Dear Greenwillow Books

Saturday, July 3, 2010
Dear Greenwillow Books,

I understand that you are worried about the sales of Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon and the potential sales of its sequel, Fury of the Phoenix. Oh, I know that you are not worried that Asian-inspired YA fantasy will not sell. If that was your worry, then you would never have chosen to publish Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix in the first place.

The hardcover edition of Silver Phoenix has an Asian model on the cover. The paperback edition of Silver Phoenix and the hardcover edition of Fury of the Phoenix both use a Caucasian model on the cover. I take that to mean that you are worried that American readers will not buy books with Asians on the cover.

Whitewashing a book cover does injustice to the book because it misrepresents the book and misleads readers. Moreover, there is racism at work in the whitewashing of book covers because of the underlying assumption that Asian faces are "not good enough" to sell books, or that Asian faces will somehow "turn off" non-Asian readers and keep them from buying the book.

Honestly? Those assumptions HURT.

Here's an idea, Greenwillow: Worried about the sales of an Asian-inspired YA fantasy novel? Next time try to refrain from whitewashing the book cover, which is morally wrong. Try selling more copies of the book (with an Asian model on the cover of course, or no model on the cover at all) in Asia. There are ONE BILLION children and teenagers in Asia. Worried about having to translate the book? There's no need to worry! There are MILLIONS of Asian children and teenagers who speak, read, and write in English. And try selling more copies of the book to the millions of people who are part of the Asian diaspora all over the world.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Off to buy multiple copies of the hardcover edition of Silver Phoenix,

Tarie Sabido


Doret said...

Tarie, would you be okay with the paperback, if models weren't used?

There were so many other ways to go with the cover.

Do check out Roger Ebert's review of The Last Airbender. I think it will make you feel better -

Mardel said...

This pisses me off too, I'm tired of publishing deciding for me what I might buy. I've been waiting for the paperback of Silver Phoenix to come out ($$) but I was first drawn to the book because of the cover, then by the reviews.

As a mixed race caucastion/spanish person - let ME decided what I'll by, and give ME the chance to buy books with POC covers.

BTW do you have an e-mail address of the publisher to send complaints too?

Tarie said...

Doret, yes, I would buy a paperback edition with no models at all. And I loved the review from Roger Ebert. I feel vindicated.

Mardel, I only have this: :o(

Anyone else know an email address?

Mardel said...

Well, maybe we could at least let our irritation and disappointment known. Thanks for the address.

MissAttitude said...

Wonderful letter Tarie, I'll link to it! You're absolutely right, Silver Phoenix is selling in Indonesia but that's the only Asian country. I think international publishers need to see first that a book does well in the U.S. before they take it, which isn't the greatest of standards to have. Awesome, awesome letter. Thank you for sharing it :)

Tarie said...

Silver Phoenix is also selling in the Philippines, and I am pretty sure it is selling in Singapore and Malaysia and other Asian countries as well. Asian countries import books from the U.S. and the U.K. ALL THE TIME. Also, Amazon and other online bookstores deliver to Asian countries. The problem is that the American and British publishers do not spend any money to promote the books in Asia.

MissAttitude said...

ooo I see. Grrrr. I only thought it was selling in Indonesia because it has a different cover, so they use the same cover in the U.S. as they do in the Philippines, Singapore, Malyasia, etc?

It seems like such an obvious idea, if you don't think white readers will like the book, sell it to non white readers.

Tarie said...

Yes, same cover. :o) Same cover/edition means that the book was imported. The cover in Indonesia is different because they bought the rights to the book and probably translated it and then published it (the book was not imported).

Chipper said...

Yes Tarie, those caucasians have always been and are still very prejudicial to people who don't look like them. When will they understand that they now are minorities even in their own countries?

Medeia Sharif said...

Hi, Tarie. Even though the new graphics remind me of Kelley Armstrong's covers--with the eyes cut off or obscured--this unsettled me because it gave me the impression that booksellers and publishers want to hide the MC's ethnicity. The difference between the new and original cover is jarring, and I prefer the original. The new ones look like generic paranormal covers.

Tarie said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Medeia. You are absolutely right; they are hiding the MC's ethnicity. And why are they doing that? This points to their idea that Asian faces do not "sell."

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