Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oops, They Did it Again

A big wag of the finger goes to Bloomsbury this week for their second book cover screw-up in six months. After a huge controversy over the cover of Justine Larbalestier's Liar, which came out in September of last year but whose jacket design depicting a blond caucasian teenager representing the bi-racial narrator was released two months prior, you'd think the folks at Bloomsbury would have learned their lesson. But no, not yet. It took another similar blunder, this time depicting debut author Jaclyn Dolamore's Thai heroine in Magic Under Glass as a caucasian in traditional Victorian dress. Bloomsbury has re-jacketed both books, but this will not help them shake the reputation they are forming as a house that doesn't pay proper attention to its manuscripts.

As an author, it is extremely frustrating to work so hard for so long only to have your words ignored by the art department. The authors of both these books intentionally wrote stories about people from certain backgrounds, and their editors intentionally chose these manuscripts in large part because of this choice, and these manuscripts were misrepresented in both cases by the depiction of the main character on the cover. And we're not just talking skin color - we're talking clothing, setting, attitude, the whole deal. Issues of race aside, there is a problem when the art department is so misinformed (or uninformed) about a manuscript that they can miss the mark so completely not once, but twice in six months.

And as a consumer, it is equally frustrating to see a book, like the look of its cover, and then open it to find that the manuscript and the cover bear no relationship to one another. Or to turn it around, I might overlook a book based on its jacket design, only to realise later that I missed out on a good thing because the actual story bore no relation to the jacket itself. Either way, Bloomsbury, you're misleading people, and it is wrong.

Has Bloomsbury learned its lesson yet? I certainly hope so, but only time will tell. In the meantime, I guess we'll have to take the old adage "you can't judge a book by its cover" literally.

Thanks for stopping by.

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