Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Well, Bloomsbury? Whadya think?

When it comes to the controversy regarding the photo of a lovely white girl that illustrates the cover of an upcoming book about an African American girl, I am not sure there's anything left to say. There must be more I can do, beyond expressing my concerns to the publisher, or adding my voice to the chorus that has said that this is wrong, so wrong. Beyond committing to reviewing more books featuring people of color. Beyond encouraging diverse reading through a reading challenge and a meme.

I decided it's time to take a more practical route. Bloomsbury wants to sell books to teens, and their best idea for this particular book leaves an acrid taste in people's mouths. I thought it might be helpful if I offered some alternative covers that they could use. So I sat down and thought to myself: what sells to teen girls? And I came up with this book cover:

My apologies for the fact that I'm not artistically gifted, nor do I have fancy equipment, but you get the idea. In fact, I thought maybe Bloomsbury could convince the author to change her name to Justine Meyerbalestier, so that the book could be shelved accordingly. Surely they could get a few sales out of that?

Not being a marketing expert, I'm willing to concede that there may be some issues with this approach which I may not be versed in, so I came up with several alternate covers. I think this next one is my personal favorite:

It's 105 degrees in Portland today but it doesn't get any hotter than this cover. Note the city backdrop to reflect the fact that the story takes place in New York City, and as an added bonus, the model shares the approximate skin tone of the main character. Do firefighters figure in to the plot at all? Who cares? Ninety percent of teen girls and ten percent of teen boys won't be able to resist this cover. And you never know with a liar--maybe Micah's real name is Michael.

The city backdrop in the above cover got me thinking that maybe a city skyline would make a good cover. I picked my favorite, and went with it.

Just look at that skyline! No pollution to speak of, and the gorgeous Mt. Rainier in the distance. Yes, the story takes place in New York City, but ever since 9/11 I've associated the Manhattan skyline with tragedy, so I decided teens might not go for it. Plus, we can't know whether the story actually takes place in New York City. Could be Seattle. In fact, readers could choose to believe any setting that sells. Which leads me to the last possibility:

When Liar comes out in September, many a reader will be ready to plan a warm getaway for the cold weather months, and you can't beat Hawaii for beauty and sunshine. A cover promising free tickets to Hawaii is bound to get attention! And no, of course there won't be any free tickets--haven't you heard that the publishing industry is in trouble? In keeping with the theme, it's a baldfaced lie. You got a problem with that?

Ignoring for a moment the amateur look of each of these covers, which idea do you like best? Place your vote here!
Which alternate cover do you like best?
Twilight Liar
Firefighter Liar
Skyline Liar
Hawaii Liar free polls

This post was written as part of the C.O.R.A. Diversity Roll Call meme. While it is written in a tongue-in-cheek manner, when it comes to the underlying assumptions behind the decision to use a white model to sell a book with a black character, I'm not laughing. Bloomsbury's decision wasn't made in a vacuum. There is work to be done.


  1. I really hate the controversy over this book, but your post just made me laugh so hard. Amazing job pointing out the inappropriateness of the publisher's choice while still making a hilarious post.

  2. Bwahahahahhahahhahaha :D You=AWESOME.

  3. I'd buy the second cover -- even without a book attached to it.

  4. Ali,

    More work than I would have done. You want to sell sex to teens? I thought you could only do that if you're resist the urge until you marry your undead lover.

  5. Hahaha! Nymeth read my mind I too was going to say You= Awesome!

  6. That was such a great post. Really got the point across without restating everything I've been hearing. Effective and hilarious!!! :)

  7. I agree with what you are saying... it really is too bad about this book and what the industry has done. You hit it right on when you said there is work to be done.

    I had no idea until this topic all came up how much work there was.

  8. This is a really sad thing that has happened but I love the covers you came up with. Plus, you made the point that the publishers could have come up with any other type of cover without making the poor choice that they did. Nicely done!!!

  9. Mmmm... Maybe the second cover should come with a poster and a life-sized cutout and perhaps maybe the real thing too???

    Ach well, a girl can dream.

    Excellent post.

  10. Firefighter Liar, nuff said. :P

  11. Snort - had to vote for the third one after you explained about how teens might be put off by tragedy, that so sounds like something a marketing department would say.

    I saw a comment on one of the many Liar posts saying that traditionally dark covers (by which they meant ones that were predominantly black, grey, brown) don't sell so well because they don't stand out so well, perhaps that was the logic behind using a 'brighter' cover image. I think Meyer might disgaree with that 'dark covers don't sell' idea and Ian Rankin and Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett....

  12. Great post. Absolutely love all your alternative covers!

  13. Personally, I want all of my books to have the firefighter cover.

    Someone, somewhere (if only I could remember who or where) mentioned she was having her students make up there own covers for Liar. It would be awesome if we all did that and sent pics of us reading the book with our new covers into Bloomsbury.


  14. Mia, Kathy of The Brain Lair mentioned the possibility on Twitter, could that be who you're thinking of? Her tweet inspired this post. If you do end up doing your own, I hope you'll link to it on the Diversity Roll Call meme.

    Jodie, that's interesting! I think of dark covers as being "guy covers," at least in the YA world. I'm not sure if that's really true, though.

    Keep those votes coming--Firefighter Liar is pulling ahead but Twilight Liar is close behind!

  15. Ali,

    That's exactly who I was talking about. Thanks. I think I hear photoshop and my camera calling my name. New Liar cover here I come!

    (I now attribue my previous comment to Kathy from The Brain Lair)


  16. I love your mock capricious logic.
    I voted for Twilight liar because the author name change idea could actually work. I'm sure that Stephanie Meyer's success has drawn mistaken attention to several other fiction books also called "Twilight."

  17. These are all brilliant! I had to vote for the firefighter, though. So... evocative. Hee!

  18. love the apple--invokes Eve and the Original Sin and all that...