This October my latest book, You're All I Need will be released. It shares some of the characters from my two previous novels, The Way You Aren't and I Can Make You Love Me. If you want to catch up on the lives of Krista and Brennan, Julie and Steve and Wynn and Adam, check out You're All I Need.
About a month ago, my editor snail mailed me a color photo copy of the cover for You're All I Need. At first, I kept thinking, Boy, is that a lot of yellow. When I received the actually cover flats, I realized that I really liked what the editor had done and that it wasn't as much yellow as I previously thought. Studying the cover, it brought back an unpleasant incident following one of my book releases.
In 2005, I sent a proposal to Dafina Books and received an offer for my manuscript, Now Until Forever. It was my first attempt to branch beyond my then publisher, BET. I was very pleased to be working with a new editor and hoping to learn much more about the publishing business. The editor told me that she believed I was a very talent writer, which boosted my fragile confidence. As the process of publishing a book began, the editor sent me a copy of the cover. The art department had designed the cover instead of selecting from the usual stock photos.
The art work was very good. Now Until Forever had a December 2006 release date and it got reviewed by Harriet Klausner. Apparently, that was a good thing. She gave the book five-stars and spoke very highly of the story. At that time, I thought, I'm on my way.
Whenever I have a new release, I visit Amazon and Barnes and Noble to read the reviews. Yes, I know it sometimes makes my brain hurt, but I do it anyway. Some controversy had developed over the cover for Now Until Forever. Several readers were questioning whether the novel was an interracial romance. One reader had given the book one star, stating that she planned to return the book as soon as she received it from Amazon because I had tricked her by having a questionable cover. She went on to say that she'd never buy another book written by me, because I was more concerned with my bottom line and less involved with writing a good story. She knew all of this about me without glancing beyond the front cover of the book.
I was floored. I'd done none of those things. As a new author at a new publishing house, I had no input into the cover art. I told several of my writing friends about the incident and jokingly stated, that's what happens when you judge a book by its cover instead of reading the back blurb or taking a peek inside. The book gave no reference to an interracial romance. Harriet Klausner's review never mentioned an interracial relationship. The reader made her decision to purchase the book solely on the light complexion of the hero's skin on the cover.
It saddens me to think that readers strike out at authors through media's like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. They write unflattering reviews without knowing the facts. They can cause a lot of damage to an author's reputation and career. Unfortunately, when reviews like this are put on the Internet, they're there forever.
If this reader was as much of an interracial romance fan as she proclaimed in her review, she would have known that those stories always mention the race of the characters in the blurb as part of the hook. I know Dafina did with my latest novel. They made a point of making it clear that the hero was a handsome Frenchman.
What's your opinion? Do reviews influence your decision to buy a book? Do you write reviews? Do you buy your books based on the cover?
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Remember, don't be a stranger.