Score one for the blogosphere.
Publisher’s Weekly reported yesterday that Bloomsbury has decided to release Justine Larbalestier’s Liar with a different cover than the one originally planned.
“We regret that our original creative direction for Liar—which was intended to symbolically reflect the narrator’s complex psychological makeup—has been interpreted by some as a calculated decision to mask the character’s ethnicity,” Bloomsbury officials said in a statement to PW. “In response to this concern, and in support of the author’s vision for the novel, Bloomsbury has decided to re-jacket the hardcover edition with a new look in time for its publication in October. It is our hope that the important discussions about race and its representation in teen literature continue. As the publisher of Liar, we also hope that nothing further distracts from the quality of the author’s nuanced and accomplished story, and that a new cover will allow this novel’s many advocates to celebrate its U.S. publication without reservation.”
So Bloomsbury decided to do the right thing in advance. Now we don’t have to buy the book and mail back the dust jacket in protest as I suggested last week.
But we do need to buy the book.
Because while I don’t think Bloomsbury would necessarily punish an author for the additional costs incurred addressing the controversy, you just know they’re going to study the sales figures carefully to see how much a difference it really makes. These businesses have people who study sales and trends, and when they prepare to publish a book they set print runs according to their best guess for a given period of time. If sales are week then they’ll go looking for reasons, so if Liar doesn’t perform as well as expected with it’s new cover they may just as well blame that as anything.
In that light I propose that people do what I suggested before, but with a slight twist. I urge those of you who considered the “whitewashed” cover outrageous to purchase the book and, instead of mailing the cover back in protest, sending a letter praising the decision change. I’d go with the same person as last time:
175 Fifth Avenue #300,
New York NY 10010
What you say is entirely up to you, but I would hope that you keep it positive. And I think it’s best if it came in the form of an actual letter as opposed to an email because there is something decidedly weightier about a letter. A stack of letters still feels more impressive than a crowded email inbox. True, they can be tossed out or put through the shredder, but they aren’t as easily dismissed the way a delete button or spam filter can make email disappear. A letter you still have to open, because there’s that mystery of not knowing what’s inside. Email you can bulk delete without ever opening, and people do it so often these days without a shred of guilt. And rarely does the subject line of an email hold the promise of mystery that an envelope does.
So buy the book, write up a quick letter, and lets keep our guard up for “whitewashed” covers down the road.