Monday, July 20, 2009

This Week in Publisher Gossip: Untrustworthy Narrators and Publishers

Let's say you have a book told in first person. The narrator describes herself as black, with very short hair, and is mistaken for a boy early on in the book by teachers and fellow students.

The narrator is a compulsive liar, but unlike some of her other claims in the course of the novel, no doubt is ever cast on this description.
And the book is by an author whose protagonists are never white.

Now let's say you're Bloomsbury. Your books for ages 14-18 always have a photographic cover, but they don't always have a face on them. There are no minorities on their covers.

So what do you put on the cover of this book?

Here's the answer:
They're clearly very proud of themselves, since they also put this striking image on their catalog cover.

Well, I am appropriately stricken. And outraged, nauseous, flabbergasted... I wish I could say I can't imagine what they were thinking, but in fact I do have a guess. I just can't imagine why they thought no one would notice.

This is a very good book and an awesome author. But please, don't pay for Bloomsbury's book. Buy the Australian edition.
UPDATE: Bloomsbury has changed the cover! Yay!

100 comments:

literaticat said...

Wellll... it is still a tremendous book, even if the cover is distracting. (It is actually a GREAT cover - it just doesn't match the inside of the book!). Anyway, I'd never wish anyone not to buy it, I hope to sell a zillion copies of it at the bookstore.

This book deserves a HUGE audience!

*LOVE JUSTINE AND LIAR!*

(maybe they'll change the paperback?)

jjdebenedictis said...

*rage*

Lynz Pickles said...

Since I generally can't stand photographic covers - at least half the fun of reading comes from imagining characters and locations for myself, so don't take that away from me - I'm always amused when a company gets something wrong on one of them. I've seen many with the wrong colour hair or eyes, but this one wins by several miles. That poor author.

Lale G said...

1. That's just wrong.
2. When the 14-18 year olds do read it, they're going to be really, really confused. And annoyed.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Is that the narrator's BFF?

Ugh! Thanks for the other link.

Can someone please buy them a clue?

celi.a said...

I've seen a lot recently on this topic (mostly via twitter)...and just received a 'Sneak Peek' of Liar in the mail today, actually. Was similarly surprised and dismayed by cover art. What can they be thinking? It's confusing as he**.

castlewon said...

wow

talshannon said...

Wow, that cover was a huge spoiler for one of the most-anticipated books on my TBR pile. I think I'll take your advice and pick up a different edition.

Am said...

Reminds me of the old-school sci-fi covers I've seen. On Octavia Butler's (whose protagonist's are always black women) book 'Dawn', the original cover was a pale woman with long, blond hair. They corrected it in the next edition (or printing), but still. Completely incongruous with the actual story.

Whenever I see covers that don't match the description of the protagonist, especially if they're a minority, I feel like the publishers are assuming the readers are going to be racist and not pick up the book because it isn't some caucasion lead.

Ebony McKenna. said...

Wow.

While I like the hair forming a cross over her mouth, if the narrator is black . . yeah, I reckon people will notice they've put a rather pale girl on the cover.

And don't let the Australian price scare you. Factor in the exchange rate and it's quite reasonable.

sylvia said...

I'm somewhat surprised that the author isn't the least bit bothered:

The USian cover of Liar | Justine Larbalestier

Teh Awe-Some Sauce said...

Okay, I am appropriately outraged. There are few enough black protagonists in stories today, why would you make a cover that is completely confusing (and so very white)?

I'm not sure how others read, but if I got a book with a cover of a white girl and the protagonist said she was black, I would be so very confused.

Plus, the Austrailian cover is mas more awesomer, anyhow.

Livia said...

So the narrator actually is black, is that right? That's so weird.
My least favorite cover of all time is one edition of Ender's game that gave away the ending in the cover copy.

Anonymous said...

This is supposed to be a black girl with short hair?

She looks Asian.

I'd have loved to have been there when the author got her cover sent to her. I'm certain there was a resounding THUD on the floor from her collapsing at mock-ten.

There are bad covers and then there are BAD COVERS. Even if the MC wasn't the wrong ethnicity, I wouldn't be attracted to this cover because it looks creepy, no offense to the teen model -- I'm sure in her regular life she is cute as a button.

Christina Lee said...

Wow. that is just SHOCKING, and wrong!!!!!! I wonder what the author thinks...

Anonymous said...

Oh, and in going to the link for Bloomsbury's books, I find I don't like any of their covers -- the Shakespeare's daughter one looks like she's forty, not a teen.

I guess it's not so bad that Bloomsbury has rejected every ms of mine that has ever been sent to them... yeah, that's what I'll keep telling myself... I wouldn't like their cover anyway, so there!

Seriously, though, to do all that work, and invest all that energy and have someone F up your cover that badly. God. Ouch.

