Monday, August 31, 2009


Re-posted from the Blue Rose Girls.

No time for a real post today--just got back last night from a lovely Blue Rose Girl meet-up at Libby's place in Mystic. Anna and I drove back to NY together so that Anna could meet with her publisher about Disappearing Desmond.

One thing I wanted to mention is that two weeks ago, I finally folded and joined Twitter. I had been resisting, not because I didn't think I would like it, and not because I didn't think it would be worth it, but rather because I knew I would probably become addicted to it, and did I really want to add another internet addiction to my life? But I joined anyway, and sure enough, I'm hooked. If you would like to follow me, I'm @planetalvina. Grace, Anna, and Libby are all on Twitter, too: @pacylin, @annaalter, @blowoutthemoon. Follow us!

I'll leave you with these links that started from a conversation on Twitter. Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein posted an open letter and a modest proposal to agents about the timing of submissions here. Agent Michael Bourret posted a response here. Cheryl responded again here, and Michael responded to her response to his response of her blog post here. You following? I have a few thoughts in the comments section of some of the posts. At any rate, it was an interesting discussion, and it was pretty cool to see everything unfold on Twitter, although I haven't fully gotten the hang of it. But I do see the value of it so far. Do any of you Twitter? (or should I say "tweet"?) Do you find it worthwhile?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Beyond the book: GEEKTASTIC edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci

Beyond the Book: GEEKTASTIC: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
Oh boy, there's so much beyond-the-book geeky goodness to share. First of all, here's the skinny on the book itself:
Haven't you heard? Geek is the new cool! Acclaimed authors Holly Black (Ironside) and Cecil Castellucci (Boy Proof) have united in geekdom to edit short stories from some of the best selling and most promising geeks in young adult literature: M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, John Green, Tracy Lynn, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, Scott Westerfield, Lisa Yee, and Sara Zarr.

With illustrated interstitials from comic book artists Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, Geektastic covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers. Whether you're a former, current, or future geek, or if you just want to get in touch with your inner geek, Geektastic will help you get your geek on!
This is the book that I've acquired based on the least amount of material. I've acquired books based on partial manuscripts, but I have never acquired a book based on basically one paragraph:

Description: From Dungeon Masters to cosplaying Klingons, Science Fair winners to the Drama club stage crew and band geeks to comic book collectors searching for that pristine back issue, GEEKTASTIC explores the subculture of geekery, letting those who are often the supporting cast become the stars. The inner sanctum of geekdom will be penetrated and demystified. In this book all will be revealed, from the convention hook-ups and fanfiction rivalries to the civil wars between lovers of original Star Trek and those on the side of the next generation, and the unfortunate incidents when the bacchanalia of the chess club goes just a little too far. Hang on to your laptop and chug some Jolt cola, because once and for all, you'll see that there's very little difference between the most popular and the least.

GEEKTASTIC promises to make you cringe with recognition and embrace your inner geek.

But what the pitch also came with was the incredible team of Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci, and five fantastic contributors already attached: John Green, MT Anderson, Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld, and Kelly Link. And what it came with was a fantastic idea that, to borrow the words of Holly and Cecil, sang to my geek heart, and sang to the geek hearts of my colleagues.

The project went to auction, and in my offer letter, I included some of the geek qualifications of my colleages (names deleted to protect, geeks):

“I saw Star Wars seven times when it first came out and even saw it twice on the same day. I also made a Star Wars scrapbook and had a huge crush on Mark Hamill (what a geek! Everyone knows Harrison Ford was the cute/smart/cool one.)” –former neck-gear-wearing geek

"I seem to always love TV shows about misfits and geeks or else I watch shows that only misfits and geeks would watch: 1970s Favorite TV Show: Mork and Mindy; 1980s Favorite TV Show: Square Pegs; 1990s Favorite TV Show: Daria; 2000s Favorite TV Show: Antiques Roadshow UK" --geeky watcher of the entire Lord of the Rings Director's Cut DVD collection (in one sitting)

