I've talked about this before here, but it bears repeating: Lavender-Green Magic by Andre Norton was published in 1974. The copyeditor changed the race of the three protagonists from black to white. Norton was able to correct this, and the version published is her original. Copyeditors are supposed to correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, keep an eye on continuity, and point out things they think are mistakes. It's interesting to speculate exactly where in that list that the copyeditor thought changing the race of the characters would fall under.
My book Wheel of the Infinite was published in hardcover in July of 2000, with this cover:
Maskelle, who is unquestionably the main viewpoint character and protagonist, is on the front, and the artist (the fantastically talented Donato Giancola) placed her on the righthand side so that's where she'd be. Though she's a little gray. I found out later (was it on here? if it was one of you, please drop me a comment) that the publisher, HarperCollins, asked him to make her less brown. (ETA: redplasticglass said I was at a convention at one of his panels a number of years back -- and when he posted the original painting, and then the printed cover on the screen, he mentioned that "--Look! They greyed her out!"
I'm not entirely sure if they asked him to do it, or they just "misprinted" or what exactly, he didn't elaborate. (I really doubt he would have been willing to make the change if they'd just asked him to, he was so angry about it. And their attempts to 'fix' things pretty much showed that they had done it deliberately.) Needless to say, he wasn't happy about the situation. After that first image, he showed us an image of that second cover -- He then went on to say that he had complained about it. Later, he finds out they made her black again, but they'd stuck her on the BACK of the book. And that was really the last time he was willing to work for them.
I saw the 'greyed' cover on the book my library had, and they really DID make her grey. Literally grey, though I couldn't remember if the tone had been adjusted as well or not. I think they were about comparative darkness. Just... grey, not brown.)
I envisioned Maskelle as looking something like Gina Torres (see icon), who played Nebula in Hercules: the Legendary Journeys and Zoe in Firefly and Serenity. (Yeah, I do have actors in mind for a lot of my characters. Also theme songs, but that's another post.)
I think this image below may have a color tone closer to Giancola's original and more faithful to the book, but my eyesight isn't great today:
For the paperback, the publisher flipped the cover, and it looks like this, with Rian, the secondary character and love interest, on the front:
And there it is. Not much has changed since 1974. It's still terribly rare to see a not-white main character on the front of a book. I saw a link to a blog post someone did on not-white main characters who inexplicably became white when pictured on the cover, but damn, again I have no idea where. If someone has that link, please comment with it. (ETA: Found by forodwaith: Judging Books & Their Covers. And another example in comments)
I'll be leaving Friday for ArmadilloCon and then Chicago to visit friends, so I'll be gone for a bit, and probably not quick to answer email.
Much Much Later ETA: the second edition hardcovers (at least the ones in my house) have the correct color tone for Maskelle.