Have you ever thought about what the cover of your published book would look like? Of course you have. Just like you’ve thought very carefully about (and described) what your characters look like, what the setting reveals—all the things that take a bare plot and imbue it with life. Which is why it can be a crushing blow when your commercial publisher designs and implements a cover without your approval. Or, in some cases, your express disapproval.
Take the current controversy with the U.S. cover of Justine Larbalestier’s novel, Liar. On her blog Larbalestier described her protagonist, Micah, as “black with nappy hair which she wears natural and short.” However, the book cover features a close-up of a remarkably Caucasian-looking woman with long brown hair and bangs. There are many troubling factors to consider here, chief among them:
The manipulation of a cover to counter the fear that “black” books don’t sell—so, thus, the prioritization of sales over anything else.
The absolute disregard of an author’s preferences; Larbalestier “strongly objected” to this cover. She didn’t want a photo of any woman on the cover, as Micah’s identity is unstable and she wanted readers free to imagine her as they liked.
Can you imagine what this would feel like? To essentially have no control over how your work is presented to the world? And how awful it would be to have a woman tell you she couldn’t buy your book because her teens would find the cover offensive? That’s what’s happening with Larbalestier’s book, and it’s truly a shame.
The fact is, a majority of potential readers will judge your book by its cover. It’s very difficult not to. And if that cover doesn’t accurately or effectively represent the content, tone, and spirit of your book, you’ve either gained those readers under false pretenses or lost them completely. Take control of your book’s destiny; doesn’t it deserve that of you?