Thursday, July 17, 2008

Something To Think About

A while back I read a book from an unfamiliar author that I had purchased from the bookstore. The blurb sounded interesting enough, and the cover looked good. It started off like your typical romance should: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl …

But wait—

Boy doesn’t get girl.

What?! Can you believe my shock (and anger) when there wasn’t a happily ever after? Both characters were still very much alive, both pleasantly happy, but NOT together. Through some rash decisions made by the heroine because of where her priorities lay, and because of the hero’s willingness to show how much he loved her, a decision was made by the hero that pretty much prevented him from her for the rest of her life. She has their baby (something she’d wanted from him) without him and reflects at the very end of the story about how much she wished it was possible for him to be there to see the child grow up, but she couldn’t wait to reunite with him in the afterlife. Mind you, he’s not dead but because of what had transpired, her death would be the only way they’d reunite. The end.

You should have seen me. I was quite livid. I was expecting a romance – definition: happily ever after – because the book had been marketed as a romance and was sitting in the romance section of the bookstore. Had it been marketed as a women’s fiction, I could have accepted the ending. But it wasn’t, and I couldn’t.

Well, two weeks ago, I was at another bookstore and guess what? I saw the same book in the fiction section. Not romance, but fiction! Which got me started on this rant again.

I don’t blame the poor author for writing the book the way it was written. It’s a perfectly fine book. I blame the publisher and marketing department for mis-marketing (is that even a word?) the book. When I read a romance, I expect a happily ever after. When I read women’s fiction, I expect a satisfying ending to the heroine’s journey and know that she may or may not be with the guy at the end. So because of bad marketing decisions made by the publisher (which was out of the author’s hands), they’ve completely turned an unsuspecting reader against the author and her book. Which got me thinking …

How does an author cope with something like that? How do you make the best of things from something that was out of your powers to fix or from something that you had very little say in? More authors face this problem than we care to admit. The majority of authors have very little say in the cover art or how the book is marketed and what happens after the books hit the bookstores. And the sad truth is that these things that the author have so little say in are the things that could hurt an author’s sales the most.

Just something to think about.


Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Mai, I HATE when that happens. So I'm with you on the rant part. And I totally feel for the author. I'm sure she didn't want her book marketed as something it was not.
That's one reason I like being with the small print/e-publishers I'm with currently. Because both Liquid Silver and Siren-BookStrand are very careful about how their books are marketed.
Heck, you can read the first chapter at your leisure at Liquid Silver. And at Siren there's a good-sized excerpt, so you can get a feel for the story and the author's writing style.
I may not get at many sales as a lot of authors, but I do want those who purchase my novels to be happy and satisfied that they did.
And I've been extremely lucky -- thank you, thank you, cover gods -- that my cover art is to my liking. In fact, I just got my final cover art for Tangerine Carnal Dreams. I think it's unique and terrific, and suits me perfectly. How readers will feel, I have no clue. And I absolutely love the cover art for my three others.
That's the thing, so far, I have had a say. And boy, as an author and as an amateur artist, I'm so glad!

Lexie O'Neill said...

I absolutely agree--I want a happy ending--I rarely read women's fiction for that reason. Since I haven't had any of this happen to me, I can't say what an author might do. However, I know what I would do as a reader--read the ending first before buying any more of that author's books (which probably means I wouldn't).
I guess, as a writer, I don't foresee ever writing an ending that doesn't find the hero/heroine happy so that takes care of that. As far as cover art, and so on...pray?

Mai Christy Thao said...

Hi Savanna, you're right on about why writing for epublishers is good in the sense of their marketing. They do a better job of marketing and they have control over it too, which is a big plus for them. And yes, you've definately been blessed by the cover gods, lol.

Mai Christy Thao said...

Hi Lexie, I'm glad you feel the same way I do about happily ever afters. I was actually considering posting a long rant titled, "What happened to happily ever afters?" =)

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Oh, I feel ya on that score. I've read books where I was left sitting there going, "What the &*^%?" (I'll leave out the expletive but you know what I mean.)

If it's marketed as a romance, I expect the HEA ending. If I don't get it, I feel cheated. If it's part of a series, I might be more forgiving, but I expect there to be a clue that their story goes on.

I read lots of everything but there are specific aspects to a romance novel that, as a reader, I expect. And a HEA is primary.

Don't even get me started on cover art and back blurbs not having a damn thing to do with the book--drives me nuts!

Great topic, Mai!

Mona Risk said...

Mai, I know exactly how you felt when you read your book. Same thing happened to me with a historical to a lesser extent. Hero and heroine decided to give it a try. Not excatly our usual HEA especially for a historical.

Mona Risk said...

Savanna, you were lucky with your book covers. While I had two gorgeous ones, I'm not very pleased with the third and there is no way to convince my new publisher that it doesn't suit the story. They said they know better what sells and what doesn't.

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Mona, truthfully, I feel like kissing the ground. My first two covers I'm in love with, as cover art and because they fairly represent the story.
This is also true about When a Good Angel Falls. And I wouldn't have thought of that concept for the cover.
I did have artist, David Burton, do the cover art on Pleasures of Blue Lotus Oil only because a well-curved model couldn't be found. I tried and Jinger tried.
And now, Tangerine Carnal Dream's cover art is exotic and appealing to me -- I don't know how anyone else will respond to it, though.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Mai, I can understand how you felt. I hate when I expect a happy ending and it doesn't happen. This rarely happens to me with books (as most seem to be marketed correctly as romance or not) but I often find this with films. I end up wishing I hadn't watched them.

Frustrating for an author when this happens. I suppose all she can do is damage limitation. Not sure how. I think this is probably more a problem in the States than in the UK as we have fewer books that are specifically marketed as romance with a HEA. We have far more women's fiction that can end happily or not.