Guest Post by Victoria Elliott: Why We Need Diverse Book Covers

Someone like you belongs on a book cover, but, depending on who you are, it’s appalling how hard you are to find. 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 start 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 lesbian fiction under the pen name Elizabeth Andre, 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 65-year old lesbians—one Caucasian, one Asian-American—who have sex and fall in love on a cruise. We’ve written about two thirty-something African-American lesbians who cross class lines to find true love. We’ve written about lesbians with disabilities, and we’ve just started a story about a big beautiful woman who, yes, falls in love. Our novels about lesbian ghost hunters are due out in the fall. We also write diverse gay male fiction under the pen names Kendall Morgan and Danielle Summers.

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 you.

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.