Let’s Talk Book Covers

Months ago, when I was working on the cover art for Dawn of Dae, I had the book plotted, mostly written, partially edited. Once I had the book solidified enough I could look for cover art to match, I wanted to capture a part of the world and the characters in the book.

The main leads are a younger woman and an older man.

During part of the book–a rather important part of the book–the characters are on top of a skyscraper.

I wanted a cover with a pair of couples overlooking a city. It fit so much with what the story is about–two characters who are brought together as the world goes insane around them. When I found the image I ultimately decided to use for the Dawn of Dae, it was perfect. It had an older man worn down by the years, and it had a younger woman who wasn’t an oversexed teenager, as the main character, Alexa, is not like that.

In the stock image world, artist play to stereotypes. Paranormal romances use ripped men and mostly-naked women. Bodice rippers use a very set type of cover.

If you browse amazon for any length of time, you will see hundreds of covers that share massive similarities with other covers of their type. The other week I mistook a DAW produced book to be a Dresden Files novel. The character, the pose, the font selection was so close to The Dresden Files I actually thought I had missed a Harry Dresden Novel. (I clicked, almost bought, and then wait a minute.)

I could spend all day linking books that use stock image similar to the original Twilight cover. I could spend a long time pointing out that there were Percy Jackson covers very similar to Harry Potter covers. I could also spend a lot of time pointing out that so many werewolf or vampire covers just have indistinguishable covers.

My cover uses a similar theme to Divergent’s movie cover. (When I had the cover made, I hadn’t seen the cover.) They’re similar. They aren’t identical, though. I look at my cover, and I look at Divergent’s movie poster, and I sigh a bit because I can’t mistake the two. That’s the thing. They’re similar, yes. But, they aren’t the same. If it rings bells with some people, I don’t have a problem with that. Why?

The cover I had designed for me fits my book. It captured the feel, the grit, and a glimpse of a world with the characters at a critical point in the novel. It represents a lot of what’s in the Dawn of Dae.

Now to confess some things that are weird about me. I don’t watch movies. I don’t watch tv. I have bought one movie in the past five years or so, and that was Jurassic World. I’ve seen maybe five movies in the past five years. I am a troglodyte. Sorry, but I am.

When I think of Divergent, this is what I think of:







These covers are amazing. I have always loved the look of these covers. They stand out in a world of very similar covers. So, when the first person told me “That’s the same as Divergent’s book cover!” I went… uh, what?

It’s similar to Divergent’s movie posters. There’s actually a few of them. Here’s the sides by sides. They’re similar, but they’re not the same. Whoever created the stock imagery for my cover had been influenced by Divergent’s poster for certain. (Though I really have no idea how old the stock image is; that’s not information I had access to.)

I wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking they were the same product or were part of the same franchise, which is why I decided to stick with the cover–it fits my book, and the art was purchased legally. (Of course, if I was contacted about this cover, I would direct the inquirer to shutterstock, where the license for the image was purchased.)

I wrote a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy series. It’s dark, it’s gritty, and begins the story of a world in ruin and the two characters who rise above it all.







But, here is where the discussion turns into an actual discussion. If I was approached by the creator of the movie poster, what would I do? I would direct them to shutter stock, where the image was legally licensed, and I would ask them to keep me appraised of the situation. I would discuss with them, and I would open a line of discussion with my cover artist. Seeing as the source issue is actually shutter stock (who sold the license for the image), I would definitely want to know how shutter stock responded–and keep lines of communication open.

Let’s assume that the trademark/copyright holder of the movie poster convinced shutter stock the image was illegal. (Is it? Personally, I’m not going to mistake the image as a trademark of the Divergent campaign. They’re different enough. But, that’s not for me to decide, is it?) What would I do? I would pay my cover artist to switch out the image for another one, hoping I can find something similar on shutter stock that features the type of characters featured in the Dawn of Dae. So, that puts me out basically $200-300 dollars to redesign my cover. I’d probably then open a discussion with shutter stock, seeing as I purchased a legal license to use that image. (Fun stuff there, right?)

That said, I do not believe the covers are going to be mistaken for the franchise at all.

Let’s talk similar book covers and imagery used. (I have selected these images from amazon for the purpose of demonstration.)

My selection of stock imagery was accidental; it just fit my book.

But, I look at the above covers and think, ah, Twilight. And I know it’s a book about vampire romance…. and I’m okay with that.

There are only so many ways you can present a couple on a cover without there being overlap… and there’s only so many ways you can present characters on a skyscraper overlooking a city.

For those curious, here’s the second cover of my series:

While it’s difficult to see… two characters overlooking a skylight, and it’s time for war. (Same lady in both pictures, too.)

So, let’s talk. Why is it okay for romance, paranormal romance, and many urban fantasies to pretty much copy covers, but it isn’t okay for other genres? I’m so used to seeing the tactic that it just doesn’t bother me any more; I know what sort of book it is by the cover, and that helps me shop. So, in a way, I guess I’m glad both Dawn of Dae and Divergent are dystopians! But they’re drastically different dystopians… unless Divergent has sentient macaroni and cheese, pink-winged werewolves, and a tendency to step outside of reality for the fantastical. (It’s a science-fantasy dystopian post-apoc. Yea, it’s weird. It’s supposed to be weird.)

I’m not confused by any of the above covers,by the way,  even though they were heavily inspired from Twilight. Are you?

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