Stock photos and the reuse of previous illustrations have become standard in our digital age. On the one hand, it is a wonderful cost efficient solution using modern technology. On the other hand, there is a caveat. What happens when two different authors or publishers release covers that are almost identical or when a publisher reuses illustrations? The group of covers earning our 2nd Doppelganger award present a cautionary tale to all cover designers, publishers, and authors. Readers and buyers may be confused by a Doppelganger cover. They might assume they've already purchased, read, or viewed and rejected a book because the release has a cover very similar to another cover. This is especially true when buyers are viewing thumbprint covers online. Here are the thumbprints of the first Doppelganger Award recipient from 2011. Publisher information is available on mouse-over.
The best defense against the dreaded Doppelganger is simple. If using stock photos or a previous illustration in a cover design, make sure to create a unique layout that will be difficult to duplicate. When Cover Cafe encounters Doppelganger nominations, the cover with the earliest publishing date is the cover accepted for competition. Let's take a look at Cover Cafe's 2012 Doppelganger recipients.
Our first two covers were nominated this year in two different categories. The cover published first, from Wild Rose Press, is eligible for our annual contest. Obviously, this is a great stock photo and creates a great cover but the "early bird" publisher wins the contest eligibility race. The two stock photos are identical except for the stubble on the cute guy's face and the first photo has a wider crop. The title and author's names are different but the covers are still too similar because of how the stock photo was used in the layout.
Our second set of covers also used an identical stock photo and both were nominated in our Contemporary category. The two photos feature a different horizon, the right hand was manipulated and the photo's lighting was changed slightly. Otherwise, the two photos are Doppelgangers. The cover published first, from Baker Publishing, is eligible in the contest this year.
Our third set is from Harlequin. The 2012 cover would have made it to the finals of the Holiday Favorites contest. However, one committee member recognized the cover illustration from a 2007 Harlequin Super Romance cover. This was a tough call but I pulled it from contention because there were so many other covers that were unique. Somehow, featuring a Doppelganger at Christmas seemed wrong.
There will always be Doppelganger covers in existence but the majority of covers produced have unique layouts and Doppelgangers are in the minority. Every author, cover designer, and publisher wants to create books that sell their content successfully and no one wants a Doppelganger. My final advice is keep your layouts unique and be careful out there. For readers, make sure to check titles, author's names, and read the summary to make sure you don't miss a great romance because of a Doppelganger cover.
Many times I have had this "deja-vu" when I was perusinng at the bookstore. Mosst of the times I end up not buying. Sad, but with the price of the books, one had to be careful.
I have a question. Has an author had a book published and then found out that her/his bookcover had already been used for one of her/his own book?
I have not heard of any but authors may not realize it because covers are designed months before publishing and they usually are not displayed side by side. We discover Doppelgangers when covers are nominated or someone remembers the illustration from a previous book and notifies us. The Harlequin 2011 Doppelgangers were discovered by a reader who sent in a nomination form for the 2nd cover with a comment that it was a duplicate.