Maybe all the uproar will help sell the book, though, yes?

Brigid said...

I actually had to read your post twice, because I couldn't believe what I was reading. Wow. Just...wow.

Anonymous said...

I think its interesting that the author's latest blog post decries the very thing you suggest here - "white washing" for the sake of white washing and not because it is relevant or integral to the story. Don't you think if what you suggest were true, Justine Larbeleister - a writer of no small standing and clearly with strongly held views on the subject - would have convinced her publisher NOT to use this cover?

Maybe its just me, but racism is a pretty strong charge and I'm not sure your argument for it here holds enough water.

Anonymous said...

"Buy the Australian edition..." Uh, not for $22.99, I'm not. Thanks though. Then again, I wasn't going to buy it anyway... I'm tired of girl books, I only read boy books nowadays.


** I guess we can rule out EA being an editor for Bloomsbury, then?

Ghenet said...

All I can say is wow. And thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I think I have to agree. I'm utterly disgusted with the publisher's treatment of minority subjects and their editor's excessively narrow perspective on life.

Also noticed a lack of diversity at their ALA booth. The reps acted as if they could care less about people browsing at the booth.

This book cover only confirms what many of us suspected.

I won't be buying this book, or any other book published by Bloomsbury USA anymore. Too many other choices available from other publishers who aren't as clueless.

Guess marketing will get people talking about this book - but not in a good way. sigh. The author was not well served and should send her next work elsewhere.

shell said...

So much for the post-racial society.

literaticat said...

(AND, I should add - if one IS going to boycott a product, one should be sure to tell the company why... otherwise they'll just think sales are crap and it won't affect policy.)

Chris Eldin said...

Wow.
What a missed opportunity, on so many levels.
I am outraged as well.

But on a more superficial level, what kind of creativity is that? The setup is there for all sorts of cool covers. That was the best they could come up with?

There are too many stupids in this situation to list.

MattDel said...

You might be interested in Eric's discussion of book covers over at Pimp My Novel (http://pimpmynovel.blogspot.com/2009/07/judging-book-by-its-cover.html).

I agree though ... this is a really, really cruddy choice for Bloomsbury to make for this cover. Especially with such a clear description of the book's narrator.

chellej said...

Wow. This is sad. I don't care for the photographic covers anyway, but then I'm not the target demographic.

Word verification: allsic. No comment needed.

MotherReader said...

This has bothered me ever since I got the book, esp because I'm a Bloomsbury fan and liked the book very much.

There has been some talk that the cover is a clue that everything the girl says is a lie, but if that's the case then the book becomes almost unreadable. I mean, I'm all for the unreliable narrator thing - but there has to be something true to hang onto in a story.

In any case, I don't buy it. I think that they just put on a striking cover - which it is - without any regards to the character's color, race, or description. Boo.

Tan said...

How does this happen? Is it truly intentional, or did no one but a freelance editor actually read the manuscript? (Sometimes I'm sure that happens.) And even if a marketing department did skew the cover intentionally, doesn't the author usually get the chance to at least comment on the cover?

Whew, that's a lot of questions. But really, I'm confused.

Anonymous said...

totally agree - however not buying the book from Bloomsbury will punish the author more than the publisher. May be more productive to write directly to the publisher to complain so that they know.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it stinks...
But then, this type of thing has been around for years and not just in publishing. From a business perspective its no different than when record labels put white couples on albums that had African American singers. Someone in Bloomsbery's marketing department believes with a white face more books will sell. And also, the book is called Liar, so in a sense the cover is appropriate (in their minds)

There's very little AA representation in many genres (paranormal books, romance, comic books, scifi) so I'm glad you had the courage to put this type of thing on your blog. And also, when you don't see minority manyscripts come your way its not that we aren't trying to get to you. Just like the thought process behind the book Liar, its slow going for not only AA writers but for other minorities, especially in this economic downturn. I don't have the answer. I just keep writing, keep sending out my manuscripts and keep hope alive.

alize said...

Hmmm. Sounds like you "Need" to get a life.

Bevie said...

Looks to me like the cover is a lie.

When will people who make these kind of decisions realize that only they care about these things. The rest of us just like reading good books.

Anonymous said...

I guess we now know EA doesn't work for Bloomsbury. :)

But yes, this is HORRIBLE. Thanks for pointing it out.

Anonymous said...

And then there's this:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/21/AR2009072101771.html

Goodness me, but we are a racist society!

Delacroix

Terry Golson said...

I know an author who wrote a YA about an unattractive, dark-haired Jewish teen and the cover showed a gorgeous red head with freckles. I'm an author, and have made sure that my contracts specify that I have final say on the art (those were for my cookbooks.) For my picture book I held out for a clause that said I have final say on any commercial use of the images/characters.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Thanks for the link to the author's blog. I asked if she could help us understand what's going on with this cover. It is an awesome photo, but...

