Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Open Letter To Bloomsbury

Dear Bloomsbury:

By the time you read this I'll be gone. I will be off reading, selling and promoting books by any other house. It pains me to have to write this letter, but you left me no choice. After the Liar cover controversy, I thought we understood each other better. Obviously I was wrong. I will spell it out for you now. I will give you a little customer insight so maybe you'll find a way to win a few of us back. I am not the only one who has decided to say no to Bloomsbury, nor am I the first and I won't be the last. It wasn't the lack of a Brown face on the Liar cover that caused the outrage. It was the whitewashing.

How long did you think it would take before people started take notice of this new cover lie? When did you realize that you couldn't get away with putting a White girl on the cover of Dolamore's YA debut Magic Under Glass where the main character is clearly a person of color. When did you start to sweat, Bloomsbury? Was it here or here, or how about here.
Yes, it took a moment but people are talking and no one is shutting up anytime soon. We may disagree about how change should come about but we all agree it's necessary. Bloomsbury, when you decided to whitewash yet another YA cover, you left me no choice. Boycott it is. I hate that I must do this but its pretty clear the only thing you care about, is your bottom line.

I had a few Bloomsbury titles in my hand selling repertoire, no more. I refuse to go on business as usual like nothing is wrong. We've come to a very ugly place and we didn't even have to be here. There is no law that requires all YA books have cover faces. Bloomsbury, you don't want to put Brown faces on your covers, fine. But, that doesn't give you the right to insult and disrespect me with whitewashed covers.

I can't promote or sell books by a publishing house that regularly enforces the idea that Brown isn't good enough. Bloomsbury, I won't help you profit while you willingly let teens of color doubt their self worth. Boycotting was not an easy decision for me.

It still makes me sick to think what I am doing will hurt authors, who have done nothing wrong. Isn't that what you want Bloomsbury, potential boycotters to worry how their actions will impact authors careers and livelihoods? Bloomsbury, I wouldn't put it past you, to bank on this well placed concern for authors as protection against a financial hit.

It was this last bit of thinking that sold me on the idea that boycotting was the right thing (for me ) to do. Bloomsbury, if you cared about your authors and readers, you would not have put us in this situation. There will be more booksellers and even book buyers who will decide to say no to Bloomsbury.
The only Bloomsbury title I will actively sell is Larbalestier's Liar to prove Brown can sell. I know it doesn't sell as well as White but who's fault is that. Publishers deemed White girls the only worthy girls on YA covers a long time ago. It will take time to correct the brainwashing.

There is one title I am on the fence about saying goodbye to Cook's Our Children Can Soar Bloomsbury please, tell me why you decided to publish Our Children Can Soar, when you routinely step on the wings of many young people with your only White is right cover complex.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 382 days. That took love, faith, strength and determination. Many people risked so much to bring about change. This in comparison is nothing. I will do what I deem necessary for change and say no to Bloomsbury.

*Thanks Doret for allowing me to republish this here.
Special thanks to Terri for creating our Boycott page


John Chu said...

It seems to me that Bloomsbury's editorial department understands what's happening. They're buying books with non-white main characters confident that they will sell.

The marketing and art departments, on the other hand, seem utterly clueless about who they're oppressing and how they're doing it. I doubt they're sitting in their dark offices, twirling their mustaches thinking, "And we'll get away with our nefarious schemes because the readers won't want to punish the authors." I doubt they've thought about it at all. And *that* is the problem. They haven't thought about it.

Your confusion comes from treating Bloomsbury as a monolithic entity. The editorial department is obviously full of people who believe works with non-white main character can sell. Without them making the case to marketing in the first place, none of these books would have been published at all. Marketing, for whatever reason, has chosen to promote these ways in a thoroughly misleading and oppressive way. Damn the marketers all you like, but it seems to me the editors are doing a good job.

Or to put it another way, you're conflating "deciding to publish" with "how to market." The "deciding to publish" part has no problems with non-white main characters. The "how to market" part does. That's how you can simultaneously have Our Children Can Soar and "White is right" covers. The former is a result of the editors. The latter is a result of the marketers.

Color Online said...


Not all of us are confused despite how you read our complaints. Some of us do and have worked in the industry and those who haven't have had the good sense to confer those who do.

I doubt the decision makers at Bloomsbury are shaking in their boots but if you think that is our sole aim you are confused, friend.

My first aim is to create awareness, draw attention, be an aggravation and ultimately have some kind of impact.

Thanks for weighing in.

Gavin said...

Susan - You, Vasilly and many others have said it all, over and over again, very clearly. Enough BS. I'm right there with you.

Color Online said...

Thank you, Gavin.

sarah mccarry said...

Publishing is a hot mess, but it's not so hot a mess that editors don't see the covers of the books they edit before those books go to press. We're also pretty confident that editors communicate fairly regularly with marketing departments. Since, you know, marketing is two people two offices down the hall. Bloomsbury didn't--and shouldn't--get a free pass when they made an epic f*ckup out of Liar and they shouldn't get a free pass now. We got your back, ladies.

Anonymous said...

Your letter is certainly straight to the point. There is no way someone wouldn't get the message, especially Bloomsbury.

While I'm concerned about the boycott harming the authors, I'm also on your side with the letter and getting not only their attention, but also provoking/promoting a shift of conscience like S. Jae-Jones (St Martin Press) expressed on her post about (an opinion from someone working on the other side. Interesting post, basically denouncing what happened). That type of practices has to stop.

Please, let us know if you hear from them!

Tea said...

Thanks for the information, Susan.

Color Online said...


Can you post a link.

Tarie Sabido said...

I'm still here, Susan. I'm not leaving.

Mama C said...

Susan-can't get to FB or Twitter from where I am--can leave the link for you here from the Love Isn't Enough(formerly Anti Racist Parent) Whitewashing post:

Anonymous said...

That's a start! Let's hope everyone took note!

Bloomsbury just issued this:
Bloomsbury is ceasing to supply copies of the US edition of Magic Under Glass. The jacket design has caused offense and we apologize for our mistake. Copies of the book with a new jacket design will be available shortly.

Thanks to LaVora Perry for her Tweet!

Lorin said...

Just heard they're issuing a new cover. Yay! Any chance this means they've actually learned a lesson this time? I am doubtful.

Tasha said...

Well done in leading the charge to get this cover changed! Let's hope that our voices will continue to echo and this won't keep happening.