Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, totally worn out and screaming,
"WOO HOO, what a ride!"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

So, I was just wondering…

woman wondering

I have always been fascinated by book covers. I love to draw and I earned my bachelor degree in graphic design. Although I didn’t get much use out my degree as a career (I worked in a custom framing shop for 3 years and then was a gym teacher for 10 years) I have always enjoyed it as a hobby. I would never buy a book because of it’s cover but they attract my attention every time. It’s always interesting to learn how a cover comes about and it surprised me when I first heard how little influence an author usually has in the decision making process. Sometimes this presents a problem when it doesn’t match the story being told.

Recently, there’s been another cover change in the world of YA books. Here is a brief description from an article at 

Bloomsbury USA's decision to feature a white girl on the cover of Jaclyn Dolamore's debut novel Magic Under Glass, which stars a dark-skinned heroine, has sparked controversy across the internet and accusations of "white-washing", just five months after the same publisher was forced to back down over a similar controversy.

Magic Under Glass, a young adult novel, is the story of a "foreign" music hall girl, Nimira, hired by a sorcerer to sing with a piano-playing automaton. But she finds that a fairy has been trapped inside the clockwork automaton, and the two fall in love. Although Dolamore's heroine is described in the book as black-haired and brown-skinned – and the official trailer for the novel shows her as such – the cover chosen by Bloomsbury USA Children's Books shows a white, brown-haired girl. The choice has provoked outrage from bloggers and commentators, particularly following the publisher's decision (later reversed) last year to feature a white girl on the cover of Justine Larbalestier's novel Liar, about a black girl.

I haven’t read these books yet but I’ve seen both of the covers and followed posts about these issues from The Shady Glade, MotherReader,  a teen blogger at Reading In Color and many other sources. They all include links to even more information. If you haven’t heard about this yet check it out. I wasn’t aware of any of this myself until recently.

So, I was just wondering what do you think of this? Were you familiar with the issue of “white-washing”? And as for covers in general, do they affect your decision when choosing a book? Do you care what the cover looks like and is there anything that attracts you or annoys you? I’ve combined the issues a bit here but it all comes back to covers. Comment on whatever you like but I’d  love to hear from you! And if you can think of any covers that stand out for you, good or bad, mention those too.


  1. I've become aware of whitewashing because of the covers you mentioned and I think it's horrific! I do admit to being drawn in by a good cover and turned off by a bad one, but the color of the model's skin doesn't affect whether the cover is good or bad.

  2. Before the book "Liar" I wasn't aware of "white-washing". Then again before the world of book blogging, I wasn't aware authors had little say in their covers.

    What bugs me most is when a cover doesn't depict the feel of the well. i.e. the main character is a blond and the character on the cover is a red head or brunette. Stuff like that drives me up the wall.

  3. I never decide whether to read a book or not based on its cover, but once I do get a book with an aesthetically-unappealing cover, I might keep putting that book off. But that doesn't apply to situations where the model on the cover doesn't look good, or "fair", but rather only where the cover doesn't just make sense, or doesn't look like good artwork to me.

    That said, I don't see how putting a white person on a cover enhances its reading appeal. We are readers. Readers read not drool on the cover. If some publishing company puts wrong impressions on a book's cover, it will definitely enrage readers because after reading a book, we close it and stare at the cover for a while thinking of the story. And if I see an ambulatory model in a book about physically-challenged people, or a male model on a book centered on a woman, or a skinny model on a book about a girl struggling with her weight, or a white model on a book whose principal character is a person of color, or even vice-versa, how can it not create an uneasy feeling on our mind? So who is this book being designed for, I keep wondering? If the readers are protesting against white-washing, why would Bloomsbury put wrong covers on a book? Who are they targeting? Those who buy books just to store the covers but not to read? I surely hope this is the last we hear of the white-washing business, or any such injustices.

    Nice thought-provoking question!

  4. How many covers depict the main character in a light other than what you see in your brain when you read it?

    Girl In The Arena shows a girl with flowing hair, but the MC is bald... I probabaly wouldn't have even looked at the book if I knew going in that the MC was bald. I'm just being honest.

    I am glad that people demanded accuracy and got Bloomsbury to do a new cover, but also think that the accuracy of a cover's art is not important. It's marketing. If you want to read the book because you read the blurb, rarely is the cover going to stop you. And if you saw a girl on the cover and it intrigued you and made you read the blurb, then the cover did its job, and it's job is finished.

    That's just what I think.

  5. I've heard about this.
    It bothers me but it's not a deal breaker.

  6. The cover doesn't affect what I think of a book...once I've read it. I have to admit that, if I'm honest with myself, I will pick up a book because it LOOKS appealing. What makes it look appealing? The cover.

    It doesn't have to be a person or anything, just the way the words are displayed or something can appeal to me.

    I will find myself a bit annoyed when the person on the cover doesn't depict the actual character in the book; but this is more because it throws my mind off. I find myself getting the written image mixed with the visual image when it plays out in my imagination.

    Like I Heart Monster said, "it's marketing". Unfortunately we are human and we see with our eyes and judge off that first...most of the time. I mean, unless someone has said, "oh this is a good book you have to read it" how else am I to choose with the billions of choices out there?

  7. Hmm.. I'd never heard of this.. but yeah, the cover does make a difference and not the color of the model on it.. I like bright, beautiful covers.. I don't care if there isn't a face on it!
    I like the point you've brought up.. thought provoking.

  8. Well, since I'd been a privileged white woman, I hadn't really noticed the white-washing that much. I never really looked much at covers, anyway, as I'm part of the "Don't judge a book by it's cover" crowd. Mags, being Asian, has made me a bit more aware, and I will often jump for an Asian face or name on a cover.

    It is because of Mags that I can appreciate the issue, though. Watching her face light up when she picks up a book with someone who looks like her on it, or a book about Vietnam, or a book with the name "Margaret" on it. All those things bump a book up on her favorites list. I think everyone should be able to have that joy.

  9. I think it is a terrible practice.
    I don't like it when blurbs don't quite match the story or a book is marketed toward a group where it doesn't belong, for example bodice ripper covers on books that are not really romance books at all.

    But white-washing- that is just offensive!

  10. A beautiful cover will attract me, but it won't make me like the book any more after I've read it :)

    I've only sort of been following the white washing posts.I don't know the intent of the publisher. I mean there are lots of books where the person on the cover does not match the description in the story. Case in point, I love Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series. I've read them all. But in the movie Lincoln was played by Denzel Washington (so he was also on the cover of the paperback). Only Lincoln in white, and now I can only picture him as Denzel (certainly not a hardship). Was I offended by this in any way? No. But, that's movies so it's a little different. If they let the authors have more say they wouldn't have this problem!


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