Happy Sunday, everyone! If you’re in the US, hope you’re enjoying the long weekend (with barbecues and beers and fireworks, etc).
Demon Blood Giveaway Winners:
The two lucky winners of Meljean Brook’s latest are:
Congratulations! Now, you know the drill. Send us an email (contact AT the book smugglers DOT com) with your snail mail address, and we will get your winnings out to you as soon as possible.
Whitewashing: It. Just. Won’t. END.
The blogosphere is abuzz as, once again, publishers are Doing It Wrong. This time, the victim is Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix – a YA fantasy novel set in medieval China, featuring Chinese protagonists (I reviewed the book earlier this year, and although I wasn’t enamored with the story or the writing, the treatment of the cover is a whole different can of worms. Here’s the original – beautiful – hardcover:
And here are the new covers:
The Powers That Be have deemed Silver Phoenix‘s lack of sales success to its cover, and have refitted those covers to resemble something a little more…homogeneous.
These new, teen paranormal stylized covers (the half face! the dark lighting with a glowy random photoshopped object!) certainly fit the current look for uninspired YA art:
But that’s not really the point either. The thing that really bothers us is the underlying message this cover change represents. The message is that the first cover was too specific (Bullshit Translation: TOO ASIAN), and didn’t appeal to a broad enough audience (Bullshit Translation: White people).* In order to rectify that and to boost sales, The Powers That Be have created new covers with more familiar art, with models whose ethnicity cannot be determined. Because there are no tell-tale slanted eyes, broad noses or high cheekbones, these models could be Chinese. They also could be Caucasian.** And this, in Bullshitese, means that a “mainstream audience” will feel more comfortable buying this book.
This sort of assumption-making really, fucking rankles.
Many other bloggers have written incredibly passionate, eloquent posts about the debacle, and we highly recommend you check them out:
Inkstone’s “I Guess I Still Have A Post In Me – Phoenix Rising: go all out or just don’t go
Ari of Reading In Color, “Guess What This Post Is About?”
Bookshop’s “I don’t want to be this person. Dear Publishing Industry, stop FORCING me to be this person.”
The Rejectionist’s “Insert Animated .gif of The Rejectionist Jumping Up And Down And Screaming” (with quite possibly the best cap to illustrate the complete and utter FRUSTRATION this new cover fiasco causes)
*Never mind the fact that poor sales figures might have something to do with buyers (not readers, mind you!) not stocking Silver Phoenix in Borders or in very few Barnes & Nobles – meaning customers have incredibly limited opportunity to browse and buy this book in stores. Nope. The obvious problem MUST be its alienating (ASIAN!) cover. Maybe this is a case of a publisher trying to get around the idiotic bias of one or two retail buyers. Regardless, there is something clearly very, very wrong with this system, and needs to be addressed.
**I cannot write this post without at least addressing the hideousness of the two covers, aesthetically. On the cover for Phoenix Rising, don’t the arms look like they belong to someone else? And why the hell would Ai Ling be wearing a sparkly halter dress?! Never mind the whole cut and pasted magic knife (snort) or the model’s light brown hair or suspiciously Caucasian features. I’m not even GOING there with the Secret of the Ooze green medallion on the new cover for Silver Phoenix. It looks like a radioactive booger. Or…is that SLIMER? Ectoplasmic residue?
Young Adult Appreciation Month (part deux). It’s coming.
This Week on The Book Smugglers:
On Monday, Ana reviews Bonds of Justice, the newest psy-changeling novel from Nalini Singh – there will also be an opportunity to win two copies of the book.
Tuesday, Thea reviews I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells, the first of a planned Dexter-esque series.
Wednesday, Ana reviews classic science fiction novel Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock…
And on Thursday, Thea reviews Kraken by China Mieville (at long last!).
Closing out the week, we give you a joint review of Peter and Max by Bill Willingham – an illustrated standalone novel set in his Fables universe.
That’s it for now. Until tomorrow, we remain…
~ Your Friendly Neighborhood Book Smugglers
danielleJuly 4, 2010 at 1:10 am
Right. Those covers are hideous and I bought Rising Pheonix specifically because the original cover was not hideous. This is really annoying to me because I love any fiction featuring Asian culture and if I saw those new covers anywhere in a store I’d pass by it so fast the cheap lettering would pop off.
This? Is stupid.
Rhiannon HartJuly 4, 2010 at 1:26 am
Ridiculous. How is this still going on?
YAY for YA appreciation month!
Alex DJuly 4, 2010 at 1:30 am
Thank you! I have emailed you 😀
CelineJuly 4, 2010 at 3:38 am
Seeing. Red. Over. Cindy’s. Covers.
