When you think about book covers, it should represent what happens in the book. If it’s a mystery, it might be dark with big letters or some kind of complex scene. Fantasy, perhaps illuminations, bright lights that appear to be magic. In romance, most of the time you have people. Whether it be one or multiple torsos, they usually says it’s a romance. Now, that isn’t always the case. Many romances have no people on them, which is fine too. Regardless of how it’s presented, it’s supposed to attract readers.
Now, let me be clear, this isn’t a post about covers being overpriced, ugly, or done on Photoshop or Canva. It’s about the message your cover gives when it’s on Amazon or any other platform as well as in the book store. What am I saying about the book through this cover?
Speaking from the author viewpoint, I want all my covers to reflect the diverse world I live in. Unfortunately, many times that doesn’t happen. Since I write mostly people of color, specifically characters who are black, the variety of stock models is limited. This can be very disheartening because the world is diverse so our options should be vast. Still, in 2017 this is a problem and an even bigger one when it comes to writing queer romance. I’ve been told a lot of models, especially those from marginalized groups don’t want to be associated with a queer book for fear of backlash. I respect that, but it doesn’t make it any easier for authors like myself. However, me, a person of color, will make every effort to put my PoC character on the front for everyone to see. I’ve been adamant about that even with my publishers. With one, only my PoC was on the front and I asked the wonderful artist to add his white counterpart, which she did. Not everyone will get this chance, so I fully understand it isn’t easy with a publisher.
However, if an author is self-publishing a book with a PoC, do all you can to include that character. As I stated, the number of PoC models are few and far between and many of them get used multiple times. (Shoutout to Karamo Brown) Despite him being reproduced on hundreds of covers, it represents a character of color you wrote.
From the perspective of a reader, your book will be the first one I pick up. Why? Because I see someone who looks like me on the front. Before people get upset, that doesn’t mean those are the only books I read. Again, I live in a diverse world so I want to read books about other races and cultures as well, but when I see a book that includes people from a marginalized group such as my own, I will pick up those first.
Regardless of anything I say it is still your book. If you feel better about making the book with a PoC “fit in” with the rest to gain more sales, by all means, do that. This isn’t a slap on the wrist, it’s only my thoughts. I truly believe that any author who goes the lengths to create a character of a race or culture different than their own, should do everything they can to show that character. In my opinion, it shows you are trying to promote diversity, inclusivity, and aren’t concerned that the story might lose a couple of notches on Amazon best seller’s list. People continue to cry for more diverse romance, but a big reason they can’t be found is because the marginalized person isn’t on the front.
And let me add, although I primarily mentioned race, this goes for other things too.
Writing a story about a blind man?
A person in a wheelchair?
Someone with a hearing impairment?
A different religion?
Include something or someone that reflects that. I guarantee if you do, it will stand out above the rest.
So, to conclude, this isn’t a slam on anyone. Authors, you have the right to do with your cover what you will. However, representation matters, especially these days when our society wants to go backwards. Fiction authors should be leaders when it comes to open-mindedness and diversity. Let’s continue to move forward, instead of going back.