New Trends in Book Covers…

Anyone look at book covers lately? I mean REALLY look at book covers?


Every week for the Cover Clash, I scour the internet looking for that elusive cover that will not only beat out Barbara’s and Dawn’s choices (*VBG*), but will introduce us all to some great books and interesting authors.  🙂




In my searching I’ve noticed a couple of interesting — and I admit — rather disturbing trends. I would like to use this forum today to share them with you and get your opinion…


THE FIRST TREND is using a well-known and estabilshed author with a proven record to showcase the cover of a newbie or a mid-list author. Now, getting popular authors to read a newcomer’s book and give a quote is a very old marketing trick. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about putting the popular author’s name in size 50 font and the title and author in size 12 font. Quite often the popular author had never even heard of the book their name is promoting…
dan brown 1 Picture taken from journalist Sarah Weinman’s blog HERE. This book cover created quite the internet sensation last week.

Blog posts discussing this phenomina in general and this book cover in particular, can be found HERE and HERE  and HERE and HERE. Reactions were tweeted, and summarized HERE.  The purpose of this maketing tool is obvious. The publisher wants to trick the book buying reader into thinking that the book was written by the well-known author, getting the readers on that author’s “auto-buy” list to pick up the book. It’s only until the unsuspecting buyer takes the book home does he or she realize that they’ve been duped.

 So I’m asking all of you…have you ever bought a book you thought was written by someone like Nora Roerts, only to bring it home and realize it was written by someone else? Do you ever “auto buy” authors without reading what the book is about?

In response to this marketing trend and to the above book cover, Smart Bitches did a photoshop spoof. You can read about it HERE. (Some of the covers are really funny…)


THE SECOND TREND I’m noticing is an unfortunate by-product of the ever-dwindling publishing budget: re-using covers. For example, I love the cover on Lauren Hawkeye’s Harlequin Spice Brief, WET:




It’s so sexy and a perfect dipiction of the story inside. Imagine my surprise (and Ms. Hawkeye’s!) when this cover appeared on Amazon: 



This phenomina isn’t just limited to Harlequin. It’s happening all across print and ebook publishers, and across dfferent lines of the same publisher. In my Cover Clash search I’ve seen the same cover couple embrace on the beach, in front of the New York skyline and in a dark forest all within a month of each other. (They must really get around! *sic*) 

EDITED TO ADD: One commenter informed me of another instance of reusing stock photos for print publications. It can be found showcased on this blog HERE.

 A possible reason for this is that there just aren’t enough good pictures out there to use. One cover model answered this call by starting up his own small business, offering cover shots of himself in various costumes/poses and with different females. He will even do a custom cover if you ask (website HERE).

So, has anyone else noticed this trend? What do they think about it? Does it matter? If you see a publisher reusing a cover, will it prevent you from buying the book?


Unfortunately, I see these marketing tactics becoming more popular as financial belts tighten and the publishing arena becomes more competitive.



28 Responses to “New Trends in Book Covers…”
  1. Brooke says:

    The re-using cover thing bothers me most. It’s so cheap and I can’t imagine being the second author to use that cover…like being a red-headed step-child or something. Just get leftovers!

  2. Unfortunately, I think the downturn in the economy and the rise of technology has happened to coincide. My beloved fotolia fuels many, many of these duplicate covers. The days of Fabio when artists would paint a posing couple are fading away. Now, even NY pubs are using stock photos.

    It confuses readers. (Me included!) So, at the very least, they should strive to change backgrounds, color etc. to keep things less confusing.

  3. Oh, ps, the massive Dan Brown thing is just ridiculous. I lump that in as cheesy the same way reprinting old books with new covers is cheesy. Fooling readers is not a good long term marketing plan.

  4. Brooke says:

    lol Barbara…if I saw a book with a giant Dan Brown on it…I’d run the other direction. That’s really bad. Plus, not EVERYONE likes Dan Brown…especially me. lol

  5. sandrasookoo says:

    I think an author should be confident enough in their work to not try and dupe the book buying public with a bigger name. 🙂

    Re-used covers are annoying. I know when I made one of my trailers, imagine my surprise when I found one of my covers on the photo site. Cover artists? LOL I think not. 🙂 Just goes to show that you really can’t judge a book by it’s cover! LOL

  6. Chandra Ryan says:

    I’d heard about the Simon Kernick fiasco and it is unfortunate. But I was shocked when I saw the duplicate covers. I’d be mortified if any publisher gave me the same cover they gave someone else. I don’t care if it were used a month ago or ten years ago.

  7. Carolan Ivey says:

    What cheesed me off was when publishers started repackaging previously released titles of favorite authors with new covers and, in some cases, new titles. I’d grab it thinking I was getting a new story, only to discover I’d been tricked into spending money on something I’d already read. Now I flip to the copyright page to verify the release date.

    I’ve seen a model from one of my covers on more than one other book as well. There’s only so many really good stock photos to go around, unfortunately. So a good one gets done to death.

