Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some thoughts on the Bloomsbury Mess

First of all, I want to say that if you've been following the situation about the cover of Magic Under Glass, you'll probably be familiar with all of this already. But this is my own (scattered) thoughts on the topic, now that the whole thing is over.

First of all, if you haven't already, I strongly suggest you read this post by MotherReader on the topic. Her argument is pretty much identical to mine on the subject. While I applaud the efforts of the blogging community in getting the cover changed, there are several things that really sadden me about the whole way it was handled this time around (as opposed to Liar's cover) and you'll find out what if you read that post.

On that subject, I did want to point out one quote in particular from her post, which I think is the thing that makes me most unhappy about this whole thing:

"I don’t feel good that book bloggers were tossed in the mix of blame for not noticing or reporting on the cover earlier. That argument assumes that (a) lots of bloggers get early copies, (b) the bloggers actually read that book of all the books they get, (c) in reading that book they notice the cover, and (d) they feel like reviewing the book. Book bloggers — we’re all on the same team here."[Emphasis mine]
I think I'd like to add one more thing to that argument. First of all, while we continue to strive for greater diversity in the blogosphere and publishing industry, remember that there is another kind of diversity in play here. That is diversity of opinion. Everyone is entitled to have their own opinion on any subject (including book bloggers), and there are always two sides (at least) to every situation. If everyone thought and acted the same, this world would be very, very boring. So attacking someone because they didn't bring up the cover earlier (assuming they even noticed)? That's not cool.

And here's another idea I have had on the subject. While there's been overwhelming support for the author in all this, she's also gotten a lot of criticism over the whole thing. Again, my opinion in this is pretty much summed up by MotherReader's post. However one prominent blogger (who shall remain anonymous) pointed out that the author is a grown woman and she should be able to handle the pressure. That's true, but I also want to point out that this author had the guts to feature a person of color as her main character in her very first book. Shouldn't that be something we should be celebrating?

And lastly, I'd like to respond to the Bloomsbury side of this, since they really are at fault for this whole thing. I don't know to what extent the marketing department reads the book before creating a cover, but they create what sells. You can have the best book in the whole world, that's been edited by the best editor, with story and characters greater than Harry Potter and Twilight combined, but if you can't convince the marketing department it will sell, it will never get published. And yes, it is sad that this cover got whitewashed because the publisher thought that would sell better, especially with what happened over Liar. But in my opinion, the way to change that is to encourage diversity of reading. When publishers see that that's what people will read (and hence buy) then they'll respond. Because money talks.

Which brings me to my last point, which is the boycott of Bloomsbury that has been suggested by some individuals. Now while I recognize that boycotts work, I don't think that would get the desired effect in this case. Thing about boycotting books is it's going to take a looooooong time to be effective, especially with a newly released book. So many people pre-ordered Magic Under Glass that I'm sure it's earnings didn't see that much of fluctuation.

A much more effective course of action was the letters and emails that many people wrote to Bloomsbury. In fact, considering the amount of time it took to resolve this (much less than Liar if I remember correctly) I personally think those emails had way more effect than a boycott would. The blogosphere is huge, but you have to remember that in a lot of ways we are just part of the book buying market. True, a boycott would have made sales drop off eventually, but who does that hurt more: the publisher or the author? If a book isn't making money publishers will kick both it (out of print) and the author (no longer has anywhere to publish her books) to the curb. That's why I believe the letters were definitely more effective this time around. Personally, I won't be boycotting Bloomsbury at all since they publish some of my favorite authors who I want to support and keep around including Lisa Klein, Shannon Hale, Mary Hoffman, and E.D. Baker. But again, that's just my view.

One more thing about the whole boycotting issue. If you really want to make the money talk, here's a way to do it much faster than simply swearing off all Bloomsbury books buy the UK cover instead of the whitewashed US cover. If you use sites like The Book Depository you can buy the UK cover (even if you're not in the UK) and have it shipped worldwide for free. I know that changing the cover has pretty much made this a moot point, but it's something to keep in mind for future situations of this caliber. If the book is making lots and lots of money for the UK version, but not the US version, don't you think the publisher will notice. Combine that with a polite email to Bloomsbury USA to let them know why you bought the UK version, and I think that's way more effective than a general boycott would be.

And that's pretty much all I'm going to say on the whole matter. In a lot of ways I'm glad it's over because this has been wayyyyyyy more drama than it should have been.

I want to point out that I am not pointing fingers at anyone (blogger or otherwise) by this post. I am simply stating my own opinion as it relates to this topic.


MissA said...

Thanks for this post. As an FYI, the boycott has been called off (I'm pretty sure at least one has anyway).

I never thought of the ordering the UK version of the book, that's a good idea! I completely agree that if you do that, it helps the author and then if you email the company saying why you did it, that really makes an impact.

I'm 100% behind you that the best way to make sure whitewashing never happens again is to diversify reading. We need more books about POC (with accurate covers!) and we need those books to be reviewed. I think the reason why we wanted bloggers to respond to this issue is because we ARE a united community and this affects all of us and if we all raise our voices and protest aganist this, a change will be made (as it was in Liar and Magic Under Glass).

Mandy said...

I totally agree with what your saying. We should boycott them because that only hurts the innocent authors.

Heather R. Holden said...

*applauds* Very well said.

fredamans said...

I saw finger pointing, but does it matter. Some one should be to blame and not you.