Monday, 12 August 2019

Judging a book by the cover | #BookCover #CoverModels #LoveToRead

I've done a lot of promos and spotlight posting lately, but today, I'm returning to posting something non-promotional. Book covers.

It is said often enough. Don't judge a book by its cover. As an author and a reader, though, I've learnt that books are judged by their covers on a daily basis.

This post is not about bad or ugly covers, though. Nope. It's about the model on the cover.

I experienced my first 'culture shock' as a writer in July 2018 when I participated in the AfricaWrites Book Festival. I had my books Chancing Faith, an interracial romance, and Forest Girl, a contemporary African romance. While I sold a few copies of Forest Girl, I didn't sell a single copy of Chancing Faith. Among the reasons readers gave for not selecting Chancing Faith was that it had a White guy on the cover. Wow! I can't say how many ways that stung, because it wasn't about the story on the inside or even the blurb at the back. In fact, one thing I was determined to do when writing that story was to make sure the conflict wasn't based on race.

The second culture shock came when I learnt that it wasn't just Black readers who rejected books based on the race of the model on the cover.
I was recently in a forum where many authors mentioned encounters with White readers who wouldn't even read the blurb if the book had a Black person on the cover. There were some authors whose covers didn't have a human element, and some had reviews in which readers confessed that they'd never have picked the picked if they'd known the main characters were Black/non-White. In those cases, the lack of a human element lifted the barrier that would otherwise have prevented readers from enjoying a really good story.

As a reader, I have to admit, I gravitate toward some genres more than others. I'm more likely to pick a f/m book over a menage or m/m; or a sweet romance over an erotic one. Those are preferences based on genre, not the race of the characters. So I'd pick a book with non-Black main characters in the genre I like over a book with at least one Black main character in a genre I generally don't enjoy. Even then, there are times I intentionally venture out of my usual reads to discover new authors, new stories and new ideas.

I see myself as an African writer, which means I will always have an African identity in my stories. However, I'm determined to write to a global audience, which means I will not box myself in if a story needs to be told. I'm objective enough to accept that not everyone will enjoy my stories. I just never expected my book to be rejected because 'it had a White Guy on the cover'.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you're a reader who won't touch a book with main characters of a different race from you, I'd like to know what goes into that decision. If you don't feel inclined to share your reasons, just do me a favour and please make an effort to dedicate at least 5% of your annual reading list to books outside your usual preference.

There's so much I want to say, but I think I'll end my rant here for today. Have a wonderful week.

4 comments:

  1. Awww. I was hoping to see some covers. Its really sad that race has such an impact over so much. I read all sorts of stories, but over the past couple of years I've been gravitating more towards multicultural romances than anything else. That's not to say that if the book calls to me, no matter the race of the characters, that I won't read it. Love is universal.

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    1. Aww, sorry. I thought about putting some covers, but some of them were from discussions in private threads, so I didn't think I should share them here.
      I have to admit, I've also been gravitating toward MC romance and books by WOC lately, but I'm not so focused on it that I'd dismiss a book just because of the model on the cover. Basically, I don't have it in my head that I'd never buy a book with a non-Black main character

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  2. I really don't get people who reject books based on the race of the models on the covers. It's a shame but it's the readers loss not yours.

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  3. As a writer that also does interracial romances, I get this. To have your book judged and/or rejected based on the race of the model on the cover is just another hurdle we face. I don't understand how a person can turn down a potentially great story for just a bigoted reason, but it is the reality in which we live. I want a good story, told well, with characters I can love.

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