And no, really, authors don't have control over what goes on the covers of our books. Unfortunately. Because as Justine says, this is exclusionary and also kind of dumb, and like so much in our industry, smacks of Received And Unquestioned Wisdom that has gone unexamined since the 1930s.
It sounds like Justine gets more input than I do (as I would expect and is only fair, as she's a bigger "name") --I don't get to see preliminary sketches. Often I find out what my cover will look like when it goes up on Amazon.
What follows is a brief rant on my own frustration regarding this topic.
Of my published or nearly-published novels, nine (Hammered, Scardown, Worldwired, Blood & Iron, Whiskey & Water, Carnival, Undertow, All the Windwracked Stars, and The Sea thy Mistress) feature primary or secondary protagonists who are not white. Of those, exactly one (Carnival) has a character of color on the cover, and Michelangelo's face, while clearly bearing African features, is almost entirely obscured by a mask.
Now, I actually love the Carnival cover--it's beautiful, and it captures the book very well. But I would love it more if it didn't feel like part of a toxic trend. (Well, there's no cover art yet for TSTM. Maybe one of the two dark-skinned protagonists will get on it.)
I find this intensely frustrating. (When I first picked it up, I remarked on the cover of gregvaneekhout's Norse Code, which has a Latina protagonist, portrayed on the cover by Ambiguously Ethnic Lass. (Two of my dearest friends have Ambiguously Ethnic Lass as a superpower, but neither they nor Greg's cover art make me think "This young lady is of Mexican descent!") But she is at least potentially somebody who might be of mixed heritage, unlike the mysterious thirty-year-old white woman with cleavage down to there portraying a fiftyish Iroquois on some of my book covers.)
Of the rest of my books--well, Shadow Unit doesn't have any cover art, and what art there is we commissioned. (You can meet the characters here.)
Dust and Chill have largely-white casts with a few characters of Southeast Asian/American descent, for various reasons involving my theories about who the crazy-ass Christian apocalyptic eugenicist cultists would be taking into space. (This will change in Grail. Yeah, that was a hint.) But at least Chill has the albino on the cover now instead of some random winged girl. Ink & Steel, Hell & Earth, A Companion to Wolves, and By the Mountain Bound have all-white casts, for demographic reasons (I could have brought in Azeem the Wonder Moor, I suppose, but tokenism annoys me unreasonably) having to do with the historical period and geography, so I have nothing to complain about there.
It'll be interesting to see what happens with The Steles of the Sky, if anybody picks those up, as for demographic reasons having to do with the historical period and the geography--as with Carnival--there are no white people in that book.
Dude. Marketing department. How hard is it to just put the damned brown-skinned protagonist on the cover?
I await the response with bated breath.