Stock Photos and Covers by Victoria Miller

victoriaI have long been a fan of award winning cover designer Victoria Miller and I was thrilled when she agreed to let me republish her recent post about stock photos.

This is definitely worth a read regardless of whether you are self-published, published through a small Indie Publisher or through one of the “Big” publishing houses.

You can find her online here.

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PSA about Stock Photos.

There’s a lot of misinformation floating around that traditional publishers don’t use these for bestselling authors. This isn’t true. Many stock images are used on big pub books. A lot of the times they are edited to the point that they aren’t recognizable, but they start from stock. Likewise, indie authors can and have used custom photoshoots for their books—it costs more, which is why most stick to stock. However, what does this mean in the long run?

Indie authors may (and will) use stock traditional publishers have used on books. Sometimes they will have used it prior to NY pubs getting their hands on it. The difference is one has a farther reach in marketing so it will become more known as the NY pub’s work than the indie’s.

That doesn’t mean one is ripping off the other. In fact, there is a good chance they might not know the other book exists until after they have paid for their art and/or the book has gone out into the world. Cover Artists do look at a lot of art to see trends and what not, but there are so many books out there that they won’t know what every cover looks like, even in genres they prefer.

As an artist, I have accidentally created a cover using the same font for a book with the same title as another in the same genre. I’d never seen the cover before and had no idea. (Great minds though. You know the saying!) I have purchased stock that I’ve had to back burner for a year or more because a bestselling author released a book using the stock. I’ve made a cover using stock and then a bestselling author releases a book using the stock. I’ve used an image for a cover and another author later used the image as promotional material in paid promo that has out-marketed the cover that it was used on. It happens all the time.

Stock images can be used by any author or artist that pays to use them in the way the licensing dictates it can be used. Multiple authors can use it. There’s no rule against it. However, a good artist will try to change images as much as possible so that when the stock is used again it won’t be exactly the same. Of course, some authors prefer the original image and they have to pick their battles. What does this mean?

Don’t assume another author is ripping another off based on stock images. Because of popular genre tropes, images will be used by authors for similar stories. If you think there is plagiarism going on, you will need to read the book triggering this suspicion BEFORE making any accusation, no matter how innocent. Social media witch hunts are started for lesser things, and even if it is addressed privately it always starts the same way.

1. Addressing similarities without reading the content itself

2. Name calling the other author based on suspicion.

3. Passive Aggressive online behavior. Messaging the author to mention the other book. Some will do this publicly. Some privately. It spirals out of control from there.

4. It starts to get noticed because someone has mentioned it to the author. Other people discuss it.

5. People share it in groups, messages, pages, and other social media outlets. The torches are being lit.

6. Based on an assumption, the author is then under attack either publicly or privately on social media by people who have never read her work. Fan bases for both authors clash. Then it turns ugly. The both fan bases take it out on the authors. Negative reviews for no reason. Bad word of mouth. Etc.

The moral of the story: don’t assume. Yes, there is a chance an author might use an image because another author made it popular, but there is as much of a chance they didn’t. Don’t assume. If you read the book and there is a call for alarm, contact the appropriate sources.

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