Friday, July 31, 2009

Cover Wars: When Cover Art Goes Wrong

This week, I was shocked to read a post over at author Justine Larbalestier's blog ( ) about the problems the cover art for her novel LIAR has created.

Not only has the American cover art caused people to stop and go "hang on, this doesn't look like your main character," but has actually made legions of readers question her story itself.

The story is about a young black women with short hair who is a compulsive liar. Because of the white lady used in the cover art, readers have been asking Justine if her character was lying to them about her appearance throughout the story, changing its meaning and destracting them from what she intended.

Some have also written to say they find it offensive.

The reason given for the decision? BLACK COVERS DON'T SELL.

My question is.... what the Hell?! This is 2009. People actually say out loud to other people that they aren't going to put a black girl on a book cover because no one will read it?

I started thinking back on the books I've read that have black protagonists, and realized that almost none of them had a picture of the character on the cover. For example, Neil Gaiman's ANANSI BOYS features a sillouhette of the main character instead of showing him in the light.

This is so strange to me, it literally blew my mind this week.

How can publishers make a call about cover art that casts doubt on the intent of the author and puts her in a negative light?

I'm sure this wasn't anyone's intention, and that the publishing house wasn't intending to cause any harm. However, now that there are complaints and others besides the author are speaking out, it will be interesting to see what the response is.

What do you guys think about this?

What do you think the publisher's response should be?

Am I totally overreacting?

All I have to say is:

Have a great weekend!


Stephanie said...


Abby said...

I think, if I was the author, I'd be furious and want the covers reprinted with a cover more representative of the main character. I know that I often form an image based on cover art, and once that image is formed, it's hard to overcome it.

But, the book is getting A LOT of publicity because of this. So maybe there's a silver lining?

Rebecca Knight said...

I hope so :). I also hope with enough sales, maybe the 2nd edition or paperback can have a different cover.

I definitely use the cover to get a character image, too, so this would really throw me off for this book.

Interesting stuff!