Mid 2016 in review: The top 10 requests from book publishers

The Arcangel sales team continually gathers feedback from our core clients in the book publishing sector about what they are looking for in photography, what they struggle to find from libraries, and which genres are the most popular. We reported on the trends we spotted during 2015, and as we’re now halfway through 2016 we’ve revisited the list to bring it up to date!
This is what the people who buy and work with our images are telling us they want, and may be worth keeping in mind if you’re preparing a shoot.

Here’s the countdown…

10. Using different models, and considering ‘series potential’ within shoots. Publishers often pointed out that the potential value of a shoot greatly increases when they can use different takes on the same character. This might mean shooting a model with their hair up and down, or with jackets, gloves and hats on and off, for example. This means the same character can be visualised in different scenarios, or at different times of year. The other side to this is that publishers need to see different models for different projects, and find it frustrating when a competitor’s cover features a model they have used themselves. It might be a completely different setting or scenario, but repeated shoots with the same model will be noticed by publishers (and readers).

9. People interacting with animals and pets. Human / animal relationships can be highly evocative concepts, symbolising deep personal bonds as well as our wider relationships with nature. Many classic children’s stories feature beloved pets, but last year’s critically-acclaimed ‘H Is For Hawk’ showed the possibilities in the realms of memoir and non-fiction.

8. Medieval objects and weapons. This is an established favourite but one we are asked about again and again! Designs for historical fiction covers frequently turn on  weapons and objects such as swords, helmets, shields, bows, horns, thrones, and goblets. Jewellery – medallions, crowns, rings, rosaries – is also popular, as are costume details like gloves, buckles, belts and hoods.

7. Modern military and special forces. This is a specialist niche but there is demand for images of soldiers from post-WW2 conflicts, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. As might be expected the requirement is usually for a tough, convincing soldier. Authenticity is key in terms of uniforms, weapons and insignia.

6. Contemporary couples. This is a broad category but publishers often tell us how hard it is to find convincing, spontaneous and natural-looking couples. It could be people in casual jeans and shirts, or tuxedos and cocktail dresses, but the vital element is a sense of chemistry and believability.

5. The Sixties and Seventies. Different decades come in and out of fashion, but currently the trend is towards the sixties and seventies. Characters with appropriate clothes, hairstyles and make-up are of course central to this, especially ordinary, authentic people rather than cliches such as hippies. Indoor scenes with period decor are also needed, picking up details like wallpaper, wood furniture or wall-to-wall carpet.

4. US locations. This is another ongoing trend, especially for US publishers but also elsewhere. In particular there is demand for suburban scenes – residential avenues, sidewalks, front yards and porches.We’ve also heard that publishers want to see more large houses and period properties from the USA – brownstone buildings from the North-East, for example, or a property that could be imagined as a Southern plantation.

3. Glamorous retro-style photos of women. In literary fiction there is a marked trend towards glamorous female portraits with a 1950s or 1960s feel, reminiscent of classic movie stills of Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn, and using costume features like headscarves and sunglasses. In many cases publishers will be reworking genuine vintage photography, but new photoshoots in black & white, or colour treated to match authentic period photos, would be welcomed by our customers.

2. Regency characters and locations. This is a very popular period, especially in women’s fiction and romance publishing, and is always in demand for ongoing series and sagas; period classics such as Austen and Bronte are also regularly updated and republished around the world. We’ve seen new Regency images sell within days of upload in some cases, and there are no signs of its popularity abating.

1. Psychological thrillers. Also known as ‘grip-lit’, these stories often feature secrets, plot twists and unreliable narrators. This has been an enduringly popular trend for two or three years and we are still seeing demand for images that suggest subtle disturbance in an ordinary setting. Domestic objects out of place or broken are a popular concept, as are messy rooms, tables with leftovers, unmade beds, overturned furniture…Getting just the right feel is a challenge as the concept usually stops short of outright horror – we’re usually told that bloodstains, broken windows and dilapidated houses are too direct and not appropriate for the genre.


We hope this is useful guidance – we look forward to growing our collection with even more great photography in the next months.

-Featured Image: Buffy Cooper AA1220093