Why My Book Cover Doesn’t Look Dystopian
Kayti Nika Raet
People judge books by their covers. I’ve talked about that in a previous post on my blog and even made a list of my favorite covers. But what I DIDN’T talk about, or rather discussed very briefly, was diversity in book covers, and not cover diversity as “why all YA book covers feature girls with their heads chopped off?” but as a reflection of the character between the pages, as well as the world around us.
In my aforementioned blog post, I discussed Liar, an awesome book by Justine Larbalestier, featuring a multiracial girl who may or may not be a werewolf. The original cover, though gorgeous, featured a girl who was neither African-American nor biracial. Luckily, there was enough of an uproar about the disparity that things were soon fixed.
Unfortunately, that kind of thing is pretty common. Either from cover artists receiving a description of the book that may not mention some important physical aspects about a character, to marketing executives believing that certain book covers sell better than others (thus the plethora of headless girls, or girls in dresses).
As an indie author, you’re in full creative control, and if you’re an indie author who’s character doesn’t fit the mainstream norm (whether that means they are a person of color, LGBTQ, disabled, religious/agnostic/atheist, or in some way “other”) then you’re faced with a complex decision.
In Niko, my main character is black. I don’t come out and say it explicitly because, well, it IS set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic landscape and I figured racial categories aren’t what they used to be.
So when it came time to talk with my lovely cover artist (and sister) Hana Kura I had to make a decision.
You may note that my cover doesn’t look very dystopian. It certainly pops out (look away from the boobs, please) but it doesn’t scream this a book with a landscape filled with flesh eating monsters, acid rain, and people interested in genetic modification, plus a dash of romance and sexy sexiness. On average, dystopian covers are non-representative and usually feature a symbol of some sort over a gritty background…
Even though I really really wanted to go with that kind of style, in the end I decided to feature Niko in all her baseball wielding glory for one simple reason: it’s for the girl browsing online (eventually, we will reach the print book stage…) scrolling through her favorite genre, who catches sight of the cover and stops, because it looks like she will be able to find herself in the pages. And hopefully, she will.
Please consider assisting our efforts to diversify everyone’s bookshelf by donating to We Need Diverse Books fundraising campaign by clicking —> HERE – it’s vital, folks.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Kayti Nika Raet moved down South when she was 11 where she was bit by the writing bug as well as other less friendly insects. She the author of the YA dystopia, Niko, Harm, and Outsider as well as the short stories Slither and Tape the Devil’s Mouth . She’s also a reviewer for Readers’ Favorite and has her own Youtube Channel Kayti Edition. Her procrastination aids are reading, K-pop, and photography. Kayti lives in Milledgeville, Georgia.
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