  8. Natasha A. says:

    That Dan Brown thing blew my mind. I couldn’t believe they would resort to something like that. It’s interesting that you post about the second topic, reusing art, as Lurv a la Mode is talking about it today, and she has a different one on her site 🙂

    I think once the image has been used, it shouldn’t be allowed to be used again, I understand they use stock images, so I am not sure how that could be solved….

  9. That re-use of cover is bad enough, but that Dan Brown is just outrageous. That takes the whole “blurbage” quote to a whole new level. I mean with all of the ways a publisher can make sure they are reaching Dan Brown’s audience in a more subtle way through other recommendations use of similar cover fonts. Ah, I see this was part of a promo with Dan–you get this book free WITH a Dan Brown book. In that case, it reminds me of a few ploys where a name author like Tom Clancy is teamed up as a “series” editor of sorts for b-list authors. They could have done this same promo without the huge Dan Brown wording. The small sticker on the upper left says it all. Or they could have gone with the “Dan Brown presents…” Either way, for me this screams also-ran and B list.

  10. Grace Conley says:

    It’s always pretty clear when a publisher uses an author’s name without their knowledge as opposed to an “author marketing plug.” In the case of the Dan Brown cover — no, I would not purchase that book. It was clear that it wasn’t a Dan Brown endorsement, but rather an attempt to invoke his name to sell books for some completely unrelated writer. This is a huge turn-off for me as a reader.

    Now, for the flip side: I do fall for author plugs. Let’s say a new author manages to snag nice quotes for their book jacket from Nora Roberts and Christine Feehan. Those ladies carry weight in the industry and I enjoy their writing, so I’m apt to purchase a new author if they’ve managed to snag big-name quotes.

    On the re-use of cover art: I’ve seen it happen a number of times before, and find it unfortunate given that cover art is part of the author’s branding. I am sure that Jill Shalvis and Lauren Hawkeye are both less than thrilled for that reason.

    From the publisher’s standpoint, I absolutely understand the desire for efficiency and to save money…..but feel the publishers need to be aware that a direct lift of a cover weakens branding. Those covers live on indefinitely on the internet, and are incredibly easy to find for avid readers who follow several different Harlequin lines.

    The example of the cover couple showing up in different locales is not such a big deal….but I was saddened to see the direct duplication on Lauren’s and Jill’s covers, because it’s not fair to them as author’s trying to differentiate themselves in a tough market.

  11. When people in marketing can not be creative (re: reused cover), there is huge disconnect. No matter what the budget, there is always a way to be innovative and fresh. The basic idea is to use your head more, not ‘borrow’ from someone else’s. And we must stand or fail on our own merit. Borrowing someone else’s fame (re: Dan Brown) is bait and switch. This can only lead to disappointment on both sides of the book fence.

  12. Vivi Andrews says:

    This is fascinating… and kind of depressing. The Dan Brown thing is just ridiculous, but reusing cover couples… There are so many books coming out now, it’s gotta be hard to find an image (on a budget) that hasn’t already been used by someone on some book somewhere. I’m a big fan of originality, but what are we as writers (and readers) to do? We have no control. When it’s cover art time, I just hold my breath and try to think happy thoughts (and I’ve been very lucky so far!).

  13. Suzanne Rock says:

    Carolan – Thanks for reminding me of that. I totally forgot about the fiasco a year or so ago when there were previously published books being re-packaged and re-titled and passed off as new releases. Another good example!

    Brooke – I agree that reusing covers is a way to cut corners. I mean, it’s already paid for… But I also agree that it can create confusion among readers in an already crowded marketplace. BTW – I’m not a Dan Brown fan, either, so I guess that the marketing ploy wouldn’t work with me, either. LOL

    Barbara H – Not only fotolia, but istock. When I was looking for pictures there I was surprised by how many book covers I found. And yes, I agree that trying to “trick” readers is never a good long term marketing plan. It can backfire on both the author and the publsher.

    Sandra – I think I know the book cover you’re talking about. I was surprised to see your cover on a stock photo site, too.

    Chandra – You’d be surprised at how much the re-using of covers happens. I really wasn’t aware of it until I started running clash of the covers. Sometimes it can be down right tough to find a book cover that is both different and appealing. There are a handful of stock photos I see time and time again…unfortunately, as authors, we really don’t have much, if any say in the covers. :/

  14. @The First Carol- I agree. I wouldn’t have been nearly as startled if they changed the colors, the background, SOMETHING. But it was identical. I-DEN-TI-CAL.
    Hmpf. That’s all I can say about it. Hmpf. And I’m “the red headed step child” here, since Ms. Shalvis’ book came out in 2006, and mine this year.
    I’ve been duped by the big name on the unknown’s book too. I’m thinking it might have been Clive Cussler? maybe James Patterson, who now does it regularly. Can’t remember.
    And yes, the repackaging can be annoying too. That’s why Berkley Jove cam eup with the “Nora Roberts seal”, so that readers picking up one of those books would know it was a release from the last few years, and not a reissue. My mom falls for that all the time, and it drives her NUTS!
    All in all, I don’t know what we as authors can do. My biggest fear is that a reader will look at my book, notice a duplicate cover, and think that my publisher must not have any faith in my book if they’re giving it a recycled cover. And who wants a book that noone has any faith in?
    That reminds me, actually, of Vivi Anna’s second Kensington release. FABULOUS book, I HIGHLY recommend, and her editor loved it… but someone dropped the ball along the way, and they spelled her name wrong on the cover. By the time someone noticed, the books had already been printed. In fact, I think you should go buy this book just because of that factor, which grossly contrasts with the fabulousness that lies between its covers.
    Okay, done for now Great blog Sue!

