Sunday, March 7, 2010

The EW Cover article

I must have heard from three separate people about the Entertainment Weekly article about misleading book covers. Apparently journalist Kate Ward wrote about covers for some of the books about plus-size characters that feature models who are nowhere near that size.

Um, this is startling news to people? I wish Ms. Ward had talked to me. Those of us who read these books know the cover models never resemble the actual characters. Marketing people evidently think we won't buy books if the covers have people who look like what we're about to read. The YA world recently has been rocked by Bloomsbury's covers for Justine Larbalestier's "Liar" and for "Magic Under Glass" by Jaclyn Dolamore. Both book covers featured white models representing characters who were of color. The issue became so heated that the publisher had to go back and reprint the books with different covers. While Dolamore didn't say anything publicly, Larbalestier certainly did, making sure everyone knew she was not a proponent of her original misleading cover.

When ALL ABOUT VEE was published, I too spoke up about the cover model. As gorgeous as she is, she is not anywhere near the size of my Veronica May. I was told that was the modeling world's version of plus-size. I asked students and readers wherever I went about that cover and all of them said the same thing: she looks average size.

From a writer's point of view, of course we want people to buy and read our books so we want marketing to do whatever they can to make the book more appealing to readers. But we created characters who were large (or Asian or disabled, etc.) for a reason. The character acts and talks and moves a certain way because of how we designed them. We want the reader to feel something about that character and their appearance is a big deal.

Did my novel not sell as many books as it could have if the model looked truly plus-size, a 217 lb woman instead of a 140 lb woman? I will never know.