Once upon a time there was a princess … No, seriously. This princess lived inside of my head and I wanted capture her on paper. You see, I’m an author of romance and Young Adult stories, and characters like this princess are constantly making their presence known inside my head, just begging to have their stories told. This particular princess inhabited a medieval/fantasy type world, similar to George RR Martin’s Westeros (the realm of Game of Thrones). With excitement I began plotting, researching, and outlining her story, an epic tale of love with a man from a rival family, one her own kin have feuded with for generations. There would be battles, there would be castles and kings, and there would be beautiful medieval fashions to be described in ravishing detail.
There was only one problem with the princess and her story. The princess was black. The world she inhabited was filled with characters fitting every color on the ethnic spectrum—a much needed device in Fantasy fiction. Why was this a problem, you might ask? The Fantasy genre needs heroines of color; it needs people of color, period. A strong, smart woman of color in this genre … where is there a problem?
The problem wasn’t with the black princess, or the person who created her. The problem was with the appalling lack of images that could accurately and beautifully portray this princess on the cover of her book. When searching for her likeness on stock image sites, I could not find her. There wasn’t a single photo of this black princess in her flowing, regal gowns, holding her head high. In fact, there were very few photos of women of color, and when I did find them, their quality was not on par with similar photos of her white counterparts. To make things even more difficult, her love interest, the man from the other clan whose love is forbidden, was white. This left me tasked with finding a beautiful photo of a mixed race couple, both in resplendent historical dress. Actually, I needed three, as this princess’ story has stretched itself out to the length of a trilogy.
When there were none to be found, I struck out to create my own images. With the help of my father, a fashion photographer and editor of Encore HD Hair Magazine, and two models who very generously donated their time and faces to my venture, I was able to conduct my own custom shoot. Overseeing the costuming and posing, we were able to produce quality images for use on my covers and advertising media … photos that I felt proud of.
It would seem that this story had a happy ending. It did, though it was more like ‘happy for now’ instead of ‘happily ever after’. Why? Because there still exists an egregious lack of diversity on book covers, a fact that has always weighed heavily on me.
There is a movement happening in the publishing industry, and all you have to do is search the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks to see it unfolding. People are hungry for stories filled with diverse characters … characters who look like them. There are authors and publishers out there committed to making that happen, book by book.
With that in mind, I began to think of how I could help my fellow authors. While speaking with them at various book conventions, or in online forums, I felt their frustration over the lack of images on stock photo sites portraying women of color, plus sized women, and interracial couples in classy, beautiful ways. As a woman who writes a lot of Fantasy and Historical books, the burden becomes even greater.
No one ever seems to think to put a medieval Victorian era gown on a black woman and take stunning photos of her. No one ever seems to think to portray people of color in futuristic, fantasy, or sci-fi style shoots. Even websites that cater specifically to book cover images are failing in this regard.
Thus, the idea for Mosaic Stock was born. As I mentioned before, my father is a fashion photographer and magazine editor. With his resources and contacts, we have the necessary goods to offer authors and publishers a place to shop for book cover images that color the full spectrum of diversity. Our goal is the change the face of books, one cover at a time. We are in the planning/developing phase, with hopes to launch the site summer of 2015.
Here is where you, the person reading this blog post, come in. In order to fund our first two mass photo shoots and get Mosaic Stock up and running, we are currently running a Kickstarter campaign. We have until March 30, 2015 to reach our goal of $5,500—which would cover the cost of renting studio space large enough to accommodate the shoot, costumes, and hair and make-up artists to ensure that our models look their best. Within our first shoot, we hope to shoot several models in various genre themes, so that when we launch, authors and publishers will have a wide range of choices for their book covers.
If you believe we need diverse books, if you want to see more books with girls that look like you on the cover, and if you want to be a part of making a change in the publishing industry, I hope you will consider donating. There are lower and higher level donation tiers suited to every person and their level of willingness to give and resources. Remember, if we do not reach our goal by March 30, Mosaic Stock will not get its funding. But, I am confident that this will not happen. As a community of readers and writers, we can come together to make positive change.
As well, there are some awesome rewards for both readers and writers alike for your contributions. Everything from ebooks to paperbacks, all donated by fellow authors who want to reward people that join this campaign for diversity. For authors free stock photos and book cover designs are on the menu. Visit Kickstarter by clicking here to donate, and remember to share via Facebook, Twitter, or your favorite form of social media once you have. Together, we can change the face of books!
Check out these samples of our photography, some of which will become available on the Mosaic Site, but mostly serve as proof of the quality we are capable of.