Monday, August 31, 2009

LIAR Cover

I have had a great relationship with Bloomsbury publishing company when it comes to receiving books to review. They sent me a catalog for the fall/winter upcoming releases so that I could choose what sparked my interest to read and review. The cover of the catalog was the cover to one of their new titles that sounded like a very interesting read. I ordered it. My review of the book is coming Wednesday, but there was a lot of controversy over this cover. Below is the cover that I received on the catalog and the ARC.

The cover intrigued me. I thought it was a well thought out cover that added to the mystery of a narrator that is a liar. However, it wasn't until I saw a blog post by author Sara Zarr that I realized something that had totally elluded me (since I had not opened the book yet.) The main character in this novel is both African-American and has short buzzed hair. The cover completely negates these two vital aspects of the character.

There was a lot of controversy over this issue, controversies that I honestly had never thought about. The cover has been changed to the one below.

My only issue with this cover is that the model looks too old to be the character. Other than that I like it. I like that it is the concept of the first one, but fixes the fact that important features of the character are used.

My point of this discussion is not to talk about the political and racial issues, although there are many attached to this controversy. My point is talking about covers in general.

As I have been told by many authors, they have little to no say in the cover art of their books. Not surprisingly, even covers that I have loved I have gone back after reading the book, and I nit-pick that the cover does not represent the main character much at all. I wonder if this would be resolved if the cover artists were allowed to read the author's description of the character.

What do you think about all of this? I really would like your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

I've not had a book published so I'm going to have to comment as a reader. Many times after I've read a book I flipped back to the cover and wonder who the heck is in the picture simply because it may not represent the main character at all. As a reader, I actually believe the cover is about the book, sometimes revealing a scene, sometimes an important glimpse into the character. If I had spotted the book with the first cover, I would automatically think this young white girl is a liar. It would never even cross my mind that the MC would be black. I'm glad they changed it.

Aubrey (AKA Stacey) said...

Catherine thanks so much for your comment! Exactly my thoughts. I like the cover concept, but I am so glad they changed it.

It has been extremely interesting to me to talk to authors and hear their experiences with the cover art. Most are very pleased, a lot of the time though there are covers in the works that they just aren't thrilled about...I have to wonder what Justine Larbalestier had to say about this one, if she even got to see it at all before it was sent out on ARCs.

Anonymous said...

Some authors do get written into their contracts "cover consult" or "cover approval", but I don't think it happens that often -- especially for a newer author. But the thing about covers is that they are supposed to be designed to appeal to a reader ... to get them to pick up the book even if they know nothing about it. If you know a book is coming out and you are looking forward to it, will you choose NOT to read the book because you don't like the cover? Generally not. So the cover is really to draw in a reader that knows nothing about the story. This is also why paperback reprints generally have different covers ... to appeal to a new set of readers who weren't attracted to the story based on the hardback cover. So while I'm sure that it stinks for an author, it's a marketing issue so I understand why the author does not generally have final say in the cover art.

Aubrey (AKA Stacey) said...

I do understand that concept. As a reader however, I wonder how the cover art can be so completely misleading. I would have been just as interested in the book with cover B as I was with cover A.

Anonymous said...

Well, sure. Who hasn't read the book and then gone back to the cover and is now able to pick out everything in the drawing that doesn't match the descriptions in the book? The point is still whether a cover drew in a reader simply because of the cover and not because the cover accurately depicted some description in the story.

And that's what I believe is the heart of the controversy with LIAR. Marketing decided that a book with a white girl would sell better than a book with a black girl. Race is always a hot button where it is a determining factor in making decisions, but nonetheless these are the reasons covers are designed to look a certain way. It generally all comes down to what they think will sell more books, not what the author wrote about the scene/world/character that is on the cover or even what the author likes or doesn't like.

Kristopher and Crew said...

I agree that the new model is too old, and in a way it bothers me that they used the same design as the first. While it was a strong image, I think the second is a lot weaker and they would have been better served heading in a new direction.

That said, I think it's far more important than some publishers think to stay true to the descriptions of characters. I remember multiple books from my youth that had horrible representations of the main characters on the covers. It always bothered me.

Frankly, this general apathy for cover design, where they find some free clip art, re-jigger it in photoshop and add a logo is almost as annoying as when they take an original photo that's inaccurate.

Aubrey (AKA Stacey) said...

Kristopher thanks for your input! I think that the readers end up being more upset with a cover if it in innacurate than the publishers realize. Sure a cover may get us to pick up the book, but if it is not representative of the novel itself, in the end we are dissapointed with something, whether it be that the cover did not match a great book, or that the cover mislead us to read a bad book.

Ratliffs said...

I was very intrigued as I read your post...The first cover totally got me wanting to read the book, just because it totally drew me in. I agree with an above comment that I think they lost something with the second cover.

Books whose covers misrepresent the material that is contained inside them have always bothered me a little. I think I'm pretty good about just shrugging it off. However, what in the world were they thinking representing an African American as WHITE? That's no little discrepancy. That's like major. And that would have pissed me off to no end, had I found out about it while reading.