Anonymous said...

Umm... I'm sorry?

Can this strident voice for artistic integrity be the same EA who constantly tells us that 'publishing is a business'?

White girl = more sales. Not nice, but true.

A little hard to chime in on the outrage when Bloomsbury is making the kind of flatly commercial decision that we're always being told we should make when shaping our work.

Stephanie, PQW said...

Normally when there are so many comments, I elect not to leave one but I couldn't let this one go by. I thank and aplaud you for directing purchasers to the more representative cover.

As a writer of color I am not only flabergasted but I have to wonder if I should be insulted. The truth is there is a bias whether it's before or after the cash register I can't say. Regardless, it's one that must change.

I'm doing my best to be a part of that change by writing from my perspective (ie. characters (protagonist) of color. I run an internal debate on whether or not this will slow down my chances of getting published. But I have to try.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 9:33AM, I looked at her blog, and, while she was talking about something different, she said quite plainly that she is SICK of white washing and is actually boycotting a movie because of it.

This author is not Rowling or King. She has a few books under her belt, but she is not in a hugely significant place to overrule her publisher's cover choices. Unless she has cover approval instead of mere cover consultation, they can use whatever cover they choose, even if she objects.

And, it may just be the authors I read, but usually, even if it's not what they wanted, they'll say nice things about it. I mean, if she were to make a blog post saying, "Goodness, I hate this cover. Why can't people READ and understand that my narrarator is of a different race? I'm really unhappy with Bloomsbury right now" that wouldn't be the greatest publicity for her, nor would it make her publishers very happy. If I were any author, I wouldn't want to piss my publishers off. Would you?

All that said, Anon at 8:50 has a point. More people are likely to buy a book with a white girl on the cover than a girl of another race. As a matter of fact, sometimes books with people of different ethnicities get shelved in different sections of bookstores, making them even more difficult to find. So, from a marketing perspective, it makes a certain kind of sense.

That doesn't make it right, though. People won't stop selectively shelving these books unless more of them proudly display covers with minorities in the mainstream section of whatever their genre. That is if it's YA, it's in YA regardless of who is on the cover.

Laurel said...

Anon 8:50:

I am a heartless capitalist pig. I absolutely defend decisions that benefit the profitability of a company provided they do not cause harm to others.

This, however, is beyond the pale. (No pun intended.) If the marketing people believe that a black protagonist on the cover would hurt sales then they had many other choices. They could have chosen a cover with no image of the MC at all, for example.

As it is it seems they made a mercenary decision to "bait and switch" teen readers and propogate a standard that makes it even more difficult for authors who are trying to put some diversity out there for readers.

Maybe there isn't a bigger market for AA books because NOBODY IS MARKETING THEM! I don't want to hear any more tripe from publishing about the difficulty of finding AA work as long as this kind of crap continues. They're taking a righteous stance and cutting off at the knees the groups they purport to advocate.

Anonymous said...

Sylvia & Anon 9:33 - don't attack the AUTHOR for what the publisher decided to do. AUTHORS don't have a choice in the matter, ultimately - most publishers won't put cover *approval* in a contract, just cover *consultation.*

And hello, how can she badmouth it, even if she hates the cover? Would you want to spend two years of your life writing something, and then encourage people NOT to buy it? Would you publicly insult your editor, marketing dept, etc?

Sarah Laurenson said...

Justine says she did not have control over the cover. She suggests complaining to Bloomsbury directly. I tried to find an e-mail contact but have not had any luck yet.

Avery K. said...

Wow.
Apparently Bloomsbury doen't care much for minorities or sales.

Am said...

I'll admit, I had to look up what 'AA' stood for. For anyone out there as not-in-the-know as me: African-American.

Anyways. For those saying having non-white protagonists hurts sales, I'd really like some comparative numbers to back it up.

I read mostly sci-fi and fantasy, and over half the time the protagonists are all caucasion. For me, it's never seemed like that huge of a deal, because I don't really imagine the looks of a character when reading, unless they are focused on a lot.

Yet I'll admit, when I came across Octavia Butler's stuff, I realized I'd really been missing out. Maybe I was overcompensating or something, but I was way excited to have found both an AA (heh), female author who wrote science fiction, and characters who thought in ways I had never seen before.

And the thing is, when I went to find out if there was more stuff like her books, there was nothing. It's pretty new to have strong females in these genres, adding distinctly minority voices in the mix is apparently too much. It sucks, because I read these genres, and so many characters are just the same.

