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September 25, 2010

An oddly familiar cover
Posted by Teresa at 04:26 AM *

This is the cover of Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson, which was first published in January 2001 by Little, Brown.

Meanwhile, this is the cover of Kindred by Tammar Stein, which is due out from Knopf in February of next year.

It’s hard to imagine that Knopf would intentionally buy second rights to a cover image previously used on a James Patterson novel, especially given that the James Patterson novel is still in print. There may be a reasonable explanation for it that will keep the whole episode from being labeled a prime goat-roping clusterfck.

I do hope that’s the case, because otherwise it’s possible that at this very moment, in dungeons deep beneath the gleaming glass-and-steel towers of 1745 Broadway, terrible things are being done to that artist.

Comments on An oddly familiar cover:
#1 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 05:11 AM:


(Also, the "due out" link is borked.)

#2 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 05:14 AM:

I will have an entertaining morning trying to come up with a worse title for a novel than "Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment".

#3 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 05:21 AM:

The cover(s) are a piece by Kamil Vojnar (warning: flash only site); from looking at his Others section, it looks like another version of that piece got used for yet another book. Since the work is in his art-only gallery, I get the impression it wasn't originally meant to be a book cover, but has been licensed as such (maybe?).

#4 ::: Vef ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 06:05 AM:

Out of interest, how often do publishers re-use old covers? Legitimately, I mean. I had a paperback of Fritz Leiber's A Specter is Haunting Texas that used the same image as my mate's copy of On Stranger Tides. I'd show you what I mean but Google Images isn't helping.

#6 ::: Walt Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 08:53 AM:

I'm not sure it really matters for this discussion, Teresa, but are you sure the James Patterson book is still in print? Amazon shows only used copies available.

#7 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 09:26 AM:

Reduce, reuse, recycle. Save the environment.

#8 ::: Joy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 09:28 AM:

Vef, Book cover designers using identical or very similar images happens surprisingly often (though I doubt it's a significant proportion of books published). It's a pitfall of using stock images. Here's an old NYT piece on the subject I happened to run across the other day.

#9 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 09:28 AM:

Oh, my, my, my. Someone did not do their homework on time.

#10 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 09:57 AM:

Renatus @#3: The contact info says that some work can be licensed through Getty & a couple of other stock sources. So I bet that the "angel in blue" image is available at a stock photo broker.

#11 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 10:00 AM:

Maybe they figure people won't remember the earlier cover. (Because most people won't. They might get a feeling of 'vaguely familiar', though.)

#12 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 10:01 AM:

I used to have a copy of the US paperback of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch that reused Bruce Pennington's iconic-in-Britain cover art for Dune. ("We need a picture of a GUY WITH FUNNY EYES, right?") And I still have the Ballantine edition of Brian Ball's fairly lousy sf novel Timepivot, with a cover first seen on the James Bond spinoff Colonel Sun by "Robert Markham" (Kingsley Amis).

As we used to say in Encyclopedia of Fantasy theme entries when the barrel had been scraped dry and no one could think of any more illustrative works ... Further Examples Abound.

#13 ::: lucyp ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 10:47 AM:

There's a great post here on reused covers in historical fiction. Covers seem to be reused with alarming frequency in that genre:

Reused covers

#14 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 10:50 AM:

Umm, Joy Freeman @ 7: your link goes to

#15 ::: Joy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 11:05 AM:

Oops. Here's the link:

#16 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 11:12 AM:

Maybe Stein's books can be shelved next to Patterson's so she can sell an accidental bajillion copies.

#17 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 11:25 AM:

Stock art, PhotoShop, Poser and 3D models, expense minimizing, and follow-the-cover-fad memes.... the results are lots and lots and lots of look-alike covers. Even when not using the same stock images or pictures of the same scene (there are probably lots of stock or equivalent pictures of the same facades at Petra, for example) the same poses and the same body shape models in the same sorts of clothing, replicate....

And I suspect the stock image libraries do not list who the customers for the images are, there are lot of companies that want to keep information about what goes into their publications confidential (the images for example could go into internal reports not released to the public, or if an image is being used in a commercial publication, why let competitors find out before the publication....?)

#18 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 11:33 AM:

Mary Dell @ 9: Aha! I hadn't delved that far into the site. I'd just happened to have that image saved with his name on it, so I went, "Oh, I know who's work that is!" I'd only ever poked around it to look at the pretty pictures, heh.

#19 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 11:38 AM:

It made me kind of sad when this happened with Lifelode, even though it was perfectly legitimate.

My sympathy to Tammar Stein.

#20 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:04 PM:

I have seen this painting on so many book covers, Romantic-period music record jackets ... It's p.d., of course, but still ...

#21 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:54 PM:

The Patterson cover has less hair blowing around. That made it look like they derived from a common source, rather than the second use deriving from the Patterson, and it seems like that source has been found.

