Friday, July 2, 2010

*Sigh* More Whitewashing At Work

You're probably all surprised by the volume of posts coming out of this blog lately, but it's summertime so I've had more time to post here. Unfortunately, today's post is in response to the trend that originally inspired this reading challenge: Cover Whitewashing. Here's the newest case of it, which is crazily going in the opposite direction of what we'd prefer to see:

I think what burns me the most about this is that the original (hardcover) cover is so pretty and unique. It's not like every other YA fantasy on the shelves. The new paperback cover is too much like other books in the genre, and it obscures the fact that this is a historical fantasy, based in China, with Chinese characters. The change is in conjunction with a re-styling for the second book in the series:

The author has posted about this on her blog, and said that the publisher was reacting to the poor reception they got from booksellers with the first cover (Borders wouldn't pick it up for their stores and Barnes & Noble only in small numbers). It seems like the move is an attempt to gain a wider readership (and wider acceptance by booksellers) by making the cover more generic. *sigh* I can't even begin to be as eloquent as others on this topic, so I'll provide some links to reaction around the blogosphere.

The first place I'd point you to is author Cindy Pon's blog, where she discusses the cover change and her reactions to it.

Here's Ari's post at Reading in Color: "Guess What This Post is About?" in which she discusses the author's stance as well as discussing the covers.

Here's a post by bookshop on LiveJournal: "i don't want to be this person. Dear Publishing Industry, stop FORCING me to be this person." Great follow-up discussion going on in the comments, too.

Inkstone has a great post on it called "I guess I still have a post in me", which talks about the publishing industry and book sales in conjunction with this debacle. Inkstone is also gathering a master list of links here: Link Collection: Silver Phoenix

And here are just a few more links:
One thing that is for certain is that if you haven't gotten a copy of this book with the awesome and beautiful hardcover art, you should go do it now before they're all gone.

What do you think? Do you agree with the publisher that a more generic cover (that looks more like urban fantasy than historical fantasy set in China) will get the book to sell better? What is your reaction to this?


  1. Tarie,
    Like you, I'm tired of it. Thanks for the links, but I'm sticking with your post as it is the first I've opened on my blogfeed. This time, I do appreciate the author's transparency.
    I think they could have changed the cover without taking away the Asian elements, with the tagline that states "lush, exotic, romantic". EXOTIC!
    It will be interesting to see how this change does affect sales. I wonder how the original book was marketed. How do booksellers market?? I find it difficult to obtain ARCs and I think social networking is cheap marketing these days. Do booksellers only stick with tried and true methods of selling books?
    We don't want these covers but what happens if this is what sells?

  2. On it's own, I like the cover. However, I don't like it as much as the original cover. Plus, if I see the cover in context, as in the cover is supposed to represent an Asian girl, then I really don't like it. Maybe it'll appeal to the PNR crowd, but not all of us like that stuff. I personally would love to see more fantasy-esque covers and if they have a POC character on the cover, that's even better. I did wind up order 2 copies of the original hardcover though!

  3. I honestly think that the idea that books with POC on the cover don't sell is a self-fullfilling prophecy. There could be SO many other reasons why the book did poorly - and yet they decide to zoom in on that, which is very telling. As a reader, I really resent the implication that I need to be tricked into reading a book about a character from a culture and ethnicity different from my own with a bland, generic cover.