Monday, March 10, 2008

Double Take: Copy Kat Book Cover Designs

I discovered a strange coincedence, book covers that are similar or using the same artwork. Is it that there are just so many books and not enough unique ideas? Like the old school music remixed with the new music today. Is it better to have one attention getting cover idea recycled continuously than have a hideous cover? I tend to think that similar book covers will lead me to believe that i've already read or brought the book. In my quest for answers to these questions, I discovered that recycled covers may not be an author's issue, but a publishers issue. The art is stock and publishers have no idea that another publishing company may have used the same artwork. Is it innocent coincedence or great minds thinking alike? Simon & Schuster seems to be the biggest abuser according to these few books.

Omar Tyree's What They Want (Simon & Schuster, 2006). Loving his life of carefree travel and insecure women, male model Terrance Mitchell experiences profound guilt when his insensitivity induces a young woman's instability, an event that prompts him to rethink his priorities. Tyree is a 2001 NAACP Image Award-winning author of Boss Lady.

The Apostles (One World/Strivers Row, 2004) run Chicago’s streets. Their leader, “Solemn Shawn” Terson, is the most revered–and feared–man in town. Because of his past exploits, the Apostles have a loyalty among its members that has reached mythic proportions. Y. Blak Moore is a poet, social worker, and former gang member who grew up in the Chicago housing projects. He is also the author of Triple Take. Moore has three children and lives in Chicago.

This is the cover to a blues album (2001). "The Love Doctor" is former radio personality Lewis Clark moved to Illinois and became involved in the music industry through radio as a disc jockey in Illinois. With his DJ name being the Blues Doctor for some two decades, Lewis would often perform at various gospel events, playing tunes but also occasionally performing them as well. In 1997, the Blues Doctor changed his name to the Love Doctor. Surprising hit album reached #47 on Billboard's R & B Albums chart on the strength of his runaway smash "Slow Roll It", which immortalized another way to do the horizontal bop.

Chocolate Sangria by Tracy Price-Thompson (Villard, 2003) is a fast-paced, suspenseful, and unpredictable, it explores the hearts of two lovers who get caught in a great cultural divide, and the trials they face when black love and Hispanic love spill across racial boundaries. A Brooklyn, New York native and retired Army Engineer Officer, Tracy is an Alpha Delta Mu honor society graduate from Rutgers University, as well as a Ralph Bunche graduate fellow who holds degrees in Business Administration and Social Work. Tracy lives in Hawaii with her husband and several of their six children.

In The Other Man (Blue Note Press, 2006) worlds collide when Freedom must choose between her conservative lifestyle with Vance, and her dangerously illicit, bad-girl sexcapades with Boney—before someone chooses for her—all set in the backdrop of Memphis, Tennessee, a southern city rich with Blues, Black History, and relevance to African-Americans. The Other Man was inspired by The Jennifer Wilbanks Story, the runaway bride who duped authorities into thinking she was kidnapped in order to escape the pressures of a wedding only two days away. Aside from writing novels and the start-up of Blue Note Press, Marlon is currently studying screenwriting and independent filmmaking. He resides as a bachelor in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Satisfied With Nothin' (Simon & Schuster, 1996) the novel is about a young African American male, Jamie Ray Griffin's experience is set in rural 1970s Louisiana who excels at football in high school and college and dreams of playing the sport professionally. His dreams are cut short, however, after he suffers a knee injury. Ernest Hill is a native of Oak Grove, Louisiana. He wrote Satisfied with Nothin’ in 1992, while studying history at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Twisted (K Mass Paper, 2006) is a chilling collection of stories certain to send them spiraling into a dark realm of imagination where the once-familiar becomes menacingly twisted: A man driving home from a Halloween costume party suddenly comes face to face with an evil that's all too real. An elderly woman, obsessed with obituaries, finds herself intimately connected with the dead in the most unlikely of ways. A lifelong racist is plunged into his ultimate nightmare. An unfaithful husband discovers to his horror that his attractive new neighbor has the wickedest kind od seduction in mind for him. From a Gold Pen Award-winner and a master storyteller. Massey was born in Waukegan, Illinois, but grew up in Zion, a suburb north of Chicago. He currently resides with his wife near Atlanta, GA and is working on new novels and other projects.

In Crabs in a Barrel (Agate, 2006) author Byron Harmon uses this Gilligan's Island meets Survivor set-up to create a story that airs out the truth about how black people feel about themselves, each other, and most everyone else in this breakout novel sure to bring him even greater commercial and critical success. Byron Harmon is the author of two earlier novels, All The Women I've Loved (Pocket, 2002) and Mistakes Men Make (Pocket, 2005). He is the executive producer for the WCBS TV Early Morning News in New York City.

Tastes Like Chicken (Simon & Schuster, 2004) is Lolita Files's much anticipated continuing story of the lives of Misty Fine and Reesy Snowden, the dynamic heroines of the bestselling novels Scenes from a Sistah and Getting to the Good Part. With steamy thrills and disastrous infidelities, Lolita's latest is a tale of two women who find themselves poised at life's crossroads with everything to lose but their friendship. Misty and Reesy share outrageous misadventures in Hollywood and Los Angeles when Reesy elects to pursue her dreams of stardom, a quest that is complicated by her would-be devoted boyfriend, Dandre. Files is the former National Communications Director for KinderCare Learning Centers. She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and is the author of five bestselling novels.

