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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stock Photos and Cover Art

For the past couple of months, the Crimson City authors have been working on getting the series up in ebook. It's been an interesting process. I'd formatted a couple of short stories for ebook, but this was a full-length book and a novella. It was more work, but I also learned a few tricks to speed the whole thing up. And just to prove I'm a geek beyond all hope, I enjoyed the formatting. Mostly. :-)

Finding stock photos for the cover artist was much more difficult.

There are so many issues with stock photos. First, pictures of men and women grinning happily are not going to work for cover art. Especially if they're wearing business suits. I haven't written a character yet who dresses up like that, although I think I have one in the wings. Maybe. We'll see if that lasts once I get into writing his story. And I write stories with suspense. Grinning people on the cover don't work. Neither do people wearing phone headsets, holding money, using a laptop or the myriad of other poses rife on the stock photo sites.

Then there's problem two--both people need to be attractive. It happened over and over again--I'd find one attractive person, but they'd be paired up with someone not so attractive. Why do so many photographers use one model that would turn heads and put him/her with a model who is plainer? Or if both the man and woman are good looking, the guy is scrawny. Muscles and looks are important for book covers.

I had an extra issue at work on the Crimson City covers. Both my heroines are of Japanese heritage. Both their heroes are of European heritage. Yeah. There was one photo that was perfect. Sexy clinch. Asian woman. European man. And I'd already used it for the Power of Two cover. (Which will be coming in ebook eventually.)

The cover artist cut off the heads of one couple so you can't see the woman isn't Japanese. This is what we're going with for Through a Crimson Veil. And I spent hours and hours (time I definitely don't have) combing the stock photo site for something, anything we could use for Dark Awakening. I did find one picture with an Asian woman, only she was paired with an Asian man. My cover artist performed a miracle, but he was replaced.

Is it seriously too much to ask for stock photographers to put a good looking, muscular man with a good looking woman together in a pose that's sexy without being Erotica sexy? A pose that doesn't involve grins or any piece of business equipment? Is it too much to ask that some of the couples come from two different ethnic backgrounds?

I love writing multicultural characters, but getting covers made for those books is excruciating. I never found any picture that could even remotely work for Troll in my story, The Troll Bridge. Troll is multi, multi, multicultural. His heritage is part European, part Filipino, and part African-Caribbean. Yeah. You'll notice that cover only has a woman on it. She at least looks something like his heroine.

As I contemplate future stories that I have in mind, I'm already dreading what their covers will look like. It's not only authors publishing on their own or republishing their backlist who comb the stock photo sites. New York publishers are using stock photos now, too. What kind of cover will I end up with for my hero who's Eurasian? What about my Polynesian/European hero and heroine? I have a couple of Latina heroines and one hero (all in different stories). Changing their backgrounds won't work. My characters are who they are, but cover images...::shudder::