The challenge is that thousands of other authors can buy that exact same image.
Are stock images therefore worth it?
One advantage of stock images are that they are CHEAP. You don't have to pay an illustrator or photographer $200 or more to craft your image. You can just page through the catalogues of stock images and see if something there will do the job. For example, for my Proposal short story I didn't need anything special. I just needed an image of a diamond ring. $3 later I had the image, my cover was set, and I was happy. Is someone else going to write a book featuring this exact diamond ring on its cover? I suppose they might, but the chances of them using my exact font and layout are probably pretty slim. So the chances of our books getting confused (or even found by the same reader) are low.
The problem gets trickier when you choose a cover that is quite specific to a sub-genre. For example, I write a medieval romance series and my covers feature couples in medieval garb. There just aren't that many of those stock photos out there. For my book Finding Peace I loved this combination.
Unfortunately, so did another author of medieval romance. A short while after I posted my new cover for Finding Peace, she changed her own book's cover with a nearly identical one to mine - even with similar font and medallion. It's a risk one takes with stock photos. The alternative is to hire professional models, get them costumes, and have a photo shoot done. That can be a fairly pricey process.
One way to handle this issue is to collage together several images. The chance of another author using those exact same images in combination is slim to none. So for this one I had one image of a man, one of a woman, and one of a tower. The combination of the three is going to be fairly unique to me.
In the end, every cover is temporary. It will be replaced in time as styles change. So do the best you can with the cover for now. If you have to change it, life goes on!
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