If I was excited to have found sci-fi with a clear African-American focus, I imagine people who actually *are* African-American would have found it a breath of fresh air. How can publishers expect to capture potential readers if there aren't a lot of characters they can identify with?

You can say having a minority on the cover or as a protagonist hurts sales all you want, but there are so few offerings of those perspectives, just one was a great find, for me. Leaving out a whole chunk of people as lead characters just makes new offerings more of the same.

Though I wonder: is creating characters who are 'diverse' (through race, or sexual orientation, or anything) just for the sake of being diverse, without any bearing on the plot, a bad thing?

Sorry for the rambling nature of the comment, this is an issue that has bothered me a lot.

sylvia said...

Excuse me? I expressed surprise (based on other posts she has made). That's neither a judgment nor an attack.

I added the link as I thought others would be interested in seeing what she had to say about the issue.

And unlike some, I signed it with my name. I think posting anonymously can make it too easy to attack...

Precie said...

Pardon me, but WTF? I haven't read Liar yet, but I really have to question that publisher's choices. Presumably there's no rule that the cover had to even show a person, much less one that seems so misleading and inappropriate.

This...the Henry Louis Gates thing...as another commenter said, post-racial world, indeed.

Emily Kokie said...

Two caveats:
1. I haven't read the book yet (to my great disappointment I was too late to grab an ARC at ALA); and,

2. Because I haven't read it yet, I am assuming that all those saying the cover is a whitwash and misleading have read the entire book and *know* the cover is a whitewash and misleading (from the post and comments it certainly appears so, but with a book called "Liar" I leave a little room for things not being what they seem until you've read the entire book).

With those two points made, yes, by all means, paper the publisher. Rant and rave. Shell out the little bit extra for the non-picture cover, or wait for the library edition or paperback.

But it's unfair to take the author to task for not bashing her own book. Regardless of her personal feelings, it would be very risky and potentially damaging to her book, career and reputation to publically express her displeasuer (assuming she has displeasure) with the cover.

IMO, asn author who publically bashes her own publisher over an editorial decision could really damage her professional reputation. That's a risk I'm not sure I'd take in similar circumstances.

So, by all means lambast the publisher, but it seems mean-spirited and wrong to bash the author for not bashing the publisher in public.

Maureen said...

I have read this book (in many drafts, as it developed, in fact). It is an EXCELLENT book.

I hope people understand that authors don't usually have much, if any, say in what gets put on the outside of the book. Those decisions are made by art departments and sales and marketing, etc. We aren't always in love with their choices. I speak from personal experience on this.

All we can do it make what goes on the inside as good as we possibly can--and what goes on the inside of this book is GOOD.

Katie said...

Justine Larbalestier frequently blogs about acceptance and tolerance and how the YA community can be a voice in those issues. I hope she was at least able to voice her disappointment in the final cover. And I hope maybe she discusses the issue a bit on her blog. At the moment, when people ask her about the cover she cuts and pastes the same message about contacting the publisher b/c she had no control. All of it makes me hesitant to buy the book. If EVERYTHING, including ethnicity, the MC talks about is a lie ... I don't think the story will appeal much to me. I need a sliver of truth to hold onto somewhere. The good to come out of this is that people are talking about these issues. And maybe Bloomsbury will realize their epic dumbness and not make the same mistake in the future.

Anonymous said...

This email for Bloomsbury is always listed in their YA ARCS.

Deb Shapiro
deb.shapiro@boomsburyusa.com

Anonymous said...

Sarah,

Here's Bloomsbury's contact info link:

http://www.bloomsburyusa.com/contact

Personally, I think the Publisher wants the controversy so that the book will sell more. Either way, someone will be soundly criticized or beautifully rewarded if the sales skyrocket due to the controversial cover. Unfortunately, the writer's talent may be the one thing that takes a back seat after all is said and done, and that would be a shame.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Thanks for the contact info.

Given all the discussion and a lot of thought, I believe the concept of the cover being a lie on a book called Liar is rather interesting. Or perhaps introducing the idea that the narrator might be lying about her own description even though it's not stated in the book.

However, racism is far from dead in this country. Though this might be a cool idea when divorced from the emotional response surrounding racism, it's time has not yet come.

Actions are examined in the light of 'are they racist' and unfortunately, I think that has to happen because there is still so much racism here.

Would that we all were color blind and cool ideas were just cool ideas (if this was meant to be a cool idea). *sigh* We may never know.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:50 am
"You can say having a minority on the cover or as a protagonist hurts sales all you want, but there are so few offerings of those perspectives, just one was a great find, for me."

If this has been your experience, this blog was meant for you:
http://welcomewhitefolks.blogspot.com/

behlerblog said...

As an editor, nothing can awaken me in the middle of the night screaming maniacally other than dreaming we blew the cover art. The cover is the reflective soul of the content and, though no one likes to admit it, EVERYONE judges a book by its cover. I'd hate to be the art director at Bloomsbury right now.

