As I've mentioned before in FB posts, blogs, books, interviews, etc., the Betsy covers were changed for several reasons. One, when UNDEAD AND UNWED came out, it was the only game in town. To be blunt, I invented (accidentally, I promise) paranormal chick lit. So when the first UNDEADS came out with their cute cartooney covers and zany Betsy antics, great. (Seriously! Great! I basically looked around the bookstore, then went home and wrote what I couldn't find. That'd be Betsy. Since then, I've been able to jettison SDJs and have Ramen noodles less than three times a week. Yay, zany Betsy antics!)
Except now, fast-forward 9 books (and those are only the Betsy books, it doesn't include DERIKS' BANE and DEAD OVER HEELS and such) and seven years, there are a zillion of cute paranormal romance novels with cute cartooney covers and fun trendy hip heroines dealing with various paranormal difficulties and day-to-day problems. Then the Twilight books came out...need I say more? Paranormal, paranormal everywhere. Go check the romance end-cap of any bookstore if you don't believe me. I remember staring at one of them a couple of years ago, and thinking, jeez, *I* can't pick my book out of the crowd, how's a new reader s'posed to?
Two, the series was moving in a slightly edgier direction. (Don't get all shrill. I've been warning you for years. Check your author's pages. "But I don't read author's pages; they're just a way for the author to yak about herself for another five pages." "So? Read 'em.") The books are always going to be funny, it's just I ran out of shoe sales to write about. So there are new problems for Betsy & the gang to fight (not least of which, not dying...and/or not living forever). So there was that to factor in.
Three, the fan mail. Oh my God, the fan mail. From children. Little kids! Hey, I like to make a buck as much as the next whore, but not off the dreams of small children. The cartoon covers were captivating the kiddies...and fooling their parents. (Note: in general, I love fan mail. Keep 'em coming. Also, fan mail from 9 year-olds who are reading JENNIFER SCALES, great! Keep 'em coming.)
Now, right around this time the Berkley marketing department said heads up, we're changing the covers. So instead of my first response ("But I love those covers!") I thought of the tiny, tiny children and (a rare and wonderful thing) kept my mouth shut. Also, contractually, it was their call anyway; they told me as a courtesy, and that's absolutely fine...I do not have a marketing degree. I did not go to college at all. I love to write. I love to nurture my agoraphobia. I do not like making marketing decisions.
But ever since then, reader reaction has been mixed. Some people love the new covers, some hate them. New readers don't care; some old readers feel screwed. I'm happy for the ones who are happy, I feel bad for the ones who feel bad, but as for my own feelings: I remain indifferent: I have zero control over the covers, but plenty over what's between them. So I focus on what I can control.
Tracy, my assistant, is