But there's a right way—and a wrong way—to use them.
If you're going to license a stock image, you need to do so with the understanding that literally anyone else can license and use that same image. If you want to protect the branding of your novel, you'll have to get creative.
Don't get me wrong, though. There are some stock images that are already just SO kick-assingly perfect for book covers. It's difficult to change something stunning without feeling like you're taking a flying stylistic leap backwards.
But hey now—that's the kind of mindset that leads to multiple authors having the same cover art.
|This is just one of many photos of this couple that have|
graced book covers around the world.
The good news is that you can mitigate this for the most part by significantly altering your stock photo(s). For example, I usually use multiple images in my cover designs because including more design elements decreases the chances of seeing the same cover artwork anywhere else.
I decided to download a stock image of a woman in profile view and challenge myself to incorporate her into four unique designs. Although there is some overlap (3/5 are looking to the left, same color scheme/backgrounds for the text on Stella and Forest, long blonde hair twice), I feel like each design still looks significantly different from its source image.
I used 3-5 design elements per cover, so it's really damn unlikely that you'll ever see the original image on a cover that looks just like one of my designs. (Speaking of which, they're available for sale here. I don't intend to reuse stock models like this again.)
Well, we've reached the end of this cautionary tale. Thanks for sticking around.
Hey, you know what this means? It's time to make some covers that feature ATTRACTIVE MEN!