Anonymous said...

"This author is not Rowling or King. She has a few books under her belt, but she is not in a hugely significant place to overrule her publisher's cover choices. Unless she has cover approval instead of mere cover consultation, they can use whatever cover they choose, even if she objects.

And, it may just be the authors I read, but usually, even if it's not what they wanted, they'll say nice things about it. I mean, if she were to make a blog post saying, "Goodness, I hate this cover. Why can't people READ and understand that my narrarator is of a different race? I'm really unhappy with Bloomsbury right now" "



You know, I both agree and disagree with this:

I totally agree that an author bashing her publisher is not helpful. BUT what's also not helpful (AT ALL!!!! IN BIG CAPS!!!!) is the notion that we writes must hush up when the publisher makes a largish, racial misrepresentation in order to boost sales.

This sort of thing must stop.

And I also quite agree that we are not at all privvy to the back and forth that (I imagine) when on between JL and Bloomsbury. But I do know that Justine is a woman of integrity and honesty. And I'll bet my bottom dollar she protested. Quite a bit.

For instance:

Notice that her language is quite careful in her blog entry of April introducing the cover; she points out how the librarians et al loved the cover and how she hopes it flys off the shelf.

Nowhere does she squeal: "I love it! I adore it! It makes me all squee inside because it's exactly how I pictured it!"

On the other hand, a carefully worded public statement acknowledging that times is tough and Bloomsbury is doing the best they can with the modest euqipment the Lord has given them whilst expressing some sort of disappointment that um yeah, the pretty white girl wins again and that's kind of disheartening would not be amiss.

Delacroix

Anonymous said...

I was actually quite shocked by reading some comments--I feel as though people are missing the entire point.

The book is called LIAR.
It's an unreliable narrator.
It makes sense to have a cover that completely contradicts the content.

It's like having the Ultimate unreliable narrator.

Bitterly Books said...

Is it possible that Bloomsbury flinched at the idea of an African American face paired with the larger-than-life word LIAR?

In that case, wouldn't there be people ready to stand up and shout about inciting racism by suggesting that black people are liars?

lynnekelly said...

Here's the author's most recent response:

http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/23/aint-that-a-shame/

Anonymous said...

Sigh...
Right now, the current "IT" girl is Megan Fox. Females are bombarded daily with messages that we aren't skinny enough, pretty enough, young enough...and for minorities to constantly be reminded that Angelina or Megan or some other chick is "Hawt" because of their sharp features, long silky hair, etc...etc.

We get it, we get it. Only Halle Berry and JLo and Jessica Alba meet the standards set forth by whoever decides that minoriy females need to look like these ladies to be included in the hotness meter and on the cover of People magazine.
I can't tell you how many posts I've seen getting downright crude on Michelle Obama's looks and AA heritage. I shudder at who might be on the other end of the keyboard spewing such venom. I've even seen posts talking about the kid's features. It makes my skin crawl, and the only reason the posters who press the send button on their hatred give is because of the first family's race.
And now, in 2009 Bloomsbury puts out a cover that screams of a minority protagonist who wants to be a white girl. I kinda think the big whigs who okayed this don't get it, won't get it, and probably didn't run it by any minorities to find out what they might have thought about it. I'd love to be a fly on the wall to see just how diverse Bloomsbury USA's art and marketing department is.
Oh, but wait, what they'll probably say is, "but that's the point, the protag is black and she's a liar and she pretends to be white because she doesn't like who she is. This is who she wants to be and how she wants the world to see her. Now can't we all just get along?"
AAGGGH!!! My heart goes out to the author for the boneheaded decision of her US publisher.

mb said...

Go back now and read Justine's blog -- she addresses the issue head-on.

Stephanie Leary said...

Justine has posted her thoughts on the cover.

Terry donaldson said...

Well maybe, the editors didn't want a backlash of the impression a first glance of a cover with a black person and the title LIAR would leave. Probably not, but Maybe. Sometimes you have to tip toe around stuff like that so as not to make waves in the other direction.
But if that was the case, I wouldn't have gone with a photo at all. So they're still really stupid.

Jess Haines said...

Yikes!

I've seen the like before, but never quite this bad. Goodness.

Anonymous said...

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6672790.html?nid=2788&source=link&rid=1379289330

talshannon said...

After reading your blog and then Justine's, I ended up writing up my own opinion on my blog, which can be summed up in one sentence: The current generation doesn't give a crap about the racial biases of the old generation, so maybe it's time the publishing industry woke up and realized that.

Ellie said...