“In high school I truly believed you had to do paperwork to join the apathy club.” –recovering Zappa addict geek

“I used to have crushes on anime characters, like Spike from Cowboy Bebop. I would download the Japanese theme songs from these anime series and pine for my unrequited, animated love.”–cartoon fetishist geek

"Sometimes I look at my friends and wonder what our superpowers would be if we were a crime-fighting squad." –resident fantasy/sci-fi loving geek

“I was a band geek - part of the colorguard to be exact. We'd march around the band at football games waving our flags in our skirts & boots thinking we were cooler than the cheerleaders - oh, definitely not...” –former wannabe cheerleader geek

"One Halloween I dressed up as the Ebola virus--I even included symptoms written in blood-like red pen on my back. The other kids thought I was dressed as puke." –former infectious diseases geek turned adult hypochondriac

"I recently went to a competitive cat show and took a class on puppet making." –former Moon Boot-wearing geek

“I feel like my geek qualifications are far too numerous to list, whether it was collecting comic books as a kid (and buying two copies--one to put away and never touch--and one to read) or collecting action figures in my 20s... Or it could be getting braces for the first time when I was 30 (alas, no headgear)! But perhaps my geekiest moment is the level of excitement I feel over the possibility of having this book to work on--lot's of very geeky marketing ideas come to mind that would help readers from coast to coast celebrate their inner geek!” –all-around geek

As for me? Well, I included my geek qualifications, too--in resume form, no less (click to enlarge): According to the agent, the incredible Barry Goldblatt, every other interested party also included their geek qualifications, but I'm proud to say that I was the only editor to include hers in resume form.

We got the book, and team Holly and Cecil were on board. I've never worked on a short story collection before, so this was a bit of a challenge. We came up with our dream list of contributors, and asked for rough topics from our existing contributors, and then chose contributors to fill in the blanks. We wanted to cover all kinds of geeks: book geeks, sci fi geeks, band geeks, comic book geeks, theater geeks, science geeks, and more. The final book as everything from a baton twirling geek (story by Lisa Yee), astronomy geeks (Wendy Mass), LARPers (Garth Nix), Quiz Bowl geeks (David Levithan), Buffy the Vampire Slayer geeks (Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith), Rocky Horror Picture Show fanatics (Libba Bray), and it's kicked off by a story by Holly and Cecil, about a Klingon and a Jedi hooking up at a ComicCon. Geek categories that didn't get a full story were covered in the comic interstitials between each story, illustrated by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, including this one:
There's truly something here for everyone. I've really loved how a story that one reviewer may not have cared for was the favorite of another reviewer. Sure, some of the stories speak mainly to hard-core geeks, and non-geeks might not get all the references. But that's kind of the point. This is a book for geeks, by geeks; but it's also a book for past geeks and future geeks.

Other challenges:
-contracts details were a headache--we had to negotiate with many different agents and coordinate payment for 19 different contributors.
-How would the editing process work? We decided that Holly and Cecil would edit the short stories until they were happy with them, and then pass them along to me.
-How to determine the order? At one ALA, Holly, Cecil, and I sat outside in a courtyard and each made our own order--it was like making a mix tape. Then we compared lists and worked out the order together.
-Keeping track of all the stories and all the deadlines was a juggling act for me and my assistant Connie. And yes, I may have once sent queries for the wrong story to the wrong contributor... whoops!
-The subtitle: we went through so many different possibilities, from "Stories of geeks by geeks," "Stories of geeks and the geeks observed," "Stories for your inner geek," "Stories of the Awesomely Uncool," "Stories from the Nerdishly Obsessed," and so on. In the end, it was assistant editor T.S. Ferguson who came up with the final subtitle, "Stories from the Nerd Herd." And yes, we debated the difference between geeks and nerds, but in the end, we felt that this was a book for geeks and nerds alike to relish in. This is a picture we took of Holly right after we settled on the subtitle:

Working on the package for this book was so much fun. The designer Ben Mautner had the genius idea of approaching Design collective eBoy for the cover avatars. Our brilliant marketing team came up with the idea of having eBoy make avatars of each contributor, which we also used throughout with each author's bios. (Read more about the cover design in the PW Cover of the Week article here.) We even made a wink at the whole "All Your Base are Belong to Us" thing on the back jacket flap ("All Your Stories are Belong to Us."). Viva the nerd herd!

