In most cases, this is probably at least annoying, but not a disaster (though I did really like the cover that Sonje commissioned herself – which was rejected).
But here comes the lunacy. She linked to this post by Justine Larbalestier. To quote Sonje:
You really should click on that link and read the story in its entirety, but to sum up, the publisher, Bloomsbury, decided in their infinite wisdom to put a picture of a white girl's face on a book in which the protagonist is a black girl. Larbalestier, of course, disagreed strongly, but she ultimately had no say in the matter.
I can't think of a more telling instance of marketing and integrity going in opposite directions.
I had naively assumed that the inexorable process of non-white characters becoming white, of gay characters becoming straight (or being "gay" in theory but never acting on it), of trans characters becoming cis... (and of everybody becoming thinner, etc.) – I had assumed that this didn't start until you got involved with Hollywood or TV. Apparently not.
The thing about the Liar situation, though, is that even from a business standpoint this is a terrible plan. The point in business, after all, is not primarily to get your product into the consumer's hands, it's to create a positive experience where consumers will come back and buy more, and tell their friends, give good reviews online, etc. Selling that first book by duplicity may get you a little money today, but will that reader have a positive experience, when they realize they've been gamed? And not only gamed but treated with contempt. After all, what is this publisher saying about the reading public by this sort of thing?
I'm sure there are some sort of statistics that show this will pay off, at least in the short term. And I am not saying anything about what the book should have on the cover. For one thing, I haven't read it, and for another I'm no designer. But I do know this: Just because the book is called Liar does not mean the cover should be a lie.
Oh, and I know one more thing. I am not going to cede control to people who would almost certainly think that Jan Sleet should be shorter, and blonder, and with more cleavage. And without the cigarettes, of course. And maybe tone down the atheism. And maybe Vicki is just going through a phase and ends up with a boyfriend. And Ron should swear less and take a bath and stop punching people (and be blonder, too). And let's not even start on starling or The Golden.
To quote Sonje again: "I'd rather go down in flames with something I love than float along in a lifeboat covered in shit."