Have you walked down the young adult aisles at a bookstore lately? I’ve walked down a lot of them in the last couple years and there is something they all have in common: Way too many books with covers with an image of a pretty, skinny white girl in a flowing, fancy dress. Why are publishers obsessed with this trend in YA covers? It is superficial, shallow and, often not a quality representation of the story inside. It’s also discriminatory and sends the wrong message to young readers about body image, beauty and what a good book is about.
I buy a lot of books and I am drawn first to unique covers. In fact, I usually skip over the “girl-in-dress” covers. I’m certainly not against characters photos for covers – there are many well done covers with character models. It’s the generic, shallow quality of so many covers that I have a problem with. I hope that this trend breaks soon and that publishers ask for more unique designs, designs more representative of the books and more sophisticated. None of us, especially teens trying to form healthy self images, need anymore media forcing the image of a too-skinny, gorgeous white girl into our faces as the norm, as the thing to esteem to.
Literature should be above such petty exploits.
When my publisher was designing the cover for BLOOD MOON, my executive editor asked me if I thought we should go with the trend and put a pretty Willa in a gorgeous dress on the cover. I answered him with a resounding NO! For a few reasons, reasons I think more publishers need to consider.
1 – It’s not just Willa’s story. It’s Willa AND Simon’s story. Putting only Willa on the cover sends the message that the story is focused on one girl.
2 – Willa on the cover immeditaley shuts out any male readers. I didn’t want that because the story appeals to male and female readers. I’ve heard from several guys who’ve read the book and enjoyed it. A few of them have even commented on the cover, saying they are glad it wasn’t a “girly” cover.
3 – The image of a girl in a dress is not in any way representative of the story. It’s not about Willa being a pretty girl and wearing pretty clothes (how boring would that be!), it’s about enduring love, discovering your true self and making hard decisions. Plus Willa is never, ever dressed in a fancy, prom-like dress in the story.
4 – It’s superficial, in so many ways, many of which I mentioned earlier. A girl in a pretty dress tells the reader nothing substantial and certainly nothing worthwhile about a story. I wanted BLOOD MOON to be sophisticated.
BLOOD MOON’s cover perfectly represents the story in the pages and we’ve received so many compliments and praise because of it’s design. I am so glad we went against the trend.