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July 27th, 2009 / 11:20 am
Behind the Scenes

Cover War / Color War

(via Bookslut) Justine Larbalestier speaks at length about the problems she had with the US cover of her book Liar, a YA-adult crossover novel about a black teenage girl, that somehow wound up with a vaguely emo white girl face on its cover. Justine’s restraint and professionalism is remarkable. Quite a bit more of both than I’d have likely demonstrated in the same situation. The essay is a well-thought, engrossing exploration of the cover-choosing process, which is a bizarre mating ritual few people who have never been through it (or put someone through it) know very much about. I myself have just been through it for my story collection. Harper Perennial, btw, were super-responsive to my ideas, kept me in the loop at all times, and I’m counting down the days, minutes, seconds until I can show you what we came up with.  They are amazing and just thinking about them–especially Michael Signorelli–makes heart bubbles float all around my head. But back to Justine. Another fascinating part of her story is how  the whole whitewash experience stirred a change of her heart with regard to what the cover ought to be. Whereas originally she wanted the US cover to look like the Australian version, which is a sweet piece of design with no faces or other human parts on it, this experience led Justine to start noticing how under-represented people of color are on book covers in general (also the way that “colored” covers are frequently either rejected by stores/libraries or else ghettoed off in the so-called “urban fiction” section). Consequently, she seems to now feel strongly that the cover of the paperback edition of Liar should be representational, and depict a young black woman who resembles her main character, hopefully so young black women like her main character will see something they identify with when browsing the largely and unforgivably white shelves of the YA section. Here’s hoping she gets what she’s after. PS to Bloomsbury, if anyone in editorial/PR is reading this: we don’t usually cover YA, but if you give Justine the cover she’s gunning for, we’d love to hear about it / see a copy.

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