AkinJuly 4, 2010 at 6:28 am
Man, this thing with Silver Phoenix sucks. I actually blogged about it, but I don’t blame the publishers:
Really sad, this.
Stacey RJuly 4, 2010 at 7:08 am
Completely agree with your assessment of the new covers! I read a lot of Urban Fantasy and, sadly, when browsing the bookshelves I can spot the books that fall into that category by the bare midriff on the cover. Not only are they boring and repetitive, I hate to bring them anywhere! Makes me very glad I have a nook.
As for the whitewashing – if publishers are that worried about skin color, don’t put any people on the cover. Half the enjoyment of reading is building the world in my mind as I choose to picture it. Its distracting to have a cover image that doesn’t match the description of a character as written.
Carolyn CraneJuly 4, 2010 at 7:24 am
Oh, it’s so sad that that whitewashing is happening again. And I really loved that first cover, too!! Ironically, this publicity might generate more sales for the book, and I wonder if it will look like it’s due to the vaguer cover image.
katiebabsJuly 4, 2010 at 8:58 am
This constant cover whitewash enrages me in ways you can’t understand. I posted on this also:
MargJuly 4, 2010 at 9:16 am
This is ridiculous. The original cover is gorgeous; whereas, these new versions are absolutely hideous (I would not come anywhere near them if I saw them on a store bookshelf). I’m so disappointed with the whitewashing that still goes on. Do so many buyers really have an aversion to ethnic/racial specific, non-white covers that publishers feel such a strong need to do this in order to boost sales? I’m white (not American, but white)and I actually prefer more ethnically/racially diverse covers and characters. I’m tired of seeing the same types of models, art concepts, and characters being used over & over again.
oranniaJuly 4, 2010 at 4:36 pm
Congrats to the winners!
The original cover of Silver Phoenix is gorgeous – it would so catch my eye. However, the revised cover is generic and…bland. It looks like every other YA book out there. And if I’m standing in a bookstore how I am meant to distinguish it from any other book? The short answer is I can’t. So why would I pick it up versus something else?
And as for changing the cover to entice a more mainstream audience to buy it? *SIGH* I don’t purchase a book based on the cover. Yes, the cover may entice me to pick it up, but the summary has to interest me or the book goes straight back down again. It’s a content thing.
I’m curious – what research are the publishers/booksellers referring too when they change the covers? Or is it just what they think?
Am looking forward to your review of Bonds of Justice!
adrienneJuly 4, 2010 at 7:35 pm
You guys as usual are 100% correct. Neither Barnes & noble or Boarders had that book in stock and it didn’t get good blog reviews. Changing the cover is wrong-we readers aren’t stupid. Sad…
PS Droid forever haha 😀
LivianiaJuly 4, 2010 at 10:29 pm
I’ve been eagerly waiting for SILVER PHOENIX to come out in paperback. I can’t afford hardcovers, unfortunately, but I may have to pony up the cash. As you said, in addition to the ethical problems with the new covers, they’re hideous. The original was beautiful and eye-catching.
Amanda IsabelJuly 5, 2010 at 4:53 am
That’s ridonculous! I cannot believe we live in an age and a place that is determined by people who think like that! Jeez – what’s next?
Mrs. DeRapsJuly 5, 2010 at 11:54 am
This is just sad. Thanks for drawing attention to this issue. Look forward to your Appreciation Week.
CelineJuly 7, 2010 at 12:06 am
Just want to say re bookshop’s post (which the smugglers linked to above, and which I’m now again linking to just for ease of access http://bookshop.dreamwidth.org/1007281.html )
The conversation that happens towards the middle/end of the comments on bookshop’s post SHOULD BE READ BY ALL. It’s a fascinating and informed (and ultimately a little depressing) conversation on how book selling works.
AjaJuly 7, 2010 at 1:54 pm
I am just seeing this because I AM BEHIND ON LIFE. you guys! thank you so much for posting about SP, I was hoping you would. And I agree with the previous poster that the discussion, not only on my Dreamwidth but also on my LJ comments here – http://bookshop.livejournal.com/1056528.html – is really, really informative/eye-opening, especially since several other YA writers and people who work in the industry have taken the time to give their perspective.
but mostly i’m just like D:
The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Three Years of Book Smuggling…January 7, 2011 at 12:03 am
[…] happens with the first cover of Catherynne Valente’s Habitation of the Blessed and with Cindy Pon’s reissued covers for her Phoenix books, causing much headdesking at Book Smugglers’ […]