(For those unfamiliar with the book: on-comm reviews of Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix; or click the browsible version -- delicious toolbar at the top lets you page through the reviews.)
Inkstone has got jpgs and more details, but here's the short version: Borders never picked it up; Barnes and Noble picked it up in a very limited way; sales were consequently very bad. So the publisher decided to change the cover for the paperback version, as part of an attempt to market it differently:
cindy_pon has herself posted about it:
i’m very well aware of recent discussions about whitewashing young adult covers as well as #racefail debates, especially within the speculative fiction genres. most of you know by now that the author gets very little say in cover design. i was fortunate enough to be consulted on many aspects for the original cover. my debut cover couldn’t have been more fierce or asian! and i’m so grateful to greenwillow books for spending the time, money and effort to repackage my books.That's an excerpt; I encourage you to go read her full post.
with the hopes that it will be carried more widely and perhaps draw a new audience that my original cover didn’t.
because what matters to me the most has always been the story. i spent two years writing and revising Silver Phoenix, went through the gut wrenching heartache of querying 121 agents so ai ling’s tale could be read. and it’s a dream come true to be published. i never did it for the money, fame or glory (i laugh at the thought!). but on a personal level, i want my stories to be read and on a professional level, read widely enough that more xia fantasy books in the future is a possibility. i do have other xia tales in me! =)
i would love to see more diversity in all ways being published in children’s and young adult genres. i think progress is happening, even if it may seem painfully slow. especially when we feel passionate about it. but change doesn’t happen instantly. i believe success can be achieved through many small triumphs. and it can start simply with a story…
i wanted to take the time here to express my gratitude for all the love i got (and continue to receive!) on the www, from LJ to twitter to blogger, facebook to wordpress and all my online friends in the groups and forums i frequent (many of whom are now real life friends!). your support and enthusiasm for Silver Phoenix means the world to me. and also to the librarians, teachers and booksellers who’ve been so encouraging and kind–thank you!!
if you truly love the original Silver Phoenix cover, please get a hold of a hardcover copy soon! the paperback will feature a “darker” cover to match Fury of the Phoenix.
There are two things that I would like to point out:
- Authors have little to no control over their book jackets. Cindy Pon is not the person responsible for this cover change.
- The publisher is keeping this novel in print, and is continuing with its plans to publish the sequel. These are not small things; these are not unimportant things. As much as it sticks in my throat to say it, this cover change may be the necessary cost for keeping the series in print; that's something I cannot judge from here. ETA: Alternatively, I may be falsely buying into poorly-justified "business requires it" non-logic that megwrites describes.
...and I don't know what else I've got. Other than: it breaks my heart to see this. I loved that original cover, and this coyly sleight-of-hand "ambiguous" cover makes me feel ill. Also: I wish this wasn't such a clear demonstration of how thoroughly institutional and structural racisms pervade the book industry. I mean, it's not like I didn't already know -- participation in this challenge can teach you that pretty fast, if you weren't aware before -- but whoah, it's demoralizing watching it happen right in front of you.
Also, to echo Ms. Pon: if you want that gorgeous original cover, go buy the hardback now, while they're still available.
ETA: Inkstone is hosting linkspam.
ETA2: MegWrites on the double-bind poc-authored and poc-themed books are routinely placed in, with the success or failure of any one poc-themed or poc-authored book always being attributed to the racial aspects of the book and those aspects alone, and the single book itself being used as the bellwether/formula for all poc-authored or poc-themed books.
ETA3: Jonquil points out that the hardback is remaindered, i.e., sales of the hardback at this point are not visible to the publisher. If you want the original cover, buy the hardback (but it will be meaningless to the publisher if you do; they won't even register it as a sale). If you want to support the series staying in print, buy the paperback.