1. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Comma (x5) Chameleon Contributor

    Feb 5, 2018
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    Anyone given thought to cover art?

    Discussion in 'Cover Design' started by J.T. Woody, Dec 20, 2019.

    As someone who works in a library, I've grown increasingly depressed over the idea of publishing a work of fiction. Its scary for me because of marketing. Also as someone who has an art background, I've always envisioned my potential covers and how my characters would look, and even have my favorite cover artists from books I've enjoyed over the years.

    my problem is, my protagonists are non-white. And i am black. the issue is books with black protagonists or writers are almost automatically isolated to "African American" sections regardless of subject matter. sometimes when books have black protagionists, they are marketed differently or the cover changed for "mass appeal" (Amazon cover vs actual cover)
    jada sly.PNG jada sly 2.jpg

    Black writers are even urged to not have a protagonist on the cover at all " Accepted industry wisdom told black authors that putting black couples on their covers could hurt sales, and that they should replace them with images of jewellery, or lawn chairs, or flowers." ("Fifty Shades of White", 2019)

    You can see this in the paperback of One Night in Georgia vs the Large Print hard cover [​IMG][​IMG].

    In other cases, the protagonist is swapped out with a white model as was the case in 2009 when a white Australian author, Justine Larbalestier, who writes about a curly headed black girl, and her book cover was designed with a white child for American distribution (she since had it fixed)

    Even author bios with the author's image are being looked at...if the author is black, the book is passed over. I don't want to erase my identity just to sell some books.... but if I worked so hard to get something published, I'd hope to have an audience.

    As a librarian, i see so many examples of this and I watch people react to the books. Even coworkers shelve books with black authors or black people on the cover in the "Urban" section even though the book is fantasy:
    (inside cover shows her picture)
    or even a book written by a white man but the protagonist is "a survivor, a black man in New Orleans- a teacher, a writer, and an ex-detective"

    On marketing, Beverly Jenkins says this "“People say: ‘Well, I can’t relate,’” Jenkins told NPR a few years ago, after watching white readers simply walk past her table at a book signing. “You can relate to shapeshifters, you can relate to vampires, you can relate to werewolves, but you can’t relate to a story written by and about black Americans?”
    Mckk likes this.
  2. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Contributor Contributor

    Dec 15, 2019
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    In a tent built out of facemasks
    I hate that line of thinking (The 'not relating' thing from the people who said it). I'm a pasty-white brit, and I've never had an issue with race. My favourite Star Trek series of all was Deep Space Nine. A black guy running a space station, with his son in tow and then also marrying a black woman. Sisko was my favourite Captain. I've read books about Russians, Chinese, South Americans... I shouldn't be able to relate to them, either. But I do. The last two aren't white, why is it only -african- americans people can't relate to? Bunkem. I relate to a personality, a character, not a skin colour.

    But this is the horrible world we live in. The issue is probably more deep-rooted in the US, having a longstanding problem stemming from a civil war that just seems to amplify the problem. And when it comes to selling novels we have to confront reality. A lot of white people all over the world are racists. Not the majority by a long shot, but many.

    What should play into our favour as writers, and why I don't entirely agree with the non-relating thing, is that people who read books tend to, on average, to be more educated, and have more enlightened opinions.

    So, as far as I see it, the non-relating issue these days is more a bug-bear of the publishers simply worrying about profit, just the same way blockbuster movies today HAVE to include a Chinese person, or visit somewhere in china to tap that market. Thats why they have an african american section, to keep it away from the mainsection where they maximize their profit. Which, in of itself, I believe should be made illegal. If segregation of colour on a bus is made illegal, it should be the same to do so by books. Segregation is segregation.

    So to get back on the specific topic on the subject of book covers, I would suggest you have to ask yourself how you see the attempt at progress. I am sure a few of the black novelists that wrote those books, and have had the covers changed or were doctored to begin with, might see it as a pragmatic necessity towards progress. "Well, if it helps get my book in the hands of just one person who might take something from it, and help them either forget the character is coloured, (as in, realizing the person is a human being, just the same as them) or help them change for the better with a positive black role-model, then it's worth the sacrifice." So that, hopefully, somewhere down the line in human history it -wont- be an issue.

    I can use my personal experience with DS9 to that effect. It was on tv back when I was young and at school, and at the same time I got seriously physically attacked by a black kid. About 1/4 of all the students were black, indian, or asian. I was in precisely the part of the UK and demographic that would be ripe for me turning into a racist. I knew racist kids that would name call the pakistani girls, and some that were racist towards the black kids, too. That attack could've easily let me slip into falling in with that crowd, and being one of them. But watching DS9 once a week helped me realize the kid wasn't a scumbag because he was different. He was a scumbag because he was a scumbag. Sisko showed me that.

    If you don't write your book or publish it because of the cover, please take what I said into consideration. Either own it for what it is, and have fun in the creativity of making a cool cover with a black person on it, and accept the fact its sales might be slightly less, or pigeonholed into someplace silly like an african american section, and have a smaller, but still possible chance at success and positivity towards change...
    Or, try your hardest to make the cover as great as it can be, and ride the line, knowing it might get a better chance of getting into the hands of people whose minds you can change.

    Doing nothing will probably make you feel worse in the long-run. Nothing feels worse than "what if i had only..."
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2019

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