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Covers and Diversity

There’s been a lot of controversy on the ‘net lately over the N. American cover of Justine Larbalestier’s LIAR. Controversy because the girl on the cover looks nothing like the way the main character is described in the book — particularly, she’s not black.

(LIAR’s N. American cover, and the Australian cover, for comparison)

I don’t think anyone’s discussed this more clearly or eloquently than the author herself, so I highly recommend you check out her post on the subject, if you haven’t already.

But I’d like to reiterate something said there, because I see misconceptions about this pop up all over the place: Most authors have little to no control over what their book covers look like.

I consider myself very lucky that my publisher liked one of the concept suggestions I gave them enough to use it when they designed the cover for GHOST; I consider myself lucky to have gotten a cover I love and most readers seem to, too. I have writer friends who’ve gone through all sorts of stress trying to get elements of their cover changed, often just to be told, “Too bad, we like it, it’s staying like this.” Or who’ve lost covers they loved because one influential person on the business side of things didn’t like it. And you know what? Most of the time that makes sense, because it’s the job of the sales and marketing people to figure out what kind of cover will best appeal to the book’s audience, not the author’s.

But I can’t express how upset I feel when I see people making comments like, “Well, the author must be okay with his/her book being white-washed, or s/he would have made them change the cover!” (I use dual pronouns because I’ve seen this sort of thing said many times, about many books.) Because it’s so far from the truth. Even Ursula Le Guin had, as she puts it, “endless trouble with cover art” for her Earthsea books. (The article is mostly about the miniseries, but she talks about covers further now.)

So please, if you’re offended by a cover, and what it leaves out or seems to advocate, let the publisher know! But don’t blame the author.

There’s also been a call for readers to read more diversely, to try stepping into the shoes of characters who are different in various ways. Justine has a series of awesome guest posts on the subject right now at her blog.

I’ve been making a conscious effort to read more authors of color and books with characters of color since the RaceFail discussions earlier this year. If you’d like to do the same, I highly recommend the LiveJournal community Writers of Color 50 Book Challenge, where people post reviews of/thoughts about books by POC. It works well for me because I like to hear a little about a book’s strengths and weaknesses before I decide whether to pick it up (something lists don’t help so much with), and I get to hear about great books all the time by watching the blog on my Friends list.

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Originally published at Megan Crewe - another world, not quite ours. You can comment here or there.



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 28th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
Good points :) Thanks for the link on the WOC 50 book challenge too.
Jul. 30th, 2009 02:23 am (UTC)
You're welcome! Hope you find many great books via it. :)
Jul. 29th, 2009 01:50 am (UTC)
I can't believe people would dog the author about the cover. I guess it's a huge misconception that the author has a say in the matter . . . but wouldn't it be nice if they did?

Thanks for all the links! Lots of great things to look at.
Jul. 30th, 2009 02:24 am (UTC)
Yeah, I'm surprised how many people believe authors have some sort of veto power over things like covers... I don't remember *ever* thinking that, even way before I got involved in the process myself. (Possibly these people also believe editors only correct your grammar and spelling? ;) )
Jul. 30th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
LOL Yeah, the probably believe that very thing about editors. =D
Jul. 29th, 2009 10:19 am (UTC)
Thank you for the link to the LJ community! I am now watching it. Lots of interesting reviews there.
Jul. 30th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
And there's quite a variety, too--children's, YA, adult, contemporary, spec fic, etc. It's been a great resource for me. :) Glad to share.
Jul. 29th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
This post really stunned me. After reading Justine's post I'm heartbroken. I'm an African American woman writing my first YA Urban Fantasy novel that features a 16 year old African American/Korean girl as the main character. One of the main reasons I'm writing it is because I wanted to write the kind of book that I wanted to read as a teen but couldn't find. I was looking forward to seeing a representation of my MC on the cover and having girls identify with her. It's heartbreaking to think that this might not happen. Thank you for sharing this post! I've had liar on pre-order forever and I never would've guessed the MC was black.
Jul. 30th, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
Keep the hope! There are many wonderful covers that do feature their main (not-white) characters accurately. Just among my Deb friends there's SHINE, COCONUT MOON and SILVER PHOENIX, for example. And I suspect the more people talk about it, the more POC we'll see on covers. :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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