Stories That End Well

Posted by on June 21, 2011 in business of writing, sfnovelists | 2 comments

A lot of authors have a lot of complaints about how they are treated by their mainstream publishers.  Many of those complaints concern cover design — authors aren’t happy when the characters on the covers of their books look nothing like the characters described in the pages of the books.

(For the record, I have not had this problem in my books.  I was a bit surprised to discover that Rani Trader had blond hair in the Glasswrights Series, but I’d been silent on that detail in the first volume, and I learned to live with it in later volumes.)

There’s a special subset of cases where authors are frustrated by poor cover art:  whitewashing.  Whitewashing occurs when a non-white character (such as the narrator of Justine Larbalestier’s LIAR) is depicted as white.  Sometimes, as in Larbalestier’s case, the outcry is so great that the publisher changes the book cover.  Often, though, authors are merely left to grumble.

With that as background, I point you toward Greg Van Eekhout’s post about his latest release — THE BOY AT THE END OF THE WORLD — a young adult novel with a hero who is decidedly not-white.  A handful of early readers have accused Greg’s publisher of whitewashing the cover.  You might be intrigued to hear what Greg has to say about the matter.  I was.

Mindy, musing (and eager to read Greg’s new book!)


  1. I agree with the author. The kid in the picture looks like he could be almost anything except pure African or Scandinavian. Of course, showing him from the back helps because there is no question of features, which I think is just as well, since, as one commenter on the author’s blog pointed out, it’s nice for kids to be able t0 imagine themselves in the story.

    • It’s interesting – I hadn’t realized that there’s an ongoing discussion about “hidden faces” being a form of whitewashing. I see it done so often (especially with the decapitated women on romances) that I don’t even see it anymore…