Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pants On Fire

What's your first impression of this cover? Mine - the eyes draw you in, the title pretty blatantly tells you what the book is about to some degree and I feel like the heroine is well-represented. Were your impressions similar to that?

How would you feel if you found out the heroine of this book is actually a black girl with super short hair who is actually mistaken for a boy? (Hence the title.)

There's a small uproar on the net about this cover vs. the actual contents of the book and what it all means. Do black models make it harder to sell books? Would you buy a book that featured a model of a different race than you? Does the cover even matter?

What do you think?


  1. Hi :)
    I've read a lot of blogs about the LIAR cover.
    I'd read a book based on any kind of cover.
    I've read fantasy all my life.
    Thus covers don't really mean much to me.
    EXCEPT if great artist does it.
    Like Michael Whelan, Frazetta, etc
    Then I might buy the book just for cover.

  2. In a way covers matter to me. However, the color of the person on front doesn't make any difference. I don't know if it helps sell books to put white girls on, but I'm pretty shocked and annoyed that they'd put a white girl on when it's about a black girl. I have plenty of books I bought based on the story blurb rather than the cover. This just makes me really mad. I read the author's blog a few days ago. Grrrr... I feel for her. It's absolutely ridiculous.

  3. I don't usually pay much attention to the cover. It's the content I'm interested in - pretty much like how I view people.

    It's too bad the publisher didn't go for a cover model who looked like the MC, but it's not the first time. They're trying to go for something that will market to the widest segment of readers, and unfortunately there's still a large portion of the populous who pay less attention to content than covering.

  4. At first, I thought the publisher had done that because the protagonist was a liar (hence, she was lying about her appearance). But the author herself said the protagonist wasn't.

    I understand that covers are meant to sell books (and many times do!). They often depict scenes or clothes or things that actually aren't even in the story. This, however, seems way strange to me. I don't understand why they'd go THIS drastic with the cover/book discrepancy.

  5. I'm a little concerned that the cover choice may have been racially motivated. Was the publisher worried a black girl on the cover wouldn't sell?

    I absolutely HATE when covers are completely off the mark. Honestly, I wonder if the author protested? Anyone know?

  6. I want what I'm reading to be correctly depicted by the cover. And I think, in the long run, the publisher would do better by representing it fairly, instead of jumping to use what they think might sell better. Frustrating your readers is not the way to go.

  7. I'm big on covers, it's the first impression of a book and while I don't necessarily like it when the cover doesn't match the actually story, I don't think it's that big of a deal.

    Unfortunately, a lot of authors DON'T have a say on their books' covers, it's up to the publisher.

    And in this case, I think it's crazy how everyone is turning it into a racial issue. It's disrupting the story itself because everyone is too preoccupied saying the publisher is racist or whatever. I think that we should look PAST the cover, look at the story itself and based our opinions on that because at the end of the day, it's the story that matters.

  8. yeah - it bothers me.
    If the character is a black girl with short hair, the publisher should make an effort to find such a photo.

  9. That's really weird. If I were that author I'd be ticked.
    I was kind of worried when the woman on my cover didn't have blonde hair like my heroine. I think the cover should represent what or who the book is about.

  10. I haven't heard about this until now, but as a reader, covers draw me in initially but it's the blurb and excerpt that push me to buy. That being said, the skin color of a cover model doesn't make a difference to me. I would and have bought books that feature someone of a different race. I feel so bad for this author but I'm not totally surprised by her publishers actions. Publishing is a business and while I think it's completely wrong what they did, it's probably going to help their sales b/c of all the hype.

  11. Covers definitely matter. Even if the girl in the book wasn't black I still wouldn't like that cover. lol. But it's worse that she is. Why would they do that?

  12. Amanda Brice1:52 PM

    Covers matter and if they show a person, the cover artist needs to make sure they get the relevant details right. If the heroine in the book has blonde hair and blue eyes, the cover model needs to have blonde hair and blue eyes.

    If the heroine is black, the cover model needs to be black.

    If the publisher worries that the particular features of the cover model might turn off potential readers, then the publisher shouldn't use a person on the cover. There are many other possible covers they could have chosen and to blatantly picture a white girl when the heroine is black just doesn't sit well.

  13. Anonymous2:14 PM

    The thing is, everyone on your blog is miffed because they think that the cover is deceptive. Who cares about that? The point is that a publisher made an overtly racist assumption that a book with a white girl on the cover would sell better than a book with a black girl on the cover, even when the heroine of the book is African American.

  14. Anonymous2:17 PM

    It's a crappy thing to do. The publisher assumes that white teenagers are so short-sighted and insular that they couldn't possibly be interested in a book featuring a character with a different skin color than themselves. And, hell, it doesn't say much of the publisher's respect for those with darker skin tones, does it?

  15. And how do we even fight back? We can't use our dollars to make a statement because that would be so unfair to the author.

    For the most part, I buy my books at fictionwise.com and covers are not very prevalent on that site, so they matter little to my buying habits. However, other sites that sell ebooks rely heavily on covers (Books on Board)--so yeah, covers are even important to ebook buyers.

  16. the thing is, I love this cover. It's evocative and intriguing and I would definitely pick it up based on the cover alone.

    But, it's not right to deceive the readers in the way. Marketing a book to sell is great, but not if it's deceptive and racially motivated. I don't care what kind of sales "numbers" they have to support their decision, they could've gone a completely different route with the cover to avoid this controversy.