Almost certainly a "stock image" event. Indeed there's no way to find out, at least from the low-end places I've dealt with, who else has bought an image, or what they did with it. can sometimes help (in fact, it just showed me a third use for this image: it's also a CD cover), but it doesn't keep up with the web that well (it didn't find the Patterson for me).

#22 ::: Mary Arrr ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:58 PM:

J. Kingston Pierce keeps track of the trend in the mystery/crime world in Copycat Covers at The Rap Sheet blog.

I know authors care, but do publishers? Are the artists who made the covers annoyed to find that someone else used the same stock footage first? I've read some accusations that someone was "stealing" an earlier book's cover, but isn't using the same image libraries a more rational answer?

#23 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 01:24 PM:

The Patterson cover also has some buildings in the background, probably Photoshopped in.

#24 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 01:30 PM:

DBratman's linked picture looks like a guy from some Baltic state calmly watching the Atlantic breakers on the West coast of Ireland.

Several of them are killed that way every year, when the seventh wave comes in and breaks on top of them.

#25 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 02:11 PM:

SeanH said: I will have an entertaining morning trying to come up with a worse title for a novel than "Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment".

Good luck trying to come up with less stupid plotting ... The 'Maximum Ride' series are YA sequels reusing characters from a series of his adult 'thrillers' [BUT THEY ARE NOT SF, because they're THRILLERS!] starting with _The Lake House_ about a couple of adults who happen across two kids that were the subject of human genetic experimentation. The kids have usable wings and can fly ... and the girl is oviparous. And yet somehow (probably because they're 'thrillers' and not actual SF, whose readers CARE about that stuff) he not only borks up his science over and over, he refuses to follow through on the consequences of his premises, using the 'angelness' as mere set-dressing along the lines of having genetically blue hair or something.

See also the parallel read of Tom Hyman's _Jupiter's Daughter_ with Nancy Kress' "Beggars in Spain" series, both of whom deal with a process being developed that allows a rich and powerful few to engineer their children into non-sleep-needing superhumans, but then go in very different directions with them. Also, in just the most obvious howler, Tom Hyman thinks you can get a useful genetic sample off a CUT snippet of hair from the floor of a hairdresser.

#26 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 02:29 PM:

Elliott, 24: Thank you! I've been trying to figure out why "Maximum Ride" sounded familiar. My manga- and anime-loving teen girl students recommended the series to me. I never got around to reading them, though I did lend them Green Glass Sea. (Heh.)

If it's not worse than Twilight (or my generation's equivalent, Flowers in the Attic) I'll count it a win. They talked about the first few in the past tense, so I think that at 15 they'd already outgrown them.

#27 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 02:35 PM:

Another factor is that the rights holders for images want to get an much revenue per image as possible. There was a column by an artist whose name I can't think of at the moment in Locus years ago, about how he made lots more income from seconding licensing out use of his artwork, than from sales of the actual physical paintings and from commissioning of the work for first use as covers.

Food, shelter, other living expenses, kids' educations, retirement funds, etc., tend to be pragmatic issues pushig artists to license out their work as extensively as possible.

A friend who's in Brazil said that is someone want exclusive use of an image he's created, that person or organization is going to have to pay a LOT of money.

#28 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 03:30 PM:

SeanH: I think that the worst name of all time still belongs to Doctor Who's "The Deadly Assassin" (I should hope that deadly is the default state for an assassin). Or maybe the many iterations of "the ** of Death" (Robots, City, etc.) from the same series.

Or possibly to "Attack of the Clones".

But really, neither Maximum ride nor the Angel Experiment are quite so bad.

One amusing example of reuse of stock imagery in historicals came when Harlequin and another publisher both re-released Georgette Heyer novels in trade paperback with various roughly-Regency era paintings as covers -- so that I think there's not one, but two or three, cases where two books by the same author have the same cover...

#30 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 04:31 PM:

Some decades back, I was told that once the color plates for a cover had been made, they were a valuable trade item, and the same cover would appear on three different books from publishers in England, Germany, and the U.S., and then possibly elsewhere (and also in various British SF art books with "Alien Monsters" or "Spaceships of the Terran Empire" themes). I saw some of this re-use, though I forget the titles and authors.

As to vogueish themes, even further back I saw, on a rack of paperback books, a book by one publisher whose cover was a red handprint on black, and one by a different publisher whose cover was a blue handprint (of the opposite hand) on black. I could not resist moving them next to each other.

#31 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 04:34 PM:

Lenora Rose @27:

One amusing example of reuse of stock imagery in historicals came when Harlequin and another publisher both re-released Georgette Heyer novels in trade paperback with various roughly-Regency era paintings as covers.

