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Monica Jackson’s most recent blog, where she bitches about the latest cover for one of her books got me thinking.

How does it happen, that an author can write a romance featuring a black hero/heroine, but once the cover is unveiled, it depicts a completely different looking person. More often than is comfortable, the colour changes to a whiter shade of pale.

I was once told that this is because romance books with covers of African American/or any other black contingent, do not sell as well as book covers with pictures of Caucasian heroes/heroines.

Huh? *Cue mouth falling open in amazement*. Wow…. Who knew?

Then I thought about it some more, and I decided that this person was right, book covers with heroes/heroines of colour probably don’t sell as well, but why?

Well after having mulled this over for oh…several seconds, I decided that publishers were to blame for this sad state of affairs.

The fact that some of them still feel that the best way to market a romance book is to have white heroes and heroines on the front cover, regardless of whether or not the actual characters in the book are white, tells me all I need to know about how far we’ve come in the whole equal opportunities debate.

Surely if we saw more romance cover books showing actual black heroes/heroines, the status quo regarding sales would change.

People hate the unknown, and subconsciously, publishers out there who practice this kind of marketing, help perpetuate the notion that black people falling in love is a rare and uncomfortable occurrence, and thus one that must be avoided at all costs.

The first time I saw the word ‘cock’ in a book, I nearly fainted in dismay (you can imagine my initial reaction to discovering that people actually indulged in anal sex) , in fact I actually gasped out aloud, I was so shocked. The obvious reason for my surprise, was because prior to this occasion, I’d never seen the word used anywhere else. His ‘hardness’, his ‘manhood’, and other equally politically correct descriptions, but never “cock”, I mean shit, that was like a dirty word!

Now of course things have changed, I gasp out loud if I don’t see the word cock in my romance books. Now I revel in its liberal use. The more cocks, the merrier as far as I’m concerned.

I think the same can be said for romance books featuring people of colour on the front cover. If those out there, who happen to be less enlightened than us, don’t see such covers often, how are they ever going to be given the opportunity to get used to it, and eventually stop gasping at pictures of black people on romance covers?


  • Anonymous
    May 14
    9:10 pm

    I look at it as a numbers game. There are more white women so of course more books with white women and men on the cover will be sold. With that said tons of black romance books and authors sell well. I’m sure with a little research you will see there is a market for these books.


  • Chocoholic Girl
    May 14
    9:12 pm

    I agree, it is all about exposure, and how often these book covers are seen by readers.

    The problem is that publishing houses are all about the money, and they sure aren’t going to take the moral high ground when it comes to profit making.

    Unfortunately it’s sometimes left to African American authors to take a stand and refuse to compromise, and how likely is it that that will happen? They too have to sell books


  • Chocoholic Girl
    May 14
    9:23 pm

    I don’t think Karen was questioning the fact that overall books with white characters sell more, I seem to think that her point was that sometimes, even when the characters are of color, they are portrayed on the front cover as being white. At least that’s what I understood from her comments.


  • Mel
    May 14
    10:00 pm

    N.Y publishers are the main offenders when it comes to using images that will sell regardless of the traits the author has put in her book.

    This issue isn’t just limited to black characters, the same thing can be said for plus size women. More and more authors write books about women with a lot more meat on them, but rarely do the covers ever show a good old fashioned plus size heroine.

    In the end it’s all about making money, and as hard as it is to swallow, romance readers do not want that much realism in their books, so the publishers keep doing what they know works, they give the readers the fantasy they want.


  • Kat
    May 15
    12:40 pm

    Thank God I figured out how to leave a comment, it usually always tells me I can’t leave a message!

    Anyway my opinion is that it is all about making money, and the only way things will change is if one of the main publishing companies appoint a black person to run things. You need somebody on the inside to make those kind of changes, but all it takes is one main stream publisher to start the trend of leaving black characters on the front cover, and I’m sure the rest would follow, like the sheep they are, (g)


  • Karen Scott
    May 15
    10:24 pm

    Anonymous Poster, My rant was about editors and publishers changing the colour of actual black characters on the front cover, not about sales per se.

    Chcoholic, you’re right unfortunately it is all about the money!! And yes you’re right, that was my main point.

    Mel, you raised an interesting point, now that I think about it, I’ve read tons of rubenesque books, and I have to say I can’t ever recall a cover that actually depicted that. No wonder we think that being fat is a fate worse than death!

    Hi Kat, are there no black CEO’s at any of the top publishers?
    (BTW, I’m glad you figured out how to post, lol!)


  • Dawn
    May 16
    10:31 am

    I guess that why I like the e-publishers so much. What is on the cover is what’s in the book.

    I remember a few years back on my usual weekly trawl through the romance section in the local library, I accidentally came across a Desire with a black couple on the cover. Being black myself, understandably, I pounced on it. Nevermind that the story wasn’t that great – it was just nice to see something normal on a cover.


  • Karen Scott
    May 17
    9:52 am

    Dawn, I bet I read the same book, I picked it up purely because it was so unusual to see a black couple on the cover!
    BTW, You were right about it being a rubbish book!!


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