  15. Suzanne Rock says:

    Natasha – Thanks so much for the link! You can see, I included it in the post. It’s amazing what a little photoshop can do, huh?

    Juliana – You bring up another good marketing ploy. I see it with James Patterson books all the time…James patterson “writes” books with lesser authors. I really don’t know how involved James Patterson really is, but his name is huge wih the other author in smaller font. I must admit that I fell for this marketing ploy and bought one of those James Patterson novels. It didn’t speak to me like the ones he wrote solo and it made me wonder if I was duped. Either way, I make it a point not to buy books co-authored like that in the bookstore.

    Grace – I also feel that Lauren and Jill probably aren’t exactly thrilled with the reusing of covers for both their books. Stuff like this shouldn’t reflect on the author, but I’m afraid it might in some reader’s eyes. It definately creates confusion, especially when it is used time and again in the same publishing house.

    First Carol – I agree about the “bait and switch” tactic publishers use. It’s very shady.

    Vivi – I agree. I’ve become a book cover junkie of sorts since I’ve started running the cover clash. I think I’ve just become more aware of what publishers are doing – or trying to do. In the defense of cover artists, I DO think there are some great and original covers out there. And I know that sometimes even the cover artist’s hands are tied – especially when a publishing house wants to cut corners. As authors, there isn’t much that we can do except make people (readers) aware of what is going on…readers are the real people that can make the trends change – by choosing what to spend their money on.

  16. Suzanne Rock says:

    Hi Lauren! Thanks for stopping by. And I really hope that people don’t think of your work as recycled. It isn’t by a long shot. I think it is more of a publisher cutting corners rather than someone not having faith in your work. If they didn’t like your story they wouldn’t have bought it.

    And yeah, my mother in law fell for the Nora Roberts thing, too. Drove her nuts, too. 🙂 It hasn’t happened to me yet, thankfully.

  17. I also think this might have been happening for years, but we’re all just noticing it now because we’re much more internet savy. Would be interesting to go back in time and see if we could dig up old covers that matched!

    Don’t feel bad, Lauren. 2006 was awhile back and the cover *is* luscious;) I feel worse for authors that have repeats within the same year. (Take a look at Nocturne/Nocturne Bites covers. There’s one particular pose I’m sure has been used multiple times.) I think in the very least they should try to avoid the same cover in the same line in the same year!

    ACK on the misspelling. That’s worse than giving the heroine three hands:/

  18. Hey Barbara,
    I think I know who you’re talking about it. She calls it “the floating head”.

  19. Just FWIW–That Jill Shalvis Blaze came out in 2006 with that cover–it was definitely the original use. Harlequin is notorious for re-using covers almost immediately in foreign markets, it just takes a little longer for them to do it in the U.S. I wish they wouldn’t at all, but at least they waited a full 3 years between Jill’s and Lauren Hawkeye’s.

  20. PS: That said, it really is perfect for your story, Lauren…hope it sells like hotcakes!

  21. Someday I will publicly reveal the original cover for my first Hrlqn single title . My name was literally wrapped inside a quote from a NYT Beststelling author on the cover of my own book. Grrr! I was so upset.

    So it’s definitely not just the readers who don’t appreciate these kind of sneaky tactics.

  22. Ouch Leslie! That would absolutely sting!
    And thanks for the kind words. Yes, I saw that Jill’s came out in 2006, so it’s my book that’s the copycat :S And yes, at least they waited 3 years! I’ve also seen a certain cover couple that has been on at least 3 (that I know of)… count ’em three!… different Harlequin covers… in the past year.
    At least it’s a good looking couple 😛

  23. My friend Julie Leto had a book out from Pocket a couple of years ago, a woman in a short red dress, fabulous legs, holding a gun. That same image had to have appeared on at least four different covers! Crazy!

  24. Anna Hackett says:

    The Dan Brown thing is just crazy. I can’t imagine how it would feel to be the author of that book.

    Reused covers aren’t great, but I do have to say that since I got my Kindle and went electronic, the cover isn’t as important to me as it used to be. I never buy a book without reading the blurb and buying off Amazon means the cover is just a tiny image that doesn’t get too much attention.

    Does anyone think in the distant future, when (if?) books are all electronic, that books will still have covers? Maybe we’ll have to have Clash of the Blurb instead?

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