Stock Photos are Open Game for All Authors and Building a Foundation for Your Business

I’ve been thinking of what I can make a post about on this blog for almost a month, and the ideas I’m coming up with seem to be the ones along the line of “why can’t I think of anything more exciting to write about?” LOL  Usually, I’m fired up about something when I make a post on here.  When I’m fired up, I can write a 1000-word post in a few minutes.  I want to write at least one post in January, so let’s see what I can come up with.

1.  Royalty-free stock photos are great because they’re cheap and wonderful to work with in a program like GIMP that allows you to manipulate images, but you run the risk of other authors using the same stock photo on their covers.

I mention this because I was browsing through some discussion boards the other day and came across a poor author who was pretty much told off for using the same stock image that another author did.  I won’t go into specifics because it’s not my tale to tell, but I wanted to alert anyone who is new to the business that royalty-free stock pictures are not exclusive.  Other people have the right to purchase them and use them on their covers.  This is why I now like to combine two or three images into one cover.  It helps to make it unique.  Early on when I made covers, I didn’t know how to manipulate images, so I used one stock photo.  GIMP was a pain to learn, and I’m still learning.  It’s all a process.

You have to make a couple decisions in regards to covers.  You can pay someone to do the covers for you, but even then, you run the risk they will use a stock photo that is the same as one another author will use.  You can buy an exclusive cover.  I haven’t done this, but I know it’s possible and I know it’s expensive (which it should be since it is going to be exclusive).  You can make your own covers and combine two or more pictures to help make your cover as unique as possible.  Even if the same model shows up in other covers, the way you combing the pictures will still mark the cover as different.  Another option is to use one stock photo with your name and title on it (understanding that another author has the right to use that same photo and put their own title and name on it). Another thought that occurred to me is that the photo might be different, but it might be the same model.  That’s common, too.

2.  I saw many predictions for 2013.  The truth is, all we can do is guess on what will happen.  However, we do have full control over a few things that can help us build or sustain a solid foundation.

Whatever happens with books and publishing will happen.  We have as much ability to control the way self-publishing rises or falls as we do in controlling the turn the economy takes.  All we can do is position ourselves to be in the best place possible.

a.  Write what you love.

I realize certain genres sell better than others.  I don’t think you should write in a genre that doesn’t interest you.  Passion for what you’re doing is the best first step you can take.  If you can’t get excited about what you’re doing, then why would you do what it takes to make your story as polished as possible?

b. Have someone else look it over.

Yeah, I know.  This part can be a real pain.  Editors don’t always come through for you.  Sometimes your beta readers won’t get back to you when you asked them to.  Sometimes the proofreader misses something.  Whether it’s an author friend, a critique partner, a reader, or someone else, it’s still better to have someone look over your book.  You will also have to go over your story several times because ultimately, you are in charge of how the story will look when it’s published.  But even if you don’t get much from the other person, there might be a couple of things they noticed that you didn’t.   Maybe that person saw an inconsistency you didn’t.  Maybe they caught a typo you missed.  Maybe they were confused about a passage and you are able to make things more clear.  A little help is better than no help at all.

c.  Aim to have a book cover as professional as possible.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, but the aim is for your book cover to appeal to your audience.  I suggest browsing through the top selling books in your genre and figuring out if there’s a certain trend you notice.  This doesn’t mean you imitate a cover you see and like.  What you do is get pointers on what image you’d like to use.  Early on, I noticed brides were popular in romances, so I’ve used a lot of brides on my covers.  I also notice a lot of romances have people on the cover.  The scenery pictures (in my opinion) are not a good idea for romances.  As your browsing your genre, you’ll probably notice some general things similar to what I did when I browsed romance covers.  So you see, you don’t have to copy another cover.  What you do is get an idea.  😉  Other things you can look at are the colors.  Colors help to set the mood for the book.  Then look at the way the titles are done so you can find a suitable font.  Fonts can also suggest the genre you’re writing in and get readers ready for the tone of the book.

d.  Format your books so they’re easy to read.