I have seen the same (modern) cover painting that I have on Frederica re-used on a different Heyer book. I'm afraid I can't recall which one, because I dropped it, washed my hands, and strove to put the entire incident from my head.

It...bothered me.

#32 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 04:37 PM:

Now, I assert this based on no evidence whatsoever, save my dodgy memory, but the late (and dare I say it, great) Frank Frazetta created a number of paintings which graced an awful lot of the paperback F/SF of my youth...and I could swear that the same paintings popped up on more than one faded binding. (I'm looking at YOU, "Leapin' Lizards")...

#33 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 05:04 PM:

I seem to recall that a foreign edition of one of Diana Wynne Jones's novels was given a cover illustration originally created for The Lord of the Rings. Something makes me want to say that it was Hexwood, which admittedly does mention hobbits in the back cover blurb, though only in the context of pointing out that the story doesn't contain any.

#34 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 06:03 PM:

I must ask Diana. Something tells me that she may know ... and may also have a scabrous story or two about it all.

#35 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 06:26 PM:

I've seen the same image of a pilot's helmet/visor/oxygen-mask with different reflections in the visor, back in the Eighties, and fallible memory suggests one book was Dave Langford's The Space Eaters. (Googles: the 1987 Baen paperback. But what was the other?)

Another example is White Dwarf #55, which I've seen on two different paperbacks, UK and USA. Again, memory lets me down, but I think one use was a Dorsai novel/collection, one not. (Google and Wikipedia confirm that the artist is Les Edwards and the cover was for The Lost Dorsai.)

Different markets make a sort of sense.

#36 ::: Stephanie Leary ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 07:26 PM:

Lenora Rose @27, abi @30 -- You've seen the similarity between the Sourcebooks and Arrow reprints, yes?

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 09:51 PM:

I seem to remember a Frazetta cover being used for the French edition of someone like CJ Cherryh in the 1980s. Or maybe it was a Boris cover. Either way, the juxtaposition looked a tad incongruous.

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 10:26 PM:

Lenora Rose @ 27... Doctor Who (...) the many iterations of "the ** of Death"

...which were spoofed in "The Curse of Fatal Death"

The 17th Master: Say hello to the Spikes of Doom!
[the wall behind the Doctor and Emma turns around. When it turns back they are sitting on a couch]
The 9th Doctor: Say hello to the Sofa of Reasonable Comfort.

#40 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 04:51 AM:

#34 Dave Bell: Unsurprisingly, I know that one. The prior appearance in different form was the Asimov's cover for Lucius Shephard's "R&R".

I was happy enough to avoid a third repetition of the silly cover (garishly spacesuited man clutching luminiscent football, conceivably intended to represent a black hole) for which my UK editor apologized profusely and which then reappeared on the first US edition....

#41 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 08:08 AM:

Dave @39

As a sort of generic, the version on The Space Eater manages to be wrong in the usual generic way. And I don't know if it suits "R&R" any better. But it's not "naked blonde Honor Harrington" wrong.

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 08:16 AM:

My wife recently received copies of the Australian edition of one of her novels. The cover had been used elsewhere before - for another book of hers.

#43 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 12:13 PM:

Perusing the reused historical cover site, I couldn't help noticing the pair "The Captain's Wife," and "Mr. Emerson's Wife," right below one titled "The Fat Man's Daughter."

This trend really makes me want to publish a spoof called "The Male Professional's Female Relation."

#44 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 12:15 PM:

Or "The Seamstress's Son."

#45 ::: Nicholas Waller ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 12:35 PM:

re Dave Langford @ 12 - Dune/Stigmata doubling here.

The pic is very obviously Dunesque, with the ornithopters and all.

#46 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 02:21 PM:

"Also, in just the most obvious howler, Tom Hyman thinks you can get a useful genetic sample off a CUT snippet of hair from the floor of a hairdresser."

Okay, at the risk of sounding biologically illiterate (which in this instance I am), why not? Or is it just that you're quite likely to end up with the wrong person's hair?

#47 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 02:30 PM:

HelenS @46: my understanding is that you could get useful genetic material from a hair's root, but not from the shaft (which is dead). Others with more knowledge will undoubtedly reply in more detail. This will be a good thing, as then I will also know. :)

#48 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 04:25 PM:

Somewhere, somewhere I have a copy of the first edition of Larry Niven's "World of Ptavvs" (Ballantine, 1966) paired with a UK paperback of some August Derleth book ... both with the same cover art.