Same thing happened to Chris Crutcher's book, Whale Talk. The protagonist is African American, Japanese and white. But he is not on the cover, instead a minor white character is shown, running away. And that's what these publishere are doing. How long will authors stand for stupid. racist attitudes from the big houses? Not buying their lie about the cover being just right for a girl who lies. It's not a book about someone passing for white. Just how stupid do they think we are?

How many years ago was it that all we saw on TV were white people? Well, this white person thinks the publishing companies should crank it up a notch and get a clue. My regrets to the author, but I won't be buying this one.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

The fact is, publishers create the covers they think are best, for whatever reason. The first cover for my novel ANGEL'S CHOICE featured a distinctly blond girl. It was only changed because a competing publisher had bought the same photo. The second cover had a brown-haired girl. In fact, neither cover is correct. Angel Hansen has black hair. This is just one example of the sort of stuff that happens. And I've had many other covers that didn't accurately represent the work, mostly in terms of tone. (Note: I do love some of my covers, just not all of them.) All that said, I've been attracted to the idea of Justine L's book ever since I first heard about it, can't wait to read it, and love the cover: for me, it only underscores the theme of the book.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sad. Sad for Bloomsbury. Sad for Melanie Cecka. And sad for our country.

I used to think highly about all three.

Anonymous said...

I dunno.

It has a print run of 100,000 copies.

As in ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND FUCKING copies. So, gee, I think the publisher, as misguided as it may be, are trying to protect their investment as best they know how. Why didn't they use a non-face cover, and avoid the entire mess? I haven't a clue. Too bad on their part.

But for people to assume that the pub is somehow conspiring against the author or her book seems a bit overwrought. A HUNDRED THOUSAND MOTHERFUCKING COPIES sort of proves that they believe in the book, yes?

Most authors don't get a choice in covers. It's unfortunate the author doesn't like hers. Could it have been better handled? Yep. It wasn't. Get over it.

Also, I can't help but to think that there must be a lot of AA authors that have fought to have thier own covers NOT overtly portray race -- in order to not have thier books pegged as "AA books" but simply "BOOKS." I wonder what some of them are thinking right now?

Anonymous said...

Lauren Baratz-Logsted - I may be missing your point. Has your Angel Hansen character ever been portrayed as black on the covers of your book. I’ve change my hair color many time over the last few years, but never my skin color. I agree that publishers create the covers they think are best, but is it not sad that what they think is best is dismissing images of people who look like me.

Color Online said...

As a AA reader, I'll tell you what I'm thinking. Cecka response was bullshit and added to the initial insult of the cover.

As a blogger who routinely feels ignored or gets comments like, "I never heard of the book/author before" on all books I spotlight with black models, I know the publisher firmly believes white readers won't read books with black faces.

Of course, that is also in part because many white readers mistakenly believe if the character is black or the writer is black, the book is only for black readers. ArGGGGGGGGGG!

Newsflash: Just because the protag is brown doesn't mean the book is about race. But let's say race is a factor. Neither readers nor publishers assume that I can't relate to a character who doesn't look like me so why isn't the same true for you?

To the sci-fi reader, there are a lot of POC sci-fi readers. We recently hosted a meme on POC in sci-fi. Come by and discover more writers to read.

Let's call a spade a spade. The sooner we can honestly talk about race the sooner we can dismantle the barriers.

And white people, please stop asking when we can be colorblind? Personally, I don't have a problem with race. I don't reject you based on race and I'd like you to see my blackness and be all right with it.

If I don't like someone it's not because of their race, it's because of who they are- an asshole and those come in all colors.

Anonymous said...

I hate to break it to you anonymous but no way is the print run of that book 100,000. I'd be amazed if it was as much as 20,000. One thing publisher never tell the truth about is print runs.

Ameya said...

I love the people who don't see this as a problem. I wonder if they are mostly white? Privilege is incredibly blinding.

Sucks for the author, because I wouldn't give that publisher any money. I'd buy the Australian cover.

I don't know how they expect young AA people to see that cover and think anything other than "oh, afraid a black girl wont sell your books? Are we not goode enough to be on your cover?" & not buy it. That was an incredibly dumb and offensive thing to do on their part. Ughhhhh.

Personally I'd be more likely to pick up a book if it had a picture of a character of a different ethnicity (PS, i am the mightest sinner... i totally judge books by their covers D: ) I crave POVs from people who I haven't heard from 80 billion times.

Anonymous said...

"I hate to break it to you anonymous but no way is the print run of that book 100,000. I'd be amazed if it was as much as 20,000. One thing publisher never tell the truth about is print runs."

Hee!

Soooooo what the cover really is? Is a composite photo? Of the Bloomsbury editor/publicist/marketing team? Talking to Publisher's Weekly? About print runs? For LIAR?

Del

Anonymous said...

