My guest for today’s author chat is Victoria Elliott and – for once – we’re not talking about books, but book covers. I find covers the trickiest part of putting a book together. They’re meant to reflect the story. They’re meant to appeal to our target audience and they have to sell books. A tall ask for most authors, but an especially tall ask if you’re writing in the LGBTQ genre. I love what Victoria Elliott and her wife and writing partner are aiming to do with their Indiegogo campaign.
Here’s Victoria’s take on book covers and what we should do to get the covers we all deserve….
The self-publishing revolution means that books are more diverse than ever, but the covers are another story. My wife and I have launched an Indiegogo campaign, We Need Diverse Book Covers, to change that.
A few years ago, the #weneeddiversebooks campaign launched to advocate for improved diversity in children’s literature. This was followed by #weneeddiverseromance with a similar aim for romance fiction. (Both are great. Check them out.) Our IndieGoGo campaign will begin with improving the covers of our books, but we’re hoping it does much more than that and ripples outward. We need diversity in what we read, but we also need diversity in the images that we see.
When we started writing and self-publishing gay fiction under the pen names Danielle Summers and Kendall Morgan, it was like exhaling after holding our breaths for too long. Finally, after years of writing for somebody else’s markets, we were able to write the diverse stories we always wanted to and publish them for the people that we always knew wanted them. They just weren’t of interest to traditional publishers. Since we started self-publishing in 2014, we’ve written about an African-American physician and dominant sir/master who falls in love and has hot BDSM sex with a Caucasian chocolatier. We’ve written about twinks and bears who are African-American, Jewish, mixed race, and Asian who end up on a ski trip together and, yes, have hot sex and fall in love. We’re working on a science fiction series starring an African-American bounty hunter who gets his man and falls in love with a nice Jewish boy. We also write diverse lesbian fiction under the pen name Elizabeth Andre.
We can do the writing. We have years of writing experience and a wall full of writing awards. We have a dynamite editor. We can layout and produce the books. It’s the covers that haven’t always done our stories or our characters justice. More often than not, we’ve been stymied in our search through stock photo libraries for the wide range of people we write about. This means that, instead of sexy couples, we have photos of sexy individuals or objects suggestive of the story within but not truly reflective of it, not truly reflective of our world.
When you don’t see yourself reflected, it’s like you don’t exist. You know you do, but you can feel invisible. We know how that feels. Or maybe there are images that are like you, but they are so distorted that you feel ugly. We need images that reflect how sexy our characters are, that reflect how sexy you are.
And diversity needs to be defined broadly. It’s not just black and white, literally. The diversity we are working toward includes diversity by race, ethnicity, body type, body size, disability, ability, and gender. I have no doubt that we’ll be adding to this list.
It’s an economic injustice that authors who write about white heterosexual couples can go to just about any photo library and for a modest fee download images that look like their characters. We have to go to greater effort and pay more for images, and we will because everyone involved in this project will be paid fairly.
Consider being a part of our Indiegogo campaign in some way. Share it on social media. Blog about it. Talk about it. Contribute. Perks include signed and advance copies of our books as well as opportunities to be the star of our next romance story. Sign up to be one of our models.
You belong on a book cover, too, and you can help make book covers more diverse.
Victoria Elliott writes and self-publishes diverse fiction with her wife. They write under the pen names Elizabeth Andre, Kendall Morgan, and Danielle Summers.