That’s (not) My Guy!

My friend and fellow M/M writer, Allison Temple, likes to give me a hard time for corrupting her man. That’s Kyle on the left. He’s a sweet single father who has a wholesome romance with his daughter’s teacher, while on the right we have Jared, Jim, and Johnny. They’re a set of incestuous triplets who are about to spit roast each other.

I didn’t intentionally steal Allison’s man. I just went to the same stock photo site and entered some similar keywords. Stock photo websites have a limited number of good looking guys. Narrow that down to the ones who (kind of, sort of, with a wink and a nod) match your character description, then add complicating requirements like piercings, tattoos, or historical clothes, and the limitation gets absolutely binding. Want a picture of two guys who are actually interacting with each other? There are about ten of those.

Kyle (aka Jared/Jim/Johnny) has a lot of photos in a lot of different outfits and is kind of generic looking, which is why I didn’t even notice I was poaching on Allison’s cover when I picked him. I just needed a cute guy with at least three clothing changes. But some pictures are more distinctive, either because the man is more striking or because some aspect of his pose or background is central to the picture.

On the left is Syed in Aftershock. On the right is the cover of Love’s Edge by Brea Alepou. These covers come across as more similar to each other than The Pick Up and Three Times As Good because they share not just a man, but a pose, and the pose tells a story Nevertheless, they’re different covers, neither copied from the other.

The background is different, the coloring is different, and the fonts are different. It’s only the starting photo that’s the same, and that photo can be bought by anyone at any time. No one has the exclusive right to use it.

Which brings me to Manners & Mannerisms, my recently released historical. As mentioned above, historical clothing is a complicating factor, so when someone on Twitter posted a link to an LGBT historical photo shoot she’d done, I was all over it. But of course I wasn’t the only one.

All the M/M photos in this shoot are of the same couple dressed (or undressed) in the same clothes. There are a few different poses, and fortunately Cat Sebastian and I did pick slightly different ones, but the similarity is unavoidable. I’d love to be able to hire models who really match my heroes and pay photographers to do custom shoots so I could put them into a specific pose together, but until I start selling a whole lot more books, I’m consigned to flipping through the same collection of photos everyone else is browsing.

So the next time you see a familiar face on a new cover, remember that it’s a matter of limited inventory, not limited creativity. Our designers do great work taking the same guys in the same poses and making something new of them.

4 comments

  1. The stumblingoverchaos blog had a long-running feature, discontinued in 2015, called “Misadventures in Stock Photography.” The author tracked popular cover models, gave them humorous nicknames, and posted their adventures. Here’s one she called “Serious Twinkie Guy,” you’ll probably recognize him. (If you read the book titles as you scroll down, you’ll see they tell a story!)
    http://www.stumblingoverchaos.com/archives/tag/serious-twinkie-guy

    Most readers know the deal. We’re amused to see how these boys get around, and impressed when old stock is presented in fresh new ways!

  2. I noticed the similarity to the Cat Sebastian book right away. You would think Harlequin could afford to do their own in-house cover art, though.

    1. I know that Carina uses stock photos, as does Dreamspinner. M/M isn’t as lucrative as M/F so perhaps even traditional publishers allocate fewer resources to it.

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