the Little Red Reviewer

Jim C. Hines Booksigning, and more cover art talk

Posted on: August 11, 2012

Last night I went to the Jim C. Hines booksigning at a local bookstore. To help him not think about the upcoming Hugo awards ceremony at Worldcon, where he’s nominated for best Fanwriter, Jim read from the short story that inspired Libriomancer (same Smudge, different Isaac), teased us about what we can look forward to in the second book in the series, and answered questions about what it was like place his book in rural (and urban) Michigan, what a person can, can’t, and really shouldn’t do with Libriomancy.   And if you haven’t heard of Libriomancer, go read my review, then go read Justin Landon’s review, then go read some more about it, and then seriously, go get a copy. If you love books, if you are a geek at heart, this is the book for you. Libriomancer is just an all around wonderful read.

Recently famous for being this guy, there was some talk about cover art. One of the characters in Libriomancer is Lena Greenwood. She’s a dryad, and she ain’t a skinny lady. She’s perfectly rounded and curvy and unbelievable sexy. At the moment, she has a dark complexion.  Jim Hines is poking at the expectations of the love triangle so often found in urban fantasy, and Lena is his sharp stick.

So he was telling us about a recent conversation he had with his publisher, where they were asking for a plot summary of the second book so they could start working on the cover art.  Part of Jim’s response to them was that Lena needed to be on the cover, and a few days later he received in his e-mail some headshots of models they were thinking of using to portray Lena.  When he complained that all the models were far too slender to be a realistic Lena, the response was “How about this one, she’s a size 6?”.   Jim had already been through this conversation four times with his Princess books, begging for one of the characters complexions to be darkened to match what she actually looks like.

I’ve already had this discussion with Sarah Zettel about cover art not matching what the character looks like because publishers have the final word on cover art. Cover art white washing and “sexy-izing” isn’t anything new.  The fact that it has become not unexpected means we are not talking about it enough.

Yes, I understand that “sex sells”, and the publishers know that people make a quick judgement based on their first look at a book.  But if they could put a fat old guy on the cover of Throne of the Crescent Moon, what’s so terrible about putting a beautiful, pleasantly plump dark skinned woman on the cover of an urban fantasy?

I imagine publishers are asking themselves which book people are more likely to spend their money on – a book with cover art showing  young-ish super skinny sexy woman wearing really tight pants and showing plenty of skin, or a book with cover art showing a beautiful plump lady?

so, reader, I ask you: how likely are you to buy a book where the cover art shows a plus-size lady whose skin tone doesn’t match yours?

do we want our cover art to portray an unrealistic expectation of beauty and perfection, or do we want our cover art to portray what the characters actually look like, and what real people (and possibly even the reader!!) actually looks like?

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11 Responses to "Jim C. Hines Booksigning, and more cover art talk"

Libriomancer is one of the two books I’m buying as soon as I get back to the US (the other is D.B. Jackon’s Thieftaker).

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Can’t wait to hear what you think of Libriomancer, I got such a kick out of it.

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I want cover art in every-skin-colour. I very-much-enjoy books that challenge my default skin-tone assumptions such as those from KK Rusch (Fey Series) and Sherwood Smith. As an alien, CJ Cherryh’s Jago doesn’t quite count, but still she is a favourite.

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yes, yes!! all of those things!

It’s amazing that when the cover features an alien, it looks just like the description in the book. but when the cover features a person, so often it’s like the artist never even got a description of the character. bizarre and sad.

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I want cover art that reflects the book’s content and if that’s a slightly plump darker skinned beautiful woman then that’s what it should be. Simples. I’ve noticed with a few books recently that the cover art seems to bear no relation to the work inside the cover and I don’t really understand it.
Lynn :D

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exactly!! if there is going to be a person on the cover, that person should bear a decent resemblance to the character. :(

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This exactly! I want to know that whomever drew the cover also read the book.

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1. Omg what state do you live in? *hopes she didn’t miss this book signing from living under a rock* I just got the princess books from a friend and have started on them :D

2. Whether I pick up a book is generally determined by how cool the fantasy element looks on the cover (and how pretty it is). Dryads are one of my favorite fantasy creatures (I love nature, I want to hug all the dryads, at least the nice ones.) and so a plump women of a different skin color than mine who was obviously a gorgeous dryad would draw me in no matter what, and it would probably spark my interest more that she isn’t a skinny pale skinned women because I tend to enjoy the stories that are more thought out and less trope-y.

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I live in Michigan. Over the years I’ve figured out which authors live in my state and neighboring states, and if they post any book signing schedules on their websites, I’ll see what’s near me or a reasonable drive. If a business trip for work happened to get me closer to a book signing that I really wanted to go to, that of course, is a complete coincidence. ;)

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Got all hopeful there for a moment that I wasn’t the only one living under a rock!
Lynn :D

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