2015 Doppelganger Book Covers – Oh, Oh!

Doppelganger Award

Cover Cafe created the Doppelganger Award to highlight the problem of releasing  “almost” identical book covers.  Readers might skip over a new release because they assume they’ve seen the book previously or even purchased it.  With the introduction of eReaders and the use of stock images on covers, Doppelgangers have become more of an issue.

It can happen to anyone…even Cover Cafe. I purchased the stock image used in Cover Cafe’s main logo in April, 2011 and I knew it might appear someday on a book or another logo. It was a gamble but I loved the lady reading at the table. I added the red coffee cup and Cover Cafe and waited to see if it appeared. It finally did in 2015 on Pinterest.   I love the addition of the cat but prefer my red cup over the gray cup.  I still love that lady!



My best advice is this – do not use a stock image exactly as it appears on Shutterstock or other image providers. Create a unique look that can’t be mistaken or accidentally reused by another publisher or author.   Also, take a step back and look at your finished creation to see how it appears in both thumbnail and full size.    If using Photoshop or another image software, make sure the finished cover looks professional.  Don’t become a “Don’t” cover example on the internet. (Or become one of Cover Cafe’s Worst finalists in the annual contest.)

And now for the first 2015 Doppelganger Awards.

First Doppelganger Set ~

Clean Heart Publishing ~ December, 2013

Clean Heart Publishing ~ December, 2013

Inked Plot Media ~ January, 2015

InkedPlot Media ~ January, 2015

Second Doppelganger Set ~

Sweetwater ~ October, 2014

Sweetwater Books ~ October, 2014

Book Tango ~ January, 2015

Booktango ~ January, 2015

Be careful when using stock images…make them unique or incorporate them with other images to create a unique look.  What do you think – are they Doppelgangers?

Behind The Scenes ~ Book Cover Creations with Gene Mollica

Vengeance Born

Penguin Group, USA
Cover Illustration: Gene Mollica
First Place ~ 2012 Alternate Reality


Gene Mollica is one of my favorite illustrators. His illustration for Vengeance Born finished in first place in Cover Cafe’s 2012 Alternate Reality category.  Yesterday on Pinterest, I discovered two You Tube videos with a  behind the scenes look at two of Gene’s cover shoots .  Enjoy!



I love the attention to detail right down to costumes, props, and the all important facial expressions. They are the critical components that separate good covers from fantastic covers.   My hats are off to publishers who take the time to create unique covers without relying on popular stock images.   The expense involved is worth it!  You can find more of Gene’s illustrations on his site. http://genemollica.com/


“Too Close For Comfort” Book Covers ~ Doppelganger Award

Doppelganger Award

Doppelgangers are duplicates or two people that could be each other’s double.  However,  I’ve adopted the term for book cover duplicates because of  stock images.  I haven’t issued a Doppelganger Award since early 2013 because we discover most duplicates through our nominations and none surfaced in 2013.   This year,  I missed one right under my nose until I read about it in a comment written on a romance blog.    One of our In The Spotlight covers is an unfortunate “too close for comfort” cover.   We have a Doppelganger Award winner for 2014.

Brenda Janowitz’s romance,  Jack with a Twist  was first published in 2008 by Red Dress Ink and featured a clever cover that fit the title.  I really like this cover with the lemon rind, the ring, and poor Jack under glass.

Jack With A Twist

Red Dress Ink ~ 2008

In 2013,  JWAT was issued via another publisher using a stock image with a great pair of shoes, a favorite on contemporary romance book covers.  The new cover didn’t  capture the title as well as the Red Dress Ink cover and nothing was done to the original stock image except for adding the unique font used for the title.

Jack With A Twist

Polis Books – May, 2013

Then it was was issued again in 2014 with a few font and lighting changes but using the same stock image.  I really like the deep pink font used for the title because it makes the title pop even in thumbnail size.  It was a great improvement but again nothing was done to the stock image.

Jack With A Twist

Polis Books ~ March, 2014

In May 2014, another author’s release featured the same stock image and was featured in Cover Cafe’s,  In The Spotlight.   I  love the shoes and the stock image fits the title perfectly but it is almost identical to the earlier Polis Books covers.  The fonts are different and there was a border added to It Happened One Wedding but the stock image was not changed.  We now have a Doppelganger situation that cover designers, authors, and publishers hate to experience.  They all want their covers to stand out from the crowd and no one wants their cover to lose sales because buyers mistake it for another release they have already read or purchased.

