Monday, June 2, 2008

Black Books in Controversy: Putting images of Black People on Book Covers

You wouldn't probably believe it if you never have sat around a table and discussed whether or not putting an image of a black person on a book jacket will hurt a book's sales. But when it comes to a lot of literary titles and serious non-fiction, there is a strain of thought that having an image of a person of color on the cover will make the book less appealing to the general consumer.

That this is even taken into consideration disturbs me a lot, because if someone doesn't want to purchase a book because it features a black person on the cover, then I think the problem is that of the consumer, not the publisher.

Again, good readers of this site, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts. What do you think? Do cover images influence your purchasing decisions?


Alison Bergblom Johnson said...

No they don't influence my purchase decisions. However as an intern at a small paper I wrote a story on health disparities in communities of color. Along with a photograph of one of the women in the story, who was African-American my story appeared on the cover of the paper.

This was a free paper, and the issue didn't get picked up. It was very disturbing to both my editor and I, who are both white. The incident sparked a discussion in the newsroom about whether we could afford to produce covers that featured people of color. I wish such considerations didn't enter into publishing

Farrah Rochon said...

If people were to honestly answer this question, I'm sure a large section of our population who never consider themselves as being prejudice would be surprised. We still have a very long way to go.

daughterofthedream said...

Encountered this same argument while working at national magazines. "Black women just don't sell well" was the refrain. Neither did certain white women but they still put them on the cover more than once.

Of course nothing was ever said about the purchasing proclivities of women of color buying magazines featuring an abundance of white women on the covers. There was only concern about the alienation of white women readers deemed unable to handle seeing women of color. I brought that up in an editorial meeting once and got crickets, lol.

I love covers of books and I will pick them up and given them a looksee after one has caught my eye, but that is the extent and race doesn't matter to me in that regard. I don't like the covers of so-called street lit, but I do like the candy-colored covers of so-called chick lit. And I love black and white photographic images. I learned my lesson though: the hardback cover of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go was so terribly boring that I almost skipped it. Turns out it's a good read, of course.

Mr. Obie Joe said...

In one regard, book cover images can: if I see the same style, type of image over and over again, it makes think the content instead is not as good, because the cover was so hyped. A black face would not influence me if the book was fiction, because I believe all stories hold universal appeal. The color of a face on a nonfiction book might influence my decision to pick it up depending on the connection to the subject matter, but the same could be said for the gender of the cover face.


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