In Unburnable (Amistad, 2006) a riveting narrative of family, betrayal, vengeance, and murder, Lillian Baptiste is willed back to her island home of Dominica to finally settle her past. Haunted by scandal and secrets, and with the help of Teddy, the man she refused to love, she will find a way to heal. Marie-Elena John is a former Africa development specialist. She and her husband and two children divide their time between Washington, D.C., and Antigua. This is her first novel.

The suspense novel Fatal Justice (Kensington, 2005) by Faye Snowden is a sequel to The Savior (Kensington, 2004) and more Richard T. Marvel mysteries will follow. After Dr. Kendra Hamilton watches her mother's murder go without a conviction, Kendra takes the law into her own hands and returns to the mean streets of Dunhill County to bring the killer to justice. Faye Snowden lives in Modesto, California with her family. Fatal Justice is her third novel.

Subtle Secrets by Wanda Thomas (Genesis Press, 2007)

A Love Story by Denene Millner and Nick Chiles (E P Dutton, 2004)
Topaz by Beverly Jenkins (Avon Books, Reprint 2007)

Soulmates: An Illustrated Guide to Black Love, Sex, and Romance by Eric V. Copage (Plume, 2001)


marie-elena said...

hey donna,
i can tell you what happened with the Unburnable/Fatal Justice double -- being the author of Unburnable, I Was There :-)
Well we went a couple round with various options from the art department of HarperCollins, and when they sent me the woman running from the fire, it was perfect, the imagery (some kind of fire, she's running, yet looking back) was perfect for the story and also it drew you in, I thought. So we all agreed to go with it. Then, quite some time afterwards, but before it went to print, someone in HarperCollins did a search and found the "double." So they started coming up with new covers, none of which I liked, until I finally convinced them that the big buff guy in the foreground made it different enough to go ahead with it. They also thought that the two books were so different (mine is literary fiction) that there wasn't likely to be much confusion.
So that's the story.
Nice blog.

Onnaday: Donna Bennett said...

Dear Marie-Elena,
Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog.

Congratulations on the success of your debut novel "Unburnable" and your Bio is fascinating.

Please let me know of your next novel - I would be honored to post a blog and links prior to its release date.

I look forward to meeting you and I will be purchasing your book right after I hit the send button.

Much Respect!
Donna Bennett

marie-elena said...

Donna, thanks for the support! I'm on to Book Two but it'll be a while as Unburnable still takes up quite a bit of my time. It's still in hardcover and the paperback comes out at the end of April, so that's another round of publicity etc.
I'd love to hear what yiu think of it after you've read.
Be in touch!

MsJayy said...

Hi Donna,
I just found your blog via Urban Reviews. I didn't realize there were this many books on the market with similar covers (the one I did take note of was Crabs in a Barrel/Tastes Like Chicken). As a self-published author, I wonder if it's harder to find that someone else is using the same stock photo. I know that as I looked for a cover for my upcoming novel, I found that several images that I liked had already been used so I passed them over. I do know that there are several versions of the photo that I used on my poetry collection although I've not found anyone else using it - yet. LOL Interesting topic.

Cheril N. Clarke said...

This is a very interesting blog. (I found it via Library Thing)

I didn't realize that there were many books on the market with similar covers either. My next book will be the first of mine that will have actual people on the cover rather than just art. I will keep this post in mind when going over design ideas. Thanks!

Ronaldhanna said...

As a self-published author also, I've done all my own covers. My background in "darkroom photography," as opposed to Photoshopped/digital, let itself to a more varied "morgue" of my own works, and when these were eventually scanned into electronic form, I had an even wider option at manipulating images which I originally created. Finishing a book now, and have designed cover (thumbnail/draft). I guess "stock images" might be in store later, as with a publisher. But right now I can't foresee any covers even coming close. Nice blog, something I'd have never come across I guess without it.

SarahBeth said...

Wow, very interesting! I found myself wondering while trying to decide on the cover for my upcoming YA novel just who the people were in the photos and where they came from and how I would know if they'd been used or if very similar photos had been used before. The huge amount of available graphics and photos (in addition to the "purchasing" of specific photos rather than using free stock) should help avoid this problem for the most part, but there's absolutely no guarantee, is there? I'm off to read more of your posts!

SarahBeth Carter
YA Author, Meeting Lizzy

Bob Jargon said...


Very interesting blog. As a graphic designer and publisher I have seen alot of images in alot of places, and its really ironic because when you see it, it's like "i know I've seen that somewhere." Alot of the stock photo houses share images via being subsidiaries, and all the major publishers and publications use them. I saw an image I used for a book cover on the packaging for Hammermill laser copy paper a year after I published the book! With the internet the world is definitely getting smaller, and with the sheer volume of books being published (10k/month last i heard), it's only a matter of time before an image is "recycled." Of course it would be nice if when you saw an image, you could pull a "carfax" on it and find out before your friends call you "man, guess what i just saw..."