    Although they maybe wanted to create the controversy...it's creating buzz and buzz sells.

  17. Anonymous2:38 PM

    For Wendy who said people are making it a racial thing...but it *is* a racial thing. They chose to put a white girl on the cover of a book with a black MC. There's no reason for that other than race. They thought a white cover model would sell more copies. That's a decision based on race.

    I'm less interested in hearing what the blogosphere thinks and more interested in what the publisher was thinking. I wish they'd make a statement so we could gauge. At the moment, yeah, they're not coming off so rosy.

  18. Putting a white girl instead of a black girl on the cover makes it almost impossible to ignore the racial commentary of this cover.

    Again, I'm baffled as to why the publisher would do this. Didn't they know people would be in an uproar about it?

    I hear that people are talking about boycotting purchase of the US version. Instead, some have encouraged readers to buy the Australian (I think?) vsn, which does not have a person on the cover.

    I hope the author isn't going to be "punished" for this by bad sales. This is not her fault--authors do not have control over their covers, and I'd hate to see her suffer because of their anger at the publisher.

    She made a point of posting abou7t the controversy on her blog, firmly noting her negative feelings about the cover and how she was against it.

  19. Amanda Brice2:42 PM

    I agree, Mel. It's a FANTASTIC cover. So expressive. It's just blatantly wrong for the book and the racial undertones are really disturbing.

  20. Anon, I think the publisher did make a statement. It could probably be found somewhere online (I don't have any links, sorry).

  21. The whole thing is unfortunate. I realize the publisher's main goal is to make money, but if they felt that accurately representing the main character on the cover would impact sales in a negative way, they didn't have to put a person on the cover at all. Look at the Twilight series. Those covers are stark and evocative without having people on them. It can be done. This seems like blatant subterfuge.

  22. Amanda Brice4:31 PM

    Exactly, Bernadette/Jennifer. Lots of books don't have a person at all on the cover, or a person with recognizable features (ie, from neck down only...the so-called headless woman phenomenon) and do very well.

    If they didn't want to put an African American teenager on the cover for whatever reason, they should have just chosen some other cover design, such as the one they're using in Australia.

  23. I don't agree with what the publisher did, not at all. But as a writer of color, I see my books put in a different section most of the time, a section the majority of readers in a bookstore might not bother going to. I think this doesn't help my sales. I have definitely had people tell me they'd pass my books in a store and not pick them up because of the race of the character(s) on the front, even when they're mixed in with other similar fiction (and not racially separated). This hurts! I think this kind of attitude is behind the publisher's tactic. Again, I don't agree with it. They didn't have to use a picture at all.

  24. I'm a fan of covers and they do actually matter...to SOMEONE because pubbers spend a great deal of time creating one that somehow has the essence of the story being told.

    I get a sick little feeling seeing this cover. On first glance, I really liked it. The eyes, the hair crossed over the mouth, the piece used to TELL lies. I thought I "got it."

    Now that I know this is a book with a black character, I'm concerned.

    I'm a fan of covers that DON'T have characters on them but the "essence" of the story. And I do think to some readers, they may be more liable to NOT pick up a book with black characters on it, deeming it a "black book" and of no use or entertainment value to them.

  25. An author recently posted a link to her Amazon page. The author had written a book with an Asian heroine and the cover did not depict this. The reader was infuriated that the book featured an Asian character and that she wasn't warned because she only wanted to read about white people.

    So it is not just publishers who are racist, people.

    Justine DID protest. Protest and protest and protest. But the publisher, as usual, did what they wanted.

    Personally, I'm going to buy at least one copy of the book--maybe two. I want the publisher to know that people WILL BUY books that feature African-American main characters, even if they are not portrayed on the cover. I love this cover for what it evokes...and I don't need my covers to be literal. Do I like that, as Kayla says, AA characters on covers mean marginalized sales or bookstore "back of the bus"? Of course not. But if more people read AA books, covers be damned, then maybe things will change.

  26. When I saw the cover, I couldn't figure out what in the world would be controversial about it. I wish that every cover had cover models that actually looked like the characters, but a lot of cover models look nothing like the characters described by the author. In the case of race, though, I think AA models should be used when the main characters are AA.

  27. Sadly, this shows how far we have not come. Like Mel, I saw this and thought what a great cover and book title and I was intrigued before all the controversy. I'm AA and wanted to pick up the book for myself and for my teen daughter. I assumed the MC was Caucasian but that made no difference to me wanting to pick up the book for my daughter.

    Then I find out all the controversy and that the MC is AA and I'm shocked and upset that the publisher would put out this cover when the main character is not Lying about who she is. It made me feel like what sort of signal is this sending to my teen daughter? Is an image of a young girl that looks like her not good enough to sell books to the mainstream? Is it only good enough to sell, say records? Because like Kayla said with the image of a Black girl the book make have been segregated although probably not in the YA section.

    This whole thing could have been handled so much better by not putting a model on the cover, but I will be a lot happier when we get to the point where the rest of America has my initial reaction and can pick up a book with a beautiful Black, White, Asian or Blue girl on the cover and read it because it's a good book.

    Sorry to go on here this just hits me being the mother of teens.

  28. These are great comments. Thank you guys SO much for sharing your thoughts.