#49 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 06:39 PM:

According to, it is possible to get DNA information from hair shafts (but again, I don't know enough biology to know whether this is a good source):


It is obvious that PCR-based typing techniques offer several advantages compared with RFLP technology, such as increased robustness and sensitivity. The latter feature is critical in analyzing minimal amounts of DNA found in single hairs. According to our results, even the shaft portions of the hairs contain enough copies of both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA to be detected using PCR. For all hair shafts investigated, the amount of DNA extracted was sufficient enough not only to generate clean sequence data from both mtDNA hypervariable segments, but also to obtain full profiles using both multiplex STR systems employed. "

#50 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 08:10 PM:

Only one of these is a book cover, but I was interested to be sent a postcard of Carcassonne and notice that about two thirds of it had been copied onto the cover of The Curse of Chalion (UK edition).

#51 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 11:02 AM:

Perhaps we're headed to a 1984-esque situation wherein all books have the identical, perfect cover. At first, that perfect cover will change a little each year, but once the imperfections have been filtered out...

#52 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 11:11 AM:

HelenS @49: It is possible, yes, but nuclear and mitochondrial DNA are more expensive, more difficult, and there's minimal amounts in cut hair. With a hair follicle or root, you'd get enough DNA to run a general DNA test.

#53 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:07 PM:

HelenS, Ginger:

You can get DNA profiles in principle off even a single molecule, but as Ginger says it is expensive and difficult, and it is much more sensitive to contamination. Forensic genotyping tends to go for more robust and old-fashioned approaches, because it isn't enough to be right, you also have to be accepted by the courts.

On this tangent, it's now looking as if swamping your DNA traces with miscellaneous dust picked up on a bus or subway (Charlie Stross, and, IIRC, Greg Egan) won't work, at least with a large enough DNA sample. There's been a set of nice papers in PLoS Genetics showing that with sufficiently detailed measurements on a mixed sample you can tell with very high confidence whether the mixture includes a particular individual.

#54 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 01:24 PM:

FWIW, the Stein cover (with text) is interesting enough that it would get me to pick up the book and look at it. The Patterson... not so much.

#55 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 01:31 PM:

Thomas, from the sound of it, the DNA-hoover™ idea can still be used if the question is "Who was at the scene?" rather than "Was this person at the scene?"

#56 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 02:59 PM:

NelC: yes, the unmixing only works if you have a particular suspect or small pool of suspects.

#57 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 07:34 PM:

DBratman #20:

It's on Penguin's The Portable Nietzshe.

#58 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 11:51 AM:

Wait, DNA off a molecule? Doesn't that verge on homeopathy?

#59 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 12:27 PM:

HelenS @ 58: I suspect that the proper unpacking of that statement would be "can get a DNA profile off a single molecule of DNA"..we can use techniques to enhance the amount of DNA by copying the sample and then doing the profile. This requires strict attention to technique and detail to prevent contamination with other DNA.

#60 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 12:37 PM:

Ginger, HelenS:

Amplification? Yes and no. There are genuine single-molecule sequencing techniques (Pacific Biosciences sells them) that tether a single DNA polymerase molecule in a very small well and let it chug along a single DNA molecule, with fluorescent labels to show what the sequence is. (we really are living in the future).
This would let you see, for example, how the sequence differs cell by cell in a tumor sample, with each sequence being from one molecule rather than a smudged-up average.

On the other hand, you'd probably need at least thousands of molecules to get one reliably loaded into the well, and you would want to read several copies to reduce the error rate.

#61 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 04:01 PM:

Erik Nelson 57: Ah, yes, Nietzsche: the philosopher whose name is impossible to spell.

#62 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 05:07 PM:

Ichi nietzsche san shi go?

#63 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 05:27 PM:

Heresiarch @ 43

Being a Fat Man is a profession? Hmmm. I'm in the wrong line of business.

In any case didn't Audrey Niffenegger already parody this style of title?

(I have to say, though, I'd definitely buy a book called 'The Seamstress' Son'. Or 'The Abbess' Nephew')

#64 ::: L. Baird ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 09:41 AM:

For what it's worth, I've a manuscript in progress with a working title of The Dollmaker's Son. But since my projects are sometimes titled "thing" or "thing two" or "Blargh blahr blhaaaagh 2009 version" when they're in progress, there's no promise that the end result will keep the title. And in the case of things like Revenge of the Thing With the Birds Whoosywhatsit Take Six That's probably a good thing.

#65 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 10:57 AM:

L. Baird (64): I don't know; if I saw a book titled Revenge of the Thing With the Birds Whoosywhatsit Take Six, I'd at least pick it up to see what it was about. So that could work.

#66 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2010, 10:52 AM:

I've seen a copy of Harry Harrison's Technicolor Time Machine (image here) whose cover image was a mirror reversal of the "standard" paperback edition of Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

#67 ::: J. Wehmeyer ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 09:51 AM:

Apparently also used on a CD called "Saint-Saëns: Messe de Requiem; Partsongs" by the Swiss-Italian Radio Orchestra. Not to mention the book's title, intentionally or not, recycles that of Octavia Butler's best-known book.

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