It Happened One Wedding

Jove ~ May, 2014

If you use stock images that are not exclusive,  please design a layout that incorporates the image along with other components. Make the cover special and a one of a kind cover.   Below are a two covers using the same female stock image but with cover designs that sets them apart.  No one would ever confuse the two covers or label them a Doppelganger.

Thorndike Press - November, 2013

Thorndike Press ~ November, 2013

Slip the Skin

Self-Published ~ February, 2014

My final piece of advice for cover designers is about the stock image used in the cover below.   This cover is nominated in this year’s contest but I’ve seen its Doppelganger in a very similar pre-made cover option.   It is a great photo and made me smile when I first saw it online.  Be careful if you use it and be creative with your layout.

Flirting With Magick

Book Trope ~ August, 2014



Romance Book Covers – Author Branding Is Essential

I have a small guilty pleasure.   I love grouping my print books together by author and then by series.  Whenever I want to step back in time and read a favorite again, they are easy to find on my keeper book shelves.  It makes me happy.

Author branding is a great tool for my organizing pleasure and a must-have for this reader.  I want the book covers in an author’s series easily categorized with just a glance,  helping me find them on the internet or when I’m shopping in an actual book store.   The author and series should have a distinct branding that signals an author and  “series” to readers.  One of my pet peeves is when the format changes in a series.  I hate it when one release comes out in trade size and the next in mass market paperback size.  I want the book format to match just like I want continuity on the covers.   Sadly, I will only buy a stand-alone romance in hardcover form because of the cost of purchasing a series in hardcover.

With eBooks, branding is even more important and it should be easily detected in thumbnail size for readers searching on the internet.  I don’t have an eReader because I spend so much time on my laptop but I do have Kindle for PC.   I group my titles by author but somehow it isn’t as fun in eBook format.    Yes, I am a demanding romance reader but I don’t believe I’m alone in my quirks.

I have some great examples that brand both the author and the series for readers.  I love how the covers help me keep track of  an author’s releases.

Allison Pitman

Tyndale House: 2013-2014

Nora Roberts

Penguin Berkley: 2013-2014

Sarah Zettel

Random House: 2013-2014

Virginia Kantra

Penguin Berkley: 2012-2014

Ellie Macdonald

Harper Collins Avon: 2013-2014

Confession time,  do you love branding as much as I do or do you buy series books in various sizes and styles because variety is the spice of life?

Until next time,

2014 Romance Book Cover Titles, Fonts, & Typography

You only have one chance to make a first impression is a worthy caveat in book cover design.  If a cover has a haphazard appearance,  it affects the impression readers have about the story inside.   An  inferior cover jeopardizes sales and future success.  The end consumers, both faithful and new readers,  expect professional looking covers and they do judge a book by its cover.

I’ve been judging covers via the cover contest since 2002 and one of my pet peeves is the placement of titles, authors’ names, and those pesky marketing blurbs.  This year Jessi, one of our new committee members, sent me a link to a blog post by Courtney Milan on typography.  Courtney has excellent tips on how to create quality book cover typography.

Courtney Milan Ramblings – Typography

Here are a few recent 2014 “don’t”  covers that I’ve discovered on Amazon.

Tarnished Saints' Christmas

Self Published – September, 2014

Always A Rogue, Forever Her Loves

Self Published – September, 2014

Proposal Under the Mistletoe

Self Published – September, 2014

And  a few book covers that caught my attention because of their  balanced typography.  The ability to read the title and/or author’s name via the thumbprint is a big plus,  especially for readers who purchase their books via the internet.  A balanced layout between the  illustration,  the title, author’s name or marketing blurbs is another winning strategy.

A Winter Wedding

Sourcebooks – September, 2014


Bold Strokes Books – September, 2014

The Fire Seer

Self Published – September, 2014

Update 9/29/14 9:35 pm :  Amy Raby’s website lists Ravven as the cover designer for her self published release, The Fire Seer.  Ravven has a helpful link page on her site with some great tips and advice on cover creation.  I also corrected my typo…I had typed “topography” instead of “typography” in  my original post.  Sigh…success is  in the details for cover designers and bloggers.



Left Field Press – October, 2014

A Rancher's Redemption

Harlequin American Romance – October, 2014

OK, I have to admit that the handsome rancher on the Harlequin cover captured my attention before the typography but it was the second thing I noticed.

