Judging a Book by Its Cover

As many of you know who read my blog, Liar by Justine Larbalestier is on my TBR list. When I read the jacketflap, I was all over it. Micah is a pathological liar. Did she kill her boyfriend? Was he even her boyfriend? These were the questions that popped in my mind and got me interested.

So at this point, the cover art wasn’t an issue. It wasn’t until I read an excerpt off of Justine L.’s blog that the character described herself as black and having “nappy hair” that she wore close cropped and had a body like a boy.

The cover art didn’t match.

At this point, it still didn’t bother me. Could it be that the publisher put a clever clue for the readers in plain sight?

Seems like I was wrong.

This raises a LOT of questions of the choice of cover art. Questions that me and other writers of color have been asking for long time.

Justine L. has posted a response on her blog about the cover art issue. This is what struck me most in her post:

“The notion that ‘black books’ don’t sell is pervasive at every level of publishing. Yet I have found few examples of books with a person of colour on the cover that have had the full weight of a publishing house behind them. Until that happens more often we can’t know if it’s true that white people won’t buy books about people of colour. All we can say is that poorly publicised books with ‘black covers’ don’t sell. The same is usually true of poorly publicised books with ‘white covers.’

Are the big publishing houses really only in the business of selling books to white people? That’s not a very sustainable model if true. Certainly the music industry has found that to be the case. Walk into a music store, online or offline, and compare the number of black faces you see on the covers there as opposed to what you see in most book stores. Doesn’t seem to effect white people buying music. The music industry stopped insisting on white washing decades ago.”

I think Justine L. makes a great point here. And she is challenging everyone who is upset by the cover art of Liar to go out and support books with black cover art.

I really commend Justine L. for writing a blog post about this issue. You should go over and read her blog post, Ain’t That A Shame.

Publisher’s Weekly also has an article about the book, Justine Larbalestier’s Cover Girl.

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