A picture of a black person ”overtly portray[s] race,” but a picture of a white person does not? Anonymous "get over it" please explain. Books with AA characters and/or authors are simply books. My guess is, they are wondering when, if ever, they will be treated as such (without a white wash or banishment).

Anonymous said...

For all comments about how you may feel about this cover and ARC...you can contact their publicity director, Deb Shapiro...
DEB.SHAPIRO@BLOOMSBURY.COM

ladydisdain said...

I don't think the cover is distracting, I think the cover is dishonest. Misguided. Wrong. I won't be buying it for my department, and I won't be buying it for myself. I'll order extra HOW TO DITCH YOUR FAIRY paperbacks to try to make up for some of that, as it's not JL's fault, but my overall Bloomsbury order is going to be even smaller than it usually is.

Anonymous said...

"I love the people who don't see this as a problem. I wonder if they are mostly white? Privilege is incredibly blinding."

Wow. Just, wow.

That's a racist remark if I ever heard one.

Proof that people of all races can be racists.

I'm a white public aid lawyer. I came from poverty and grew up in the projects. However, I'm a white male, so even though I was raised by a single mother and quite poor, I didn't get the same scholarships that the black kids next door got.

That's okay, though. I'm fine with that, and I have chosen to dedicate my life and career to offering free legal assistance to poor people. I make $34,000 a year while many of my classmates who went into private fims make six figures. That was my choice and I love my job.

For what it's worth, I also married a Mexican immigrant.

But I suppose I'm a racist, being a "privileged" white male.

Give me a break.

Being a white man and a lawyer, I get racist remarks thrown at me constantly by my clients. But I guess that doesn't count as racism, does it?

Taste Life Twice said...

I blogged about this too. It is just not okay.

sylvia said...

Proof that people of all races can be racists.

Obviously, they can.

However, the issue is one of privilege. I can't think of a single instance where a white character is portrayed as black on the cover. This is, currently, not a problem that happens. Does that help you to see the perspective?

Anonymous said...

What white people want white people get. The publishing industry is owned and run by white people, and putting black models on book covers is something that's difficult for them. Hell, selling books with black protags is already hard enough for them.

This system will never change. The book industry has been falling apart due to its old system of selling books to booksellers, people have complained, and they're doing nothing about it. What makes you think they'll listen to you and suddenly change their stance on having the faces of black people on their contemporary novels, whether or not these novels feature black protags?

Lexy said...

Anon @6:55:

racism = privilege + power

Take a guess as to who meets those criteria -- white people or people of color?

Anyone can be racially bigoted, and it's sad that bigotry exists in any skin color. But white people hold the institutional power, the centuries of having all of the advantages of colonialism, imperialism, and control of the history books. Only white people have the power to be institutionally racist.

This may not be the dictionary definition, but it is the academic, anti-racist, and progressive definition of racism. Pointing out that white privilege blinds white people to how their own advantages *come at the expense of everyone else* is NOT racist.

christine tripp said...

Being a white man and a lawyer, I get racist remarks thrown at me constantly by my clients. But I guess that doesn't count as racism, does it?


Nope, not really. Can you honestly say that any racial comments directed to you for being white hurt you to the core and cause you to feel like less of a person? I doubt that.
The difference is right here, in the topic of this blog. Your race (my race) is the "accepted" race for something like a book cover. Seems trivial but it's really not. It speaks to our attitudes still, regarding persons of colour.
Perhaps some day being poor and white will be the same as being poor and black, I truely hope it will be in my life time but it's not there yet.

Anonymous said...

Wow. All these posts.

This point won't matter in the long haul, but my reasoning has gone back and forth. First I was sorry for the author. Then I thought Bloomsbury was kind of an ass. Then I thought, well, hell, they are trying to look out for their lead title book. They'd like sales. Since more people are white than black in this country, maybe white covers do have a better chance at selling?

And now I'm worn out and I think that if I ever get an agent and get published, I'd love for my book to create such controversy. At some level, all this passion being flung at the book has to be even better than getting your book banned. People are going to read it "just because" now.

A read one blog where people were also calling foul on John Green's covers, because they had male narrators, but the covers were girls. Huh?

Oy. Notwithstanding, I'd be interested to see if this same outrage would be so strong if the author HERSELF were black? In some ways, it still seems like two white people (the author and Bloomsbury being the "people") arguing race, when neither one of them lives or understands the issue.

(by the way, I'm white.)

Anonymous said...

This topic is probably over, now. But I wanted to call attention to this, EA, when you said:

EA's Quote: "...But please, don't pay for Bloomsbury's book..."

As an editor it is perfectly fine for you to have an opinion. But as an editor (for what I'm assuming is a rival company) I think less of you for saying this.