This doesn’t mean it has to be complicated with fancy fonts and graphics.  I often think simpler is better.   If you don’t use indents to start a paragraph, at least have a space between paragraphs.  It took me two years (not kidding) to figure out how to do indents, and when I finally did, I had to shake my head because it was ridiculously simple.   If you’d rather have someone format it for you, you can but keep in mind that if you receive an email from Amazon telling you that you need to change something, you’ll need to contact the person who formatted your book to make the change.  This is why I suggest learning how to format yourself.  Yeah, it’s a pain and there is a learning curve, but you’ll be able to do whatever changes are needed in the timely manner.

e.  Choose to get involved online in places that interest you.

If you enjoy hanging out on forums, then go there and have fun.  If you prefer blogging, blog about topics that interest you.  If you like socializing on Facebook or Twitter, then engage in those places.  If you like Pinterest, then go there.  If you like doing blog hops with other authors, then do it.  If you like contacting review bloggers, then do that.  I’d pick two or three of the things that interest you the most and go for it.  It’s not so much of where you are as it is in whether you will stick with it.  It takes time to build an online presence, and I think being a person who is friendly and helpful will go a lot further than mentioning your book all the time.  If people find what you have to say interesting, they’ll check out your link to find out more about you (so be sure to link back to your website or blog so they can find your books).  I look at social media as a way to have a good time.  If you approach it that way, it won’t be a burden, and you won’t have to step outside your comfort zone.  But it does take longer to get established.  However, it might pay off better in the long run.


This post is longer than I expected, so I’ll ramble again in another post.  😀


  1. slepsnor says:

    This is a very informative post. I focused on the cover art sections because I write fantasy and those typically have complicated covers with the main characters or a scene from the story. I’m going the ‘hire an artist in the family’ route with my covers because of the genre trend.

    1. Fantasy works very well with an artist. I’m amazed at how well some people draw. Plus, it allows you to make the cover specific to the story, which is a huge bonus. That’s awesome you have an artist in the family!

  2. choiceonepublishing says:

    Great post! It will be helpful for those who are just getting their feet wet in the business, and also some good reminders for those who have been in the game for a while.

    1. I love checking out author forums because I learn new things all the time and get those much needed reminders. This post was definitely inspired by the forums.

  3. A good cover artist brings in many elements so that even if you use the same images as are on other covers, it still looks a lot different.

    You made some very good points about writing a book. This is such a competitive time for authors right now.

    1. That’s true. A good cover artist can do wonders with any image. That’s what makes the cover unique. I don’t know why authors stress so much about using the same image. It’s how you use it that makes the difference.

      It’s is a competitive time, and it doesn’t help when things are changing so much at online bookstores.

  4. Jill James says:

    I had a reader comment that she wasn’t sure she was going to read my book because it had the same cover as one she’d read and really liked. I looked at the cover she mentioned and yes it had the same couple, but that was the only similarity. I thought the covers were very different from each other. Thanks for the tips to make unique cover art.

    1. Your covers are amazing. 😀 They scream “Read these books!”

      I’ve seen the same person or couples on a variety of books. I can see why. The pictures are attractive. I just hope that poor author who was harassed by another one over having the same model on their cover was able to resolve the matter in his favor because he had every right to use it. I’m with you. If you can do something to add your own look to the picture, it does make the cover different.

      I hope the reader liked your book!

  5. M T McGuire says:

    I’m so with you about writing what you love. Personally, if I don’t I can’t write with conviction.



    1. Yep. Any time I’ve tried to write what I wasn’t passionate about, the whole book fell flat or stalled out. Even if I like an idea and it’s not ready to be written, there’s no sense in writing it. I’ve learned that the hard way. 😀

  6. Barb says:

    Speaking of stock art… do you mind sharing where you get your lovely glyphs for chapter headings?

  7. Jill James says:

    Yes, glyphs! I want to do some of those.

    1. I can’t remember where I got the idea to do those. 😀

  8. I got lucky. My son is a graphic artist and does all of my covers. He’s also done covers for other authors. The problem with taking clients online is that you never know if you’re doing the work for nothing. He’s had a handful of good, satisfied clients, but one had him do a lot of work then decided to take a different route, and one seems unwilling to pay him–so far.

    1. Ick on the problems that can pop up. I hate it when people don’t pay for a service they asked for. Even if they go a different route, the artist’s time should be compensated. I guess cover artists have their own frustrations with people treating what they do as actual work.

  9. robakers says:

    Great information. I think you made some great points and I look forward to reading more from you.

    1. Thank you. I hope you find the other posts helpful. 😀

  10. dm yates says:

    Another post filled with excellent advice. Thank you.

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