Random Thoughts on Cover Images
They're a nightmare!
Unless you can afford to hire an artist to create something unique or have the money to fund a photo shoot, then stock images have to meet the need.
Wait a minute! Do I hear you asking about AI? It's a natural question especially since I've posted quite recently and at a reasonable length about the topic of artificial intelligence and creative writing.
AI may fill the need for unique cover art in the future, maybe even the near future—already there are examples of very striking images suitable for fantasy or sci-fi, but for my genres: women's fiction, family saga and romance—contemporary and historical, AI has to improve its quality quite a lot before I would even consider sourcing AI-generated images for my covers. If you don't believe me, go experiment for yourself. Unless you are working on a re-write of Beauty and the Beast or don't mind your characters having a surplus of fingers and thumbs, the results will not work for you.
So back to the stock images:
There are downsides:
1. They are time stealers. In the hours I've spent searching for images that fit the story and my characters, I could have written another novel, even two.
2. They are never quite right and need a talented designer who can edit the image.
3. Someone else might choose the same image.
This last has recently happened to me. Well almost. Not, thankfully, on a book cover and not exactly the same image. I found it in the header of a group promo. If you don't know what a group promo is, it's where several authors in the same genre promote each other's work via their blog, social media and newsletter, all linking to one promo page. It's a good way for readers to find writers new to them.
I haven't taken part in such an event for a while, too busy writing book three in the six degrees of separation series, but I found a promo that was a perfect fit for Love Is ( the second book in the series), and the timing was just right for my monthly newsletter going out in April. Anyway, imagine my surprise when after being accepted, I discovered that the promo page was using in its header, an image of my couple from the cover for Millie & George .
My graphic designer had edited the cover version to make the young couple look more like their descriptions in the book. And their pose is subtly different to the one in the header, so it is another image of the models, but there they were at the top of the promo page, still totally recognisable. Since Millie & George is no longer exclusive to Amazon and therefore not on KU, I couldn't add it to the KU titles promo, which would have been the upside of this coincidence, so there was really nothing I could do, except add the incident to the growing list of reasons for some new covers. If you want to take a look for yourself, here's a link to the promo page. and you can of course check out Millie and George on either Amazon or Kobo, including Kobo Plus. Other platforms coming soon.
In the meantime, I'm now thinking about the new cover images for all three books in the series. Don't get me wrong, I like the Millie & George cover very much, and I'm reasonably fond of the Love Is image, even though it is not the original (Amazon decided the original beach scene for Love Is was too sexy!) I complied with their wishes, changed the cover, and sales dropped off. Thank you, Amazon. Then came the cover for the third and probably last book in the series. It's already up on Amazon on preorder, but if I'm totally honest, I don't like it—my fault. I couldn't find, after hours of searching, an attractive mature couple that really matched my characters. Last Love is a second-chance romance after an extended separation and an extremely delayed HEA, and finding a near-perfect couple for that scenario was impossible. And that's not all... Despite using the same cover designer for all the books in the series, I don't feel that the style is consistent enough to shout out loud, THIS IS A SERIES! I don't even think there is a clear brand image. If you are wondering what I mean by that, take a look at some Colleen Hoover or Amanda Prowse covers. They are probably the most distinct examples ofing clear branding styles in my genre.
So, time to mull over which way I go. Non-generic covers (without loving couples) like CH and AP or stick with my couples but insist on identical fonts for the cover text. Perhaps a single character image, but which one? There is much to consider, and I know from bitter experience after the enforced Amazon change, much to lose. But I do think it's time for a change.