Onnaday: Donna Bennett said...

Hello SaraBeth Carter, thanks for taking the time to reply to my blog on Double Take:Copy Kat Book Covers. I agree, the huge amount of graphics leaves no guarantee that your choice of a book cover will not be duplicated. But... good writing is good writing!

I love the cover you chose for your YA novel "Meeting Lizzy".

Please keep me posted with any future publications.

Onnaday: Donna Bennett said...

Cheril N. Clarke, thanks for visiting my blog and commenting on the Double Take: Copy Kat Book Covers. As you see, the graphics are used for not only book covers, also album/CD covers and advertisements as well.

I will check out your library on LT.

Onnaday: Donna Bennett said...

ronaldhanna, thanks for viewing and commenting on my blog.
Yes, I guess you would be playing it safe by designing your own book cover. I'm drawn to a good book cover whether it's stock photography or your own creation.

I would like to see your finished book cover design.

Onnaday: Donna Bennett said...

Bob Jargon,
thanks for viewing and commenting on my blog "Double Take:Copy Kat Book Covers". I totally agree with your theories. The world is small.

Nice Blog...I also love: "Kill Bill", "Finding Nemo", Jazz, Jill Scott and Brand New Heavies.

Congrats on being a Cancer survivor. Keep up the good work!

Yasmin said...

Great blog. Just found you. Please email me when you post new blogs as I would love to read more of them.

Promoting Our Voices, Showcasing Our Stories

shelia said...

I didn't realize there were so many duplicates. I do recall seeing one of the stock photos of one of my books used in an article in a magazine...fortunately that's the closest thing I've come across to a duplicate. I think this happens a lot because there are only a certain amount of stock images with AA models.

Dana said...

Great post!

Thanks Yasmin for posting this link on the message board. A friend and I talked about this just the other day.

Chantay said...

Thanks for posting this blog Donna! I found you through Yasmin as well.

I first noticed the "same" covers with the book The Team by Dawson Perkins. I can't remember the other author(s) with the same cover but I do know the shirt color of the woman changed. But you're right it does leave you thinking you've already read the, why pick it up again?

Great post! Thanks for sharing.

Chel the Librarian said...

Great post...I find book covers a very interesting topic and you touched on a great point with this blog. Nicely done!

Onnaday: Donna Bennett said...

Thank you Chel for visiting my blog and I'm always looking for interesting topics to research. Keep checking back for new stuff. If you have me!

Onnaday: Donna Bennett said...

Thank you Sheila, Dana and Chantay for visiting my blog. Just recently, I saw the same cover on the books "Sublte Secrets", "A Love Story", etc... I say the same cover on another book in the movie "Deliver Us from Eva" with Gabrielle Union. Anyway, thanks for reading my blog and sharing it with others. I will try to bring more interesting things to it soon. If you have suggestions, please blog or email me.

Lori said...

Wow! As a debut author, this makes me more than a little nervous. I thought my cover was different and unique. Now I'm wondering if there is or will be another cover out there just like it.

I knew there were a few similar covers, but never this many. As many times as I've looked at both the Cleage and the Lipsey covers, I never realized they were the same until now. Thanks for the info. From this point on, I will be paying closer attention (smile).

Onnaday: Donna Bennett said...

Lori, thanks for visiting my blog. Good luck and let me know about your book. I tend to gravitate to debut authors. I like to see how they grow in their writing styles. As I hope to someday publish a book.

Michelle said...

this happens a lot -- that's why I wanted the cover for my first book bulletproof soul shot with a local model -- and didn't want to use a photo service. Best-selling author Jennifer Werner has written about that happening with her first book as well and now she only does original art for her covers.

Onnaday: Donna Bennett said...

Thanks for your comments on the Copy Kat Bookcovers. I'll be sure to check-out your novels - "Bulletproof Soul" and "Trippin".

Anonymous said...

When you acquire book cover design, make sure you purchase the art work. Most art work is not granted exclusive purchase by designers because they can make more profit with repeated use of photos. Invest a little more or why not have you're own model cover shoot. Finally, book cover designers are different from graphic artists. This is where authors get into trouble. Request references. ASK HEATHER over at for reputable cover design artists.

Pat Simmons said...

Hi Donna,
Thanks for the research!
Right before my first Christian fiction, Guilty of Love, was released, I was concerned about the cover choice. I asked the publisher to reconsider since it was a Christian fiction and the cover didn't suggest that. Thank God, the cover was changed.
My second novel, Talk to Me, will be released in November.
This time I chose my own cover model.
Check out

Onnaday: Donna Bennett said...

Thanks Pat Simmons for visiting my blog. I love reading the feedback on this issue. I look forward to reading your novels.

Keep up the good work!

sean chandler said...

I think I can tell you what might have happened. With my newest book "Gospel of the Gun" I used pictures from Istockphoto. These pictures can be used at a reasonable price (a good thing since I self-publish). I'm sure the pictures I selected have been and will be used on a book cover again, but I think the thing to do is add your own twist. I added a picture of a black cowboy that dominates the page with the pictures from Istockphoto in the background.