Many Covers, One Image

Many Covers, One ImageStock photo database plus Photoshop equals the unintentionally comical cliché of many covers, one image.

One of the most persistent is The Woman With the Birdcage. The original image by Lorraine Molina of a woman in period costume with (and sometimes without) a birdcage has been recoloured, cut-out, superimposed and generally bastardised on many covers for at least a decade. Our collage is of only ten random covers which use this image – there are more. Click on the thumbnail to see  the full horror.

Almost as popular is The Shadowy Man by the Fence. There’s at least a dozen of him adorning different books.

Then we have a plethora of Thoughtful Women Looking Down From Bridges and a legion of various Women Looking Out to Sea. We found at least a half dozen each from just four photos on a casual genre fiction search.

Lorraine Molina's Woman with a Birdcage (Getty)
Lorraine Molina’s Woman with a Birdcage (Getty)

While affordable stock image libraries have been a huge boon to the self publishing industry, the downside is the repetition of popular images on book covers. Often in the same genre. It just screams ‘unoriginal’. Not to mention that so many cover hacks are so badly done.

If the Trope Fits…

It’s now essential, for any book in a mass-market genre, that the cover has to fit in to stand out. Yet genre tropes for cover designs quickly slip into cliché. But without them, less discerning readers looking through a crowded page of search results skip on to the cover that fits their expectations. There is less and less room for quirky, creative and unique cover designs that don’t immediately convey something of the genre of the book.

Literary fiction can get away with strikingly different covers, but even here, you can spot trends as presses large and small borrow graphics and typography from the current season’s best sellers.

Never judge a book by it’s cover? That’s exactly what we all do.