Suppose a book designer at your pub house does a cover someone opposes -- that she thinks is okay, or will help the book get sales -- but for any number of reasons, someone takes offence. Do you really want the fire brought down on her head? Would you want YOUR pub house to suffer by other editors telling the public not to buy the book?

This seems childish.

I just read a sucky hardcover YA from a large house. Though the book itself was fine, the editing was clearly, clearly crap. Should I start an online media frenzy telling everyone not to buy the book? Chastize the editor (who by all accounts was probably trying to do her best). What if YOU edited that book?

Anonymous said...

I want to add a view from a person, from a group that I don't believe we've heard from in this blog yet, a YA reader who is black. I am adding a web address, for those intrested, to read just how this very issue has effected this young persons life.

http://blackteensread2.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2009-07-25T18%3A27%3A00-05%3A00&max-results=3

If this is best we as adults can do for our YA readers (ALL OF THEM) then shame on us!
This review also appears on the site.
"Review of When the Black Girl Sings by Bill Wright
There are two covers, I have the 2nd one (with just the butterflies). Which one do you like better? Personally I like the 1st one better, I hope everyone buys the book, but especially if it has the first cover on it. As a big "Take that!" to Bloomsbury publishing, to show that books with black girls on them sell just as well (if not better if given the chance) than books with white girls on the cover." The review continues on the site.

Lexy said...

Anonymous @ 12:22 p.m.:

Well, I think *more* of EA for having some actual ethics and a sense of morality.

EA is NOT advocating that people refuse to buy all Bloomsbury books, nor is EA advocating that consumers not buy the book.

EA's simply advocating that people buy the Australian version, where the sales & marketing departments were at least savvy, if not politically correct, and made a cover without a face on it.

Your argument is a straw man argument. Comparing crappy editing to racism is both derailing and insulting.

Here, have some links.

Derailing for Dummies

Sparkymonster's Racism 101 Collection

Racism and Certainty

Lexy said...

What if YOU edited that book?

What if YOU were a child of color and had to see bookstore after bookstore, cover after cover, page after page, person after person reinforce the idea that you are ugly, The Other, someone less than human who needs to be ashamed of who they are?

Anonymous said...

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack “I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group” - Peggy McIntosh
As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into... frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions. (Out of her list of 50) 6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented. 7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is. 8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race. 9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege. 26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

SleepyJohn said...

Isn't the story supposed to be about a girl who is not what she seems?

Anonymous said...

“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group”

Well, the version of that concept on racism is almost correct. Though there're white people exception to racism, the rule has it that majority of whites are purely racist indeed. It should be noted though, scarcely will you find any white individual apt to defy racism, and why is that so? Why haven't non racial whites curse racism for the ignorance that it really is, and pose question "why equality not good for everyone?" Especially when they're chief to evangelized Jesus Christ and his saving love. It must be bogus indeed!

Anonymous said...

“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group”

Well, the version of that concept on racism is almost correct. Though there're white people exception to racism, the rule has it that majority of whites are purely racist indeed. It should be noted though, scarcely will you find any white individual apt to defy racism, and why is that so? Why haven't non racial whites curse racism for the ignorance that it really is, and pose question "why equality not good for everyone?" Especially when they're chief to evangelized Jesus Christ and his saving love. It must be bogus indeed!

estelle said...

Late comment, but thought I would ask/suggest a change of Australian buyer link, as the CEO of the bookstore you've linked is supporting a change of copyright law that will adversely affect the Australian publishing industry. Info if you're interested: http://www.ausbooks.com.au/

Readings is a independent bookstore which ships overseas: http://www.readings.com.au/product/9781741758726/liar

Vocassa said...

My name is VC stone. I am the African-American author of Nandi and the renewal of Serenity (http://www.amazon.com/Nandi-Serenity-V-C-Stone/dp/1440465207).
It a sick, racist gimmick! As a black person... and like many Blacks... first we are tired of white authors writing about us in fiction and now we have this! A white author writing about a Black girl whose book cover has a WHITE CHILD face on it! This is nothing but true HIDDEN RACISM. The worst kind! And of course many of you white people will say it's cover is beautiful. Reverse it...a Black author writing about a White child and the cover has a Black child's face on it! You would not like and probably would not buy it!

Vc Stone said...

My name is VC stone. I am the African-American author of Nandi and the Renewal of Serenity -Amazon.
It a sick, racist gimmick! As a black person and like Blacks first we are tired of white authors writing about us in fiction and now we have this! A white author writing about a Black girl whose book cover has a WHITE CHILD face on it! This is nothing but true HIDDEN RACISM. The worst kind! And of course many of you white people will say it's cove is beautiful. Reverse...a Black author writing about a White child and the cover has a Black child's face on it! You would not like and probably would not buy it!

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