Book Cover Design Mistakes #6: Using Stock Images without Modification

Here’s a quick tip in our Cover Design Mistakes series: don’t use unmodified royalty-free (stock) images. While we were sorting through hundreds of book covers to put together today’s list of Handpicked Free Kindle Books, we came across these two covers:

free kindle books

free kindle books
Individually, each cover would have earned a place on today’s list, but when we saw them together, we knew there was a problem. These two books went free on the exact same day with the exact same cover image. As far as we can tell there is no connection between the authors. It was just dumb (bad) luck that they appeared together, right? Otherwise there wouldn’t be an issue with their designs, would there?

Actually, the issue is using an unmodified image in a cover design. It’s a mistake. Why? These days custom photography is beyond the budget of most designers—so most photography used on book covers is royalty-free, stock photography licensed from sites like iStockPhoto. And although iStockPhoto will give you 2909 results when you search for “knight,” the following image is on the top of the second page of search results (sorted by most popular).



This means that if you don’t modify the image via cropping, coloring, or other effects, your book cover could look exactly the same as the next author’s.