The book has been greating great reviews, including from trade reviewers:
“Throughout, this all-inclusive love fest plays homage to the classics of D&D and Star Trek, but there’s plenty of room for fans of new faves such as the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica and Joss Whedon-verse as well…Geeks, old and new school, will appreciate this collection written by their own.”--Booklist

"Geektastic explores universal themes in original settings, and its talented authors bring transparent, infectious enthusiasm to what is obviously a cherished topic."--The Horn Book

Blogs: "Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci's wonderful anthology of nerdy fiction and comics, Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd was a great read: the short fiction ran the gamut from soul-searing angst to high comedy and all the territory in between....All told, Geektastic is a cliche-busting, smart, and funny book about celebrating your inner mutant. Highly recommended."

But my favorite review is from one of our teen Hip Scouts: "I’m not sure that I can describe how much I loved this book, but I’ll do my best. Imagine kittens sneezing adorable kitten sneezes whilst dancing on a rainbow. That’s how great Geektastic was."--Meg, 16
Read more about GEEKTASTIC here, and play a game featuring the avatars, the Great Geek Escape!

Read a recent interview with Cecil and Holly here. Check out pics from our Geektastic bowling party at BEA here. And check out the fantastic Lego avatars our resident Lego expert Jonathan Lopes created for ALA:

I LOVE this book. Love it.

So, how geektastic are you?

Monday, August 17, 2009

10 Years: a look back

Yesterday, August 16 was my ten-year anniversary of starting at Little, Brown and Company. (I mentioned this last week to a former coworker who said, "The 16th is a Sunday. That's kind of sad that they made you start work on a Sunday. Those slave drivers." Ha!)

To commemorate the day, I decided to look back in my journals from the time I interviewed and started work. They're a little embarrassing, but I couldn't resist sharing. (And reading back on the diaries made me wish I still kept a journal--that seemed to go by the wayside once I started blogging, even though how I blog and how I used to write in a diary are completely different.)

So, back in June of 1999, my internships at the Horn Book and Charlesbridge had come to an end, and my former supervisor at the Horn Book, Jen, told me about a job at Little, Brown.

My entry for June 28, 1999:
I sent off my cover letter and resume to Little, Brown. I really really want this job. It's exactly what I want.
I want it I want it I want it!
Please please please.

I will get this job.
I am confident.
I will get this job.
I will get this job.
If I say it enough, it will happen.
I believe!

And then on 7/1, after I had an interview scheduled, I practiced a few potential interview questions, including:

Why do you want this position?
I think this question is basically asking, Why do I want to work in children's book publishing?
On a basic level: I love children's books. I want to have a career doing something I love, creating something that I have a passion for. But not only do I just love children's books, but I think they are extremely important. Just like other forms of mass media, I feel that books have a potential to have a huge impact on children, both negative and positive. Books can open children up to endless possibilities, different points of view, but they can limit children as well. It's important to ensure the quality of the books that are published.

(Wow, I sound like I'm in a HS debate or in a beauty pageant or something--but I thought it was cute that I was practicing interview questions. I had totally forgotten that. I was so diligent!)

And here's the entry from 7/14/99, two days before my birthday. This was the best birthday gift ever:

"Hi Alvina, it's Megan XX of Little, Brown and Company. I'm calling around 3:20 on Tuesday. Sorry I couldn't talk to you more yesterday, but anyway, I have good news and I'm looking forward to talking to you..."

So goes the beginning of the answering machine message Megan left me...I couldn't believe it. My heart was beating so fast...I felt dizzy and dazed. I called back, and she offered me the job.




How quickly your life can change...

I was so depressed Monday and most of Tuesday because I was convinced I didn't get it.

