Portland State University. Department of English
Publishers and publishing, Book industries and trade, Developmental editing, Multiculturalism in literature
Diversity in young adult literature has been a hot topic in the publishing industry for many years now, and calls for diversity from the YA community, librarians, authors, and publishing professionals have garnered nationwide attention. But while the conversation around diverse content is well documented, few have considered how young adult cover design might have an impact on how diversity, especially in terms of race/ethnicity, is represented visually.
The research detailed in this paper compiles and analyzes data from 700 covers each from 2014 and 2018 respectively (1400 book covers total). In my quantitative analysis, I wanted to know whether young adult literature increased the amount of POC characters represented on book covers between 2014 and 2018. In my qualitative analysis, I analyzed the quality of those existing POC characters on covers, using a standardized scale that measured the visibility of an individual character to a viewer of a cover based on the individual’s position, size, body, face, eyes, and obscuration.
While my results require a further analysis of other years to make more definitive assumptions, overall I found that while explicit POC representation on covers is becoming more identifiable, more accurate totals of representation that reflect race/ethnicity in the US is still not a reality. The data found in both the quantity and quality analyses not only help us understand how the diversity movement in YA publishing has helped create change over the last four years, but also how cover designers and other industry professionals working within publishing can use the visibility standards presented here to make more people of color present and highly visible on future book covers.
Kimura, Jenny, "A Cover is Worth 1000 Words: Visibility and Racial Diversity in Young Adult Cover Design" (2019). Book Publishing Final Research Paper. 36.