Cover Image Clones and Great Book Blogs

The other day I happened to see a copy of the novel Dollhouse, a novel whose authorship is attributed to not one, not two, but three Kardashian sisters, and I was amused by how similar their design solution for the cover was to a book we published called Dictator Style: Lifestyles of the World’s Most Colorful Despots.


When I actually compared the designs side by side, I could see there were differences (our cheetah fur is much silkier), but it also reminded me of the phenomenon of two books having the same or very similar cover imagery, usually due to the convention of publishers using imagery from stock photo agencies when creating covers. An interesting New York Times article from a few years ago points out that cover use exclusivity for an image is available from stock agencies, but at a premium, and so it must be tempting for publishers (it seems to happen most frequently on fiction covers) to just roll the dice and gamble no one else will use an image.

Looking for more examples of cover clones, I found that pioneering research in the field has already been done.

Caustic Cover Critic has cataloged an amazing trove of these, some dizzying in the variety and sheer number of them.

Awesomely, he also found this knockoff of Game of Thrones, the shamelessness of which, as he notes, is almost impressive.


Anyway, his blog is great—smart and funny—and highly recommended. Be sure to click through to the second page of archived cover clone entries to behold “The Most Popular Fence in Literature.”

Another great read is The Rap Sheet, a blog spun off from January Magazine that focuses on crime fiction. Editor J. Kingston Pierce has an interesting and thoughtful piece (with lots of great examples) on duplicate cover imagery, including the strategies that some art departments use to adjust the images to differentiate them (though who knows if they were aware of the image having been used on another title, or it’s just an unfortunate coincidence.) That piece is part of an ongoing series of posts, like this.

So: The Rap Sheet—another great book blog. My favorite in Pierce’s cover clone series is his documentation of the trouble this little guy is fleeing from across multiple covers, entitled “Run, Buddy, Run.” Click the link to see the full range, with Pierce’s commentary.

Finally, YA Bookie Monster, who is apparently a voracious reader, has a fun catalog of what she calls YA “cover twins” (here are a few, lots more here).

Beyond this, she’s also taken time to do an awesome catalog of recurring YA cover tropes, including Gorgeous Dresses, Water, Hearts, Half Faces, Lying Down, Flowers, Red Hair, Back View, Eyes, and Kisses/Near Kisses, which taken together sounds like a bestseller, with the right cover.

Steve Mockus

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Steve Mockus

Steve Mockus is a senior editor in the entertainment group at Chronicle Books.
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