My interview went well, but not fantastic. I was so excited, because it turns out Megan had edited several books featuring Asian Americans, because she felt that Asians weren't depicted enough in children's books.
Then on Thursday I went into the Horn Book to interview with Karen [the Horn Book was hiring a Marketing/Administrative Assistant], and Jen said "So I talked to Megan...she really liked you!" and I got all excited again.

Megan had said she'd either have a decision by the end of the week or call for second interviews at the end of the week.

I didn't hear anything on Friday. It was torture all weekend. I majorly ground my teeth.

Monday morning, I called.
"Hi Megan, this is Alvina Ling, I interviewed with you last week."
"Oh, yes, hi Alvina."
"I was wondering if you've come to any kind of decision yet."
"I...I...uh, I'll definitely know by the end of the day tomorrow."
"You'll have a decision by the end of the day tomorrow?"
"Yes. I'll definitely call you then."

I didn't take that as a good sign. I thought she had basically decided, and it wasn't me, but wasn't prepared to reject me on the spot.

On top of it all, about an hour later, standing in the kid's section with Jeannine [she was the children's section supervisor at B&N and had also interviewed for the Horn Book job], she received a phone call from the Horn Book offering her the job. [read more about this moment here.]
I was pretty depressed. She was so happy, and she felt so bad for being so happy, and why should she feel bad?


A real job.
I have my first real job.
I'm so excited.
And I don't even know what I'm going to get paid. [ha!]
And I don't care, even.

On 8/16:
My first day at Little, Brown was today.
It went pretty well.
I think I'll like it. I'm sorta scared, thought. There's so much to remember. So many thing to do and keep track of.

But I think I'll enjoy it all.

On 8/26:
So I've been at L,B for almost two weeks now. This was my first week solo (as in, without the former assistant Scott to show me what to do).
I feel like I'm getting the hang of things. I'm getting to know people there. They're cool.
I feel like I've been making some silly mistakes. No attention to detail. I should be more careful.
But I really think I'm going to do well there.
I guess it's really all up to me.
As my mom likes to say,
If it is to be, it's up to me.

Why, yes it is, Young Alvina, yes it is.

I'm glad to see that after ten years, I'm not completely jaded, although I'm certainly not as wide-eyed and innocent as I was back then. But as I say every year when I look back, I'm still in a job that a love, and I still feel that there's a great responsibility that comes with creating children's books. As I noted in my last post, I live my job a lot of the time, and believe me, I certainly DO care what I get paid nowadays! But all in all, I especially love that I am constantly learning and growing in my job, that each year brings new challenges with all the new books I edit. And this is what will keep me happy and satisfied for another ten, heck, another fifty years! Happy Anniversary to me!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A day in the life of an editor

Cross-posted from Blue Rose Girls


I'm a little bit stressed these days--it's been a busy summer that is just going to get busier. I've now had two consecutive weekends where I've had to come into work, and three weekdays where I've been in the office past 11 pm.* What have I been doing? Well, it's performance review time for one, so I've been busy preparing my assistant's review, and also my own. And as for everything else? I thought I'd share with you an excerpt from one of my talks from Chautauqua, "Thinking Like You Editor," in which I started by sharing a typical work day in the life of an editor:

So, here’s my typical work day: I get into the office around 9 AM every morning…okay, it’s usually more like 9:15. I turn on my computer and check any voicemail messages. While my computer is booting up I get my morning coffee and breakfast—I have a whole shelf and drawer full of cereal and oatmeal, soup, and snacks. An editor needs her energy!

I check email while I eat my breakfast—email is a daily struggle for me, with my inbox containing between 200 and 300 emails at any given moment. And now that we receive most of our submissions electronically, the memory of my inbox is filled up quickly unless I’m constantly sorting and filing and deleting my email. So really, any free minute I have, I’m sorting through emails trying to cut the number down. This is why sending unsolicited email queries and submissions is not a good idea. I’m looking for reasons to delete email.

