“Books with Black children on the cover don’t sell.”
How many times have you heard this?
How many times has this been given as an excuse?
I’ve heard it too many times. I’ve had it earnestly explained to me that booksellers have struggled to sell books, even by well-known authors, when there is black child on the cover.
So what do we do about this?
Even if it is true, do we just accept it and not publish books with Black children on the cover?
Or do we ask why this might be happening? Do we look for the reasons and try and overcome them?
Maybe they are right. Maybe books with Black children on the cover don’t sell as well books with white children on the cover. But, aside from implicit racism, why might that be?
Could it be, that the reason books with Black children on the cover ‘don’t sell’ is because it’s so unusual to see a book with a Black child on the cover that buyers are shocked into inaction.
Could it be that because it stands out (as most over books feature white children, animals or vehicles on the cover) it makes potential buyers consider whether their child will identify with the child in the book OR wonder why the book has a Black child (there must be a reason – it's so unusual) on the cover and think that perhaps it’s an ‘issue book’ that won’t be relevant to their child.
What if lots of books on display in the major booksellers had Black children on the cover? What if it wasn’t so unusual? What if by not buying books with Black children on the cover you were actually excluding, say, half the books available to you.
I strongly believe that the only reason that books with Black children on the cover might not sell as well as others is because buyers aren’t used to seeing them. So it makes them take notice. If there were loads of books featuring children of all different ethnicities on the covers, a buyer wouldn’t think twice. It would be familiar.
In fact, I believe we are starting to see this change as books with Black children on the cover become more common.
But what about disabled children? What about books with same sex parents?
The only way to challenge the presumption that books with diverse characters on the cover don’t sell is to publish many, many more of them.
Oh, and put a decent marketing and publicity budget behind them, as you would with any other book.
So, are you going to accept the status quo? Or are you going to challenge it?