Whitewash a book cover? Not on my watch.

To be blunt–this kind of stuff really pisses me off:




Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
. Black protagonist–white person on cover.

Is it pure ignorance and bigotry in the publishing world?
Is it mere pandering?
Or is it lazy cover designers?

All of the above?

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if the fault lies with the publisher or the designer, it’s totally unacceptable.

The cover has since been “corrected.” But Bloomsbury provides such a lame, so-called apology:


or try


Same book different cover/edition

The US edition will be corrected…but what about the international editions (if any)? Does it really matter? How many thousands of books are out there? Will they be recalled?

I will be very interested to see the revised cover.

And don’t be fooled by this so-called apology. When this happened to Justine Larbalestier’s book, LIAR last year, here’s what she said:


The cover for LIAR has since been changed too.

Now read this article that was originally posted in Publishers Weekly and pay close attention to what the publisher’s publishing director says.


We have a saying where I come from…“That’s mighty white of you.” And it is said sarcastically when someone is being magnanimous without really conceding anything. They are sorry for getting caught and nothing else.

Surely, if you are going to have a person on a book cover representing the main protagonist, surely the “best interest [for] this book” is to use a representation that matches.

For the same publisher to make the same bonehead mistake in a matter of months is stupid. Stupid. STUPID. They need to look at the way they produce book covers and communicate with their artists if not their authors. And I mean this for ALL covers, not just the books featuring people of color.

As a black woman, I’m offended. If I was a white person, I would be offended, too, because these “big executives” are playing me for a fool and assuming that I’m so shallow or such a latent and/or subconscious racist that I will only purchase items with a white face.

Are you really that shallow? Readers, in general, and unless they are a collector or looking for a specific edition, do not care who publishes a book as long as they can get it. But I think if more readers knew this kind of asinine practice is regarded as standard operational procedure, they would be appalled—or at least look at covers more closely.

This kind of idiocy isn’t limited to publishing. The movie that came out last year, COUPLES RETREAT with Vince Vaughn and Jason Bateman, had two black actors in it–Faizon Love and Kali Hawk.

But you wouldn’t be able to tell that by the movie poster where I live in the UK! The black actors were deliberately left off. Why? Because black folks don’t sell movies.

And the funny thing is, I would not have realized this if 1) I hadn’t been living in the UK at the time and 2) If I didn’t spend hours a day commuting and seeing this movie poster plastered on busses everywhere, and 3) If I hadn’t seen the US version of the poster.

Big publishing. Hollywood. It doesn’t matter. Ignorance and the compounding of stereotypes still continue. And unless people (consumers) start to say enough is enough, it ain’t ever gonna end.

You don’t get this kind of nonsense working with an independent publisher where we work closely with the author. If you do, and it offends you, as an author you have a choice to stand up to your convictions and demand for it to be put right.

Authors of color, ask yourself: Does my multi-book deal with NYC mega publisher and my advance and royalty checks with all those zeroes worth more than the anguish and struggle my ancestors endured? If the answer is “Yes,” you are a part of the problem.

As for everyone else, if none of this bothers you, well, you’re a part of the problem too.

I am well aware that authors have little or no say in their cover art at the mega NYC publishing houses unless they have monosyllabic names like King, Rice, and Brown (no relation).

I am also well aware that the one color that appears to trump all in this matter is green.

Zetta Brown is editor-in-chief for LL-Publications and was the editor of the 2009 EPPIE Winner for Best Horror Novel, PIT-STOP, by Ben Larken. She holds a B.A. in English/Creative Writing from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and is the author of several short stories. In 1998 her short story, “Black Water,” was a regional first-place winner for The National Society of Arts & Letters (NSAL) Award for Short Fiction.

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