We’re all guilty of stereotypes. I believe it is human nature to categorize things, especially unfamiliar things, into nice, tidy standards. But in a self-perpetuating cycle, publishers are using our stereotypes to sell products which further the stereotype, because as it turns out, we really do judge books by their cover.
The folks over at the blog Africa is a Country recently posted about a meme created to show how African literature routinely gets the “acacia tree treatment”. Basically, they write, “the covers of most novels ‘about Africa’ seem to have been designed by someone whose principal idea of the continent comes from The Lion King.”
As if all of Africa exists in a permanent state of sunset.
After reading the blog, I was compelled to see if it was true for Namibian books as well. Though there aren’t many works of literature set in this country, there’s a whole heap of photography books. Let’s hope their contents vary more than their covers:
So, Namibia is a sandy, lonely place with elephants, trees, and a sun. Like all stereotypes, that frustratingly ignores all the rest the country has to offer.
According to a book cover designer interviewed on this topic by the Washington Post, publishers package books based on readers’ expectations because that makes them comfortable.
It won’t be the publishing houses then, who step up and teach people how other parts of the world really are. So, as the Post points out, we’ll have to do it ourselves, through social media and blogging; show the world through our own words and pictures how life on our side actually is. We’ll have to be brave, honest, and open. But readers will have to be, too.
Maybe then, by the time my book is finished, they’ll be ready for a bit more unconventional photo for the cover: