover concept artwork for the cover of the science fiction novel, which is the one closest to publication. In browsing articles about cover art, I came across an article I thought I’d pass on to indie authors who may be thinking about using stock photos, or one of the pre-made book cover services — or who may use a cover artist that uses stock images as part of their artwork.
As a reader, I didn’t need this article to make me aware of the “cover clone” problem because I’d already been confused by some very striking cover clones for different ebooks. But this piece, The Dangers of Stock Photos on Book Covers, elucidates some of the many other problems as well. (The article is written by a book cover service; I know nothing about them and cannot vouch for them, but the points made in the article are valid points, nevertheless.)
The section on problems with licensing, however, only scratches the surface of the problem. While the scenario she poses may strike you as unlikely, there are more likely problems, such as that stock photo licenses typically have a numeric restriction on the use of the image. Your license will only be good if you don’t sell too many books. Some don’t allow merchandise at all, or have further restrictions. If the artist is licensing the image, then you get into interesting math with the number of times the artist is allowed to use the image and all the copies of your book. Some artists drop responsibility for additional licensing fees on the author if their book actually sells a decent number of copies. If the fine print of licensing stock photos doesn’t put you off, then the other concerns in the article may give you pause anyway.
Even if an artist assures you that they will only use the image for your book, there’s nothing stopping hundreds or thousand of other artists from using that same stock image for their client’s books. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever use stock photos, but if you aren’t using totally original artwork — or you don’t know if your artist is using any stock images in their artwork, you should read this article. If you’re an indie/DIY sort of author, you need to be fully informed and consider the implications of stock photos before making a decision.