Finding stock art for your cover.

At first, you might think it’s easy to find the perfect stock art for your cover. You jump on one of the sites. (I personally, use Bigstock.)

(unused stock art for HEIST)

But, the more you hunt for the perfect shot: a couple not smiling directly into the camera, not too cheesy, fits your description, right tone/mood…you realize that the process can take time. It’s better to start early.

Okay, if you’re lucky, you’ll find the exact shot you’re looking for the first time. Extremely lucky.

A couple years ago, writers were shocked when they found duplicate stock art on more than one cover. And this happens with all publishing. For some crazy reason I thought most traditional covers had photo shoots. Not quite. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve stumbled upon and recognized from traditional covers. It’s actually kind of cool.

More recently, I’m okay with that. It doesn’t bother me because I’ve realized how hard it is to find that perfect shot. It’s happened to me. I’ll still use the stock art if the other books are completely different genres or aren’t well known.

Plus, when your book is about to be published, you’ve paid a cover designer, and then two weeks before or the week after, another book comes out with the same photo? Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it. Of course, you could change it up, but if you love it – who cares? From what I see of sales, readers don’t care either.

(used stock art in an upcoming photo teaser for HEIST)


Here are my tips for finding stock art for your cover.

  • Start early.
  • Use different keyword searches. Get creative!
  • Don’t settle.
  • Pick several photos that you’d be happy be with because by the time you publish, the same shot could’ve been used and the book a best seller.
  • Download the free sample of the image onto your desktop. Then upload it to Google images to see if the stock art has been used on book covers. And how many!
  • Manipulate the picture so it doesn’t look exactly like the original stock art. (Your cover designer might do this anyway even though sometimes the original is perfect just as it is.)
  • Once you find the perfect picture…keep looking.
  • As you’re searching for one, keep a collection of photos that could be used in the future. On Bigstock I create light boxes marked spy, thriller, romcom. When I find great stock art, I save it.
  • Search for stock art in your downtime. Right before bed. Over lunch.

A year ago, this post would have been over the shocking samples of duplicate covers. Now? I see it as almost unavoidable and just part of the business.

What do you think? Do you have favorite tips? Add them in the comments.

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5 Responses to Finding stock art for your cover.

  1. Heather Sunseri June 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    You totally know how I feel about this subject! 😉 You’ll see how I feel even more so when you see my cover to #2 in the series.

    I’ll second the use of light boxes. I have them on all of my favorite stock photo sites. I can be catching up on DVR shows with my husband, and I’ll simply browse these sites, saving photos. It’s kind of like I’m working and enjoying TV time with my husband. Win-win!

    • Laura June 26, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      I can’t wait to see the cover for book 2!

  2. Alex J. Cavanaugh June 25, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Two of my author friends had identical images – one was self published and the other with a small press. The self published author changed her image to a graphic.

    • Laura June 26, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      i can see it both ways. I can see changing it up or I can see keeping with it. I guess it depends on how much an author loves the cover image they have and how set they are on it.

  3. terri tiffany July 12, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    I always wondered where authors found their cover art. Interesting that it can and is being used more than once! For me the cover is the most important part about publishing. I was a book buyer for years in a store and if the cover looked cheap, I wouldn’t buy it.

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