How do you feel about haphazard cover layouts?  If a cover is cluttered and unprofessional looking, will you pass up purchasing the book, unless it’s a favorite author?  I hate to admit it, but yes, I skip over covers that miss the mark unless I know and love the author.

SomniumDantis – Romance Book Cover ~ Behind The Scenes

I love discovering talented individuals behind great covers.  Last week, we received a nomination for a Regency reprint cover that instantly charmed me.  I had to research who was responsible.    The photography art credits referenced SomniumDantis  and the search was on but first things first…the cover.

Mistaken Kiss

Ink Lion Books – March, 2014

The woman behind the name is mysterious and she uses several pseudonyms but there  is a brief description SomniumDantis listed on her Deviant Art bio:

22. Nearly graduate in English Studies. Self taught historical fashion designer, fantasy lover. Believer in DIY. Occasionally model. 

I’ve decided to leave the woman behind the name incognito since that is part of the charm. A little mystery is a good thing, especially in romance.   SomniumDantis makes a wonderful model for her costumes and her love of art and history is a treat to explore.   I believe she has a great future ahead of her.

You can find more SomniumDantis information and photos here:





It’s National Dog Day – Romance Book Covers

Today is National Dog Day and we’re celebrating!  Furry friends make great additions on romance covers because canine pals spending time with their “masters in love” attracts readers.   Enjoy!

Wearing The Rancher's Ring

Harlequin – August, 2014

In Your Dreams

Harlequin – September, 2014

Check out the behind the scenes photo shoot for In Your Dreams:


The Sweetheart Secret

Berkley – September, 2014

Shelter Me

Berkley – August, 2014

And finally, I’m adding a cover from a European publisher I discovered on Pinterest.  This lush Historical Romance cover has an adorable canine front and center.  Don’t you just love this cover?

Gorgeous Mystery Cover

Gorgeous Mystery Cover

Which cover is your favorite?  Mine is the mystery cover…love that little pup!

Romance Cover Showdown – US vs UK

In July, I nominated the US cover for Never Forget Me by Marguerite Kaye.  The  Harlequin Historical cover captured the time and place of  WWI with a gentle, loving embrace and Poppies in the background.   I thought it was poignant and beautiful, especially the yearning expressions on the couple’s faces.  This week, I discovered the  Mills and Boon August release and I fell in love with it, too.  I’m torn because both covers capture the feelings couples felt when they separated during the war.  I love the tender embrace and authentic feel of the US version but the hats and coats on the UK version are superb and who doesn’t love a passionate kiss?

Did I mention, I’m torn on which cover is my favorite?  I love them both and can’t decide.  Which cover wins your vote in the latest cover showdown and why is it your favorite?  Vote in the poll below and help me decide.

US vs UK Showdown

Romantic Suspense Covers ~ Fonts on Steroids

The Dead Will Tell

St. Martins ~ July, 2014

The last time Cover Cafe featured a Romantic Suspense category was in our 2007 cover contest. One of the reasons RS was discontinued was because its popularity was declining and there weren’t enough releases for a separate category. This year, we received one or two comments from voters wishing for a separate RS category. They wondered why there were so few Romantic Suspense covers represented in the contest.

If you look at the current Romantic Suspense releases, you will see one reason why. The current trend in RS is using huge fonts for the titles and authors’ names. This “steroid” trend doesn’t compete well with balanced cover layouts featuring an illustration or photograph on equal footing with the title and author’s name.

I spent a few hours searching for Romantic Suspense covers and discovered that the fonts on steroids trend is still alive and well.  The Dead Will Tell cover is a classic example of  the title and author’s name overpowering the layout.  Look at the tiny row of Amish ladies.  Are they looking at the title in the sky or the tiny vultures circling the dead?  It’s difficult to tell but the cover made me laugh.

I will continue my quest for excellent Romantic Suspense covers and there might be one or two the make it to the final slate of 15 in next year’s contest.   Below I’m posting a few promising RS covers I discovered in my latest search.  They have a nice balance between the title, author’s name and the illustration or images.

Close To Home

Kensington ~ August, 2014

Game Of Fear

Montlake ~ August, 2014


Harlequin HQN ~ August, 2014

Seagrass Pier

Thomas Nelson ~ July, 2014

Do you agree that the RS titles and authors’ names overpower the images or do you like the huge fonts?   For me, it’s all about a perfect balance of the three components – title, author’s name, and the illustration or image.