Speaking of unsolicited email queries, I recently received an anonymous emailed query. It was addressed to me, an editor at Bloomsbury, and two agents that I know, one here in the U.S., the other in the UK. I'd like to first point out that we are all female, and the letter was addressed: “Dear Sir.” It was a rambling, badly-written letter, and one line referred to the novel as: “It is properly typed, and most of the spelling mistakes have been corrected.” I love how she or he specified most, not all. And I'll also point out that the only reason why I actually read some of the email is because one of the agents replied to the rest of us making fun of it. So...don't send unsolicited queries.

Okay, so really, that first half hour or so of breakfast and email is as typical as my days gets. From there, they vary wildly, which is part of the reason I love my job so much—every day is different, and it’s almost never boring!

So now I’ll continue telling you about my NOT-so-typical work days. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have 9:30 am meetings—jacket committee on Tuesday and editorial meeting on Thursdays. On Mondays I have an update meeting with my assistant at 10 am where we go over a submissions list of what each of us have—trying to manage the submissions pile is also an ongoing battle that I’m always losing. We talk about what’s happening that week, if we have deadlines to meet, what we’re both working on. On every other Wednesday morning I have Production meeting where we go over each title with our design, copyediting, and production departments to make sure everything is going according to schedule.

If I’m not in a meeting, I’m mainly either responding to emails (including responding to authors and agents about submissions) or reviewing various materials in my inbox that are circulating, such as picture book mechanicals, proof, marketing materials, and so on.

At lunch, some days I’ll eat at my desk and work through lunch, and other days I’ll have lunch with an agent or an author or a colleague. I actually love going on to these lunches, because I’m a bit of a foodie, and also, I like meeting and getting to know the people I work with. But these expensed lunches are one of the perks of publishing.

In the afternoons, it’s back to meetings. I might meet with an illustrator who’s coming to show his or her portfolio. I might have a meeting with a designer to go over cover ideas, or to review sketches for a picture book. I might have a meeting with other editors to discuss a project one of us wants to acquire. I might have a conference call with an agent and/or an author. I might have an informational interview with someone trying to break into publishing. I might be meeting with a foreign publisher or a packager, or in a meeting with marketing and publicity to discuss plans for a book. Or, I may have our acquisitions meeting, which we call Pub Comm. I also have biweekly update meetings with MY boss, to go over my projects or give updates and/or ask questions. And my assistant and I have monthly meetings with our senior managing editor to make sure we’re on schedule and aware of deadlines.

Because of all these meetings, and of course the preparing for meetings, it’s rare that I get to either edit or read during the work day. I take things home to read or edit at night and on weekends. And some days I’ll take a work-at-home day and edit at my kitchen table, checking email every few hours. I work at home once or twice a month, or more often when our deadline for getting final manuscripts into copyediting is coming up. I’ll also work late to have some quiet time to edit. Some days I’ll leave between 5:30 and 7 if I have something going on after work, but if not I’ll work until 8 or 9. The latest I’ve ever stayed is probably 11 pm.

**end of first section of talk**

(Okay, make that 11:30 pm. I refuse to stay past midnight. It's just not right.)

At any rate, that's pretty much how my days go. In terms of the editing part of my job, here's a paragraph from later in the talk, when I'm talking about editing (I included much of my How I Edit post in my talk, which you can read here):

Another thing that I’d like authors to remember during this process, is that at the same time I’m editing your novel over and over, I’m also editing all of the other novels on that same list. I may have up to six novels on one list, and so it’s a real juggling act. Edit, send letter, get in revision, edit, send letter, get in revision of other novel, edit, send editorial notes, etc. etc. Final manuscripts are due copyediting in May for Spring books, and October for Fall books, so the two-three months or so leading up to those key months are especially hectic.

Right now, I'm midst of my juggling act for our Fall 2010 list. I'm on the second revision for some novels, and am waiting to get in the first draft for other novels, am waiting for revisions of still more. I sent an editorial letter for one novel a week and a half ago, was in the office today finishing up another one to send tomorrow, and then will dive into the editing of a third novel. And I already have a fourth novel lined up in the queue.

And while all this is going on, I feel a huge amount of guilt because I haven't been able to keep up with my submissions pile. Grrr. I know, I know. Enough whining...back to work!

*but don't worry--it hasn't been all work and no play!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Beyond the Book: Fade to Blue by Sean Beaudoin

Cross-posted from the Blue Rose Girls.

Beyond the Book: Fade to Blue by Sean Beaudoin*

Looking back, I was disappointed to discover that I had never written a post dedicated to Sean Beaudoin's debut novel, Going Nowhere Faster, which came out in April 2007. Going Nowhere Faster was a novel about an unmotivated genius, Stan, who has just graduated from high school and is working a dead-end job at a video store. I called it Good Will Hunting meets Clerks. It was hilarious, with a sharp voice and memorable characters, and from the moment I read the proposal, I knew that Sean was a special writer, someone with a bright future.

His second book, Fade to Blue, does not disappoint. In fact, in my mind it changed Sean from "just" a contemporary, humorous, smart writer, to a writer where there are no limits. A writer who can do anything, a writer who will keep surprising.

Fade to Blue
is what I call Donnie Darko meets the Matrix. Or maybe it's Charlie Kaufman meets I Am the Cheese. Or perhaps it's Feed meets Be More Chill. However you describe it, this book is crazy. It's crazy good.

Speaking of crazy, the book starts out from the point of view of Sophie, a goth girl who thinks she just might be going crazy. Her father disappeared mysteriously almost a year earlier, on her 17th birthday. And now her 18th birthday is approaching, and she's having these crazy dreams. And did I mention that there's a weird Popsicle Truck stalking her?

Kenny Fade is the opposite of Sophie. He's the big man on campus, basketball star who has everything. But it's not all perfect with him, either, because, like Sophie, he thinks he may be going crazy.

The book alternates chapters between Sophie and Kenny, with some chapters from Sophie's brother O.S. and some other mysterious figures thrown in. It's a mind trip, and above all, it'll take you on a ride. It's innovative, funny, smart, and a little bit scary and sad, too. And it will make you think.

In terms of how this book came to be, this was not one of those books that came to me almost done. This one needed work. Because there were so many twists and turns, and because the mystery element was crucial to the overall success of this book, I needed help--I needed that invaluable "fresh read" several times throughout the revision process. In addition to my assistant, I had to recruit the help of three other editors along the way to give me that fresh read. This was truly a group effort, and a fun one at that. The revision process was as crazy a ride as the book is.

The book's title was also a challenge. The proposal came in called Sour White, which never felt right to me or the acquisitions committee. In the book, Sour White is the name of a soda that plays a key role in the plot. But most of the people we polled, and for some reason mostly women, had a negative reaction to the name. So, the author came up with a long list of other possibilities, including: Scatterblue, Standing Without Permission, Black Kite Blue, Splickity Lit, Sky Blue, Code Blue, Neon Blue Panic, and more. (BTW, Sophie's last name is "Blue")

What do you think? Do any of these appeal more than Fade to Blue? Maybe one will work as the title to a future book.

In terms of the design of this book, a lot came from the idea of having a comic book artist illustrate the cover, as a comic book plays an important part in the plot. But Sean took it a step further and asked if it would be possible to include an actual comic in the book. Now, when he asked this, I think my first thought was "Cool," and I think my second thought was, "How the heck do we do that?" Luckily, the amazing designer, Kirk Benshoff, who at the time had started to work mainly with our graphic novel imprint, Yen Press, was up for the task of figuring this out with me. We started by coming up with a list of possible artists. I believe it was Sean's agent who suggested Wilfred Santiago, who ended up being the artist we chose. And from there, it was working out the budget for the interior comic, having Sean write the text and description, and then Wilfred worked his magic.

Here are some shots of the 12-page interior comic. Does this mean that I can now say that I've edited a comic book?

And finally, check out this fantastic blogger review. Perhaps we'll put a blurb from it on the paperback edition: "This book is nine different level[s] of F*CKING AWESOME!"

I concur.

Sean is hard at work on his third YA novel, tentatively titled You Killed Wesley Payne which is due to pub next Fall. It's a slick, noir-ish mystery set in a high school where the cliques are battling for power. So: What do you think of that title?

*pronounced something like "bo-DWAH"

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Lying covers, and the importance of diversity

Re-posted from the Blue Rose Girls (from last week):

If you haven't heard yet, there's quite the controversy going on regarding the U.S. cover image of Justine Larbalestier's new YA book Liar, coming out in October. Basically, Justine's protagonist is described in the book as being black with short hair. The girl on the cover is fairly obviously white with long hair that covers her mouth. Publisher's Weekly has an excellent article about the debate here, and read Justine's very thoughtful response here.

In a past post about book design, I talked about how difficult a task it is to design novel covers. There are SO MANY people to try to make happy. Working for a publisher, I know how a cover can change and morph and get watered down and/or far away from the original vision. And I know that the author rarely gets approval, let alone official consultation. So, on the surface, I can understand how the Liar cover could come to be--and on it's own, I find it to be a striking cover. I would pick up a book with that cover.

However, I do think it's disappointing and disheartening that the cover girl does not match the descriptions of the heroine in the interior, especially because of what's been said about the reasoning behind it. And on a surface level, too--as a kid, it always drove me batty when the cover didn't match the interior. Then, it generally had to do with hair color, not race, but as a reader, I think the cover should match the interior. And it saddens me what this particular discrepancy potentially says about the book market.

I can't comment on what happened behind the closed doors of the publishing house. I don't want to point fingers. And I have no idea either what the ethnicity of all of the key players involved was, but I feel confident in saying that something like this would have never happened at our publishing house, because we have such a commitment to the diversity both of our staff, and the books that we publish. I can't imagine someone even suggesting to me that to we put a white person on the cover of a book with an Asian protagonist. However, I can see NOT putting a face on the cover at all.

I have no idea if books with non-white characters on the cover have lower sales than covers with white characters. I don't doubt it, but I'm sure there is a huge array of reasons why it would or would not be the case. But if it is the case, then it's something that we should all work towards changing. Author Sarah Ockler had a great blog post earlier this year about looking at how diverse your bookshelf is. It's something we should all think about. Do you buy books featuring characters of a race other than your own? A lot or a little? Why or why not?

I have been successful in acquiring books by authors of many different backgrounds, featuring characters of the same. Some of the covers feature the faces of the characters, others do not. For example, Justina Chen Headley's first novel, Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) features a hapa (half Asian, half white) protagonist in the book and on the cover. Her second book, Girl Overboard, features an Asian protagonist but the cover image shows the back of a snowboarder (a beautiful stock photo). Her third book, North of Beautiful features a blond heroine in the interior and on the cover. It's her third book that has "broken out. " And although I can also argue that it's the best book she's written so far, and we've been able to build on the success of her first two novels, who knows. Things to ponder.

My favorite picture book as a child was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. I always use that as evidence that race doesn't matter, that if a little Asian girl could have a favorite book with a black boy on the cover, then it is possible that gender and race barriers in book choices could not exist. A friend once commented, however, that because I, too, am a "person of color," I am possibly more open to reading books about other people of color. I suppose that could be right, although I have to think that plenty of little white children called the book their favorite, too, right?

I believe in the importance of diversity. This post about bias from a while ago talks about a study that I feel proves that the more people see TV shows and movies and read books with positive depictions of people not like themselves, the more accepting we will be of all types of people. I laugh when someone says "but I have black friends" or "gay friends" or "Asian friends" to prove that they aren't racist or biased. That is no proof at all. But you know, at least it's a start. Because the more contact we have with people of other races, the less biased we'll all eventually become (I hope!).

Regardless of how all of this works out, I have to think that this is a "teachable moment"--just as President Obama referred to the incident where Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested in his own home. This article in the NYTimes was eye-opening as well. Let's learn from this, and all try to make sure that this type of thing doesn't happen in the future.