Jim C. Hines Booksigning, and more cover art talk
Posted August 11, 2012on:
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?