Friday, July 24, 2009

The LIAR Cover Thing

Buzzing 'bout the blogosphere: the cover girl for Liar by Justine Larbalestier. The protagonist is an unreliable narrator if there ever was any, but I think anyone who reads the book can conclude she was being serious about not being white, having short cropped hair, and being boyish in many aspects.

So why is the cover this?

Here's a handy PW article and Justine's (very articulate) blog post on it.

I don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said. But I thought I'd add this in, to address the people I've seen saying Justine should've fought harder against this cover art.

So, at BEA, I had the pleasure of getting my ARC signed by her. We chatted a bit, Lenore, Alea, Justine, and I (as well as Anna, another Aussie and a Bloomsbury publicist). Justine was lovely. Anna was lovely. I got a huge kick out of hearing them speak in their lovelylovelylovely accent.

We left.

A while later, Lenore and I ran into Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier at the Bloomsbury booth. It was after BEA had closed for the day and we were just roaming. No other fans were nearby, so we got to speak to them a bit more. I asked Justine for some more of her business cards with both the Aussie and the American cover of Liar and casually asked what she thought of the cover.

Very frankly, she said, "I think it's a beautiful cover and that Bloomsbury did a wonderful job of making it eye-catching. But my protagonist isn't white, so this isn't reflective of the book I wrote. This is why I like the Australian cover more. Nevertheless, they decided to go with this cover in the US."

She said something about another version that I can't recall right now, but yeah, that portion is what really matters. It's what she's always been saying. Authors don't usually have a say in what their cover will end up being. Even when they're the writer of a lead title, like Justine is. So please stop treating her like she's in the wrong in this, all the naysayers.

It's a good book, at any rate. I don't believe a boycott is necessary because it'll ultimately hurt Justine, someone who's active in writing multi-cultural. But if you're upset with this cover, I do urge you write to Bloomsbury about it.

(Oh! And yes! I'm back.)

36 comments:

Heidi R. Kling said...

I've been following the debate closely and believe you are right on here. It is no way Justine's fault, or any other authors, if there cover isn't quite right. Sometimes we will get asked our opinion, but we in no way have the final say in cover art.

I think Justine has been incredibly brave and thoughtful throughout this controversy.

Lee Verday said...

Great article on this. I like how you were able to go right to the source. Authors have little to nothing to do with their covers 99% of the time and it's sad that Justine would catch any flack at all for a publisher decision.


http://leeaverday.blogspot.com
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BookChic said...

Great post! I do think it's kind of stupid to boycott the book just because the cover doesn't reflect the main character as, you're right, in the end, it hurts Justine too, not just the publisher. Also, as it's a hardcover, you could just take the book jacket off and throw it away or whatever if you don't like it so much.

In my opinion, what matters is the story itself, not the cover. You can boycott the cover by emailing the publisher and telling them about your outrage, but boycotting the book as a whole and not buying it is a stupid thing to do.

Shalonda said...

I do not understand how anyone could feel that Justine has done anything wrong. I have not read any of her books, but I find her words and actions to be extremely courageous and admirable.

I have wanted to read Liar since I first read the summary, and I still plan to read it. Why should Justine suffer because of her publisher's decision? Trust me, I am irritated that the cover does not reflect the character, however I will support Justine's work and her bravery.

Justine is a class act!

Shalonda said...

And yay, Steph! I'm so glad you're back!

Sumayyah said...

Yay! You're back; I've missed your reviews. :) And I agree, how can someone fault the author when she has zero say on the cover art? She's shown tremendous courage and poise about the entire thing.

Donna said...

I noticed the same thing with Sarway Chadda's book, The Devil's Kiss. The US release cover has a white girl on it but the protag is Pakistani. You know, maybe if the publishers flooded the shelves with books whose covers actually represented their characters the profiling would be taken off the table and make people reach for something because it looks like an interesting book as opposed to what color the person on the cover is.

beth said...

YAY! Welcome back!

I knew she didn't have any say-so in the cover, but still, I'm pretty glad that she's been on record from the beginning that she didn't like it. (I believe her--but I hope this makes more people aware that she's a good person, but powerless in this instance.)

Amee said...

I haven't read the book, obviously, but I don't see how anyone can blame an author for the cover. I figured it was pretty much universally known that the publisher chose the cover since they're the ones who are supposed to know how to market and sell books. Why would they leave it up to the other who might have no idea what sort of cover would sell well? Weird. :|

Chris said...

I hadn't even heard about this! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I totally agree with you that the author is not to blame for this and I hope that people won't boycott the book because of the cover. But it is an absolute shame that we still aren't at a point where we portray a person for what they actually are! I think I may just order the Australian edition to show Bloomsbury that some of us in America are not racists...

Thao said...

Welcome back Steph and great post. That's so sad to know that authors don't have a say in designing the covers sometimes, that sucks because the cover represents the book and the author too. I wonder why Bloomsbury refused to change the cover. If people boycott the book because of its cover it's their loss too.

Anyway this book sounds awesome no matter how it looks, so I'm still picking it up.

Anonymous said...

Someone above said they'll buy the Australian version to show that not all Americans are racist. I just have to say wtf? Because of their cover they're racist? Wow. So I guess everytime a cover doesn't match the inside of a book we can assume there is an underlying cause such as racism, sexism, size-ism. Let's not even mention hair color, eye color. Before you know it every publisher will be called Nazis.

Alea said...

Yes, when we chatted with Justine at BEA I of course brought up covers, she told me that her main character was African American and I was like baffled, I seriously thought she could have been joking, because look at the cover! And she did tell me too she preferred the other cover. Since I haven't read the book yet I haven't though much about it but with this controversy coming to a head I'm really interesting to read the book and also all the opinions on the cover.

suzie said...

I haven't read the book yet either, but I was really shocked to hear about the controversy. It's a shame because the cover is very striking - but why couldn't Bloomsbury achieved a striking effect that was more true to the book and the character? But you're right authors don't get much - if any - control over the covers so it's certainly not anything Justine could control. I think she's handle it the best way possible.

Glad you're back!

Emily Ruth said...

I didn't even realize people were blaming Justine, haha. But here's my take:
Yes, the cover is very nice
No, it doesn't represent the book well
But once you pick up a book, it's whats in it that really matters, right?

I've read LIAR and it is a spectacular book. I just try not to think of the cover and book as connected...if that makes any sense?

Lenore said...

I've been gone since this flared up, but yes, I completely remember that conversation at BEA. Justine was being very diplomatic about it even then, but it was clear she was unhappy with the US cover.

kalea_kane said...

BRAVO! Wonderful post. You are totally on mark, and I am so glad you wrote this. I think that people need to just move on and enjoy a good book. I am glad you spoke to Justine about this. You are amazing. :)

Color Online said...

Just a thought, what about all the people who were slighted? Did anyone read the bullcrap excuse Cecka offered? She added insult to injury and all readers should be offended that she expected the public to buy her lame excuse.

Buying the American edition tells Bloomsbury the backlash was worth it: they will have gained a ton of publicity and sales. That hardly sends a message they were wrong. It says controversy sales. Damn being racially/ethnically sensitive and responsible.

People of color of sorely underrepresented not only in the industry but there is glaring absence of books with poc characters on the front of blogs. Where's the diversity?

No one has suggested not supporting the author. The beauty of the net is we can buy the book and we can buy the Aussie edition if we are serious about sending a message to Bloomsbury.

People of color and that means Asian, black, Native American, Arab and all other brown people have long suffered marginalization. I'm asking you not to be complicit and using defending Justine as the justification.

It is a very big deal to be treated as if you're invisible and when you use a white model you are again reinforcing the idea that the standard is white.

I will be reading the book. I won't be buying the American edition. At some point you have to take real action and is this country, the wallet talks.

Color Online said...

Colleen at Chasing Ray compiled some compelling posts from bloggers Judge Me: Liar Liar

CEO, Carol Rasco at RIF had this to say, Books And Everything Between Them

We're hosting a Color Me Brown Challenge. Book Prizes.

Amee said...

You're back but where are the new posts. I need more Steph. :P

Anonymous said...

I hate to see the publisher villified, though. Everyone works so hard in publishing for little pay and to throw the Cecka under the bus is not productive.

Covers and titles are chosen to give a book the largest audience possible. It's not a conspiracy against the author. It's trying to help the author get sales.

Mallory said...

i know this has nothing to do with the Liar cover, though i totally agree, i just wanted to say that i've been stalking this website to see when you choose the Catching Fire winner... ok, that sounds sort of creepy. well. i'll just be going.

Mallory said...

sorry if i sound like a stalker. ha. i just really, really want this book! i hope i win!

Ebony McKenna. said...

Great post.

And very true. While some authors may be consulted on the cover art, ultimately it's the publisher who gets the final say.

Anonymous said...

I think its such a shame, firstly, that we don't have more books in the "mainstream" with characters of different ethnicities or backgrounds. I have never felt myself to be vastly different from my friend who may be a Caucasian, but, clearly, outer appearance is, and possibly may be for a long time to come, a huge dividing issue (and in the case of book covers, non-Caucasian appearance = low sales). Its such a true shame that we haven't yet moved on.

Kate said...

I never realised there was a debate going on. I shall have to read up on this! Thanks for the great post.

drey said...

It's too bad that authors don't have a say in the covers of their books, especially when someone is pictured that really doesn't fit the character... Thanks for the post!

&, I have an award for you. Swing by to pick it up! =)

Rachel said...

I've seen a lot of people blog about this. I was wondering if we could add each other to our blog rolls. If so comment on blog so I know.

alastaircookie said...

Yay! They've changed the cover! It's here:

http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/08/06/the-new-cover/

Kelly Moran said...

love your blog. i love connecting with other reviewers, readers, and writers. i'm following you now. you should visit/follow mine. i have all things books...
nice seeing you.
xo

perfectionishuman said...

The new cover isnt THAT much of an improvement either to be honest.
If it wasnt for the afro hair, I'd just assume it was a tanned white girl.

trish said...

Steph, where are you? I miss you!

~Mary said...

did you forget about the Catching Fire contest?!
It's been OVER a month....

ali :) said...

Teph? I miss seeing you! :) Hope you'll also update soon! Hope everything is well and dandy! :D

Lisa Mahapatra said...

Hey Steph! Where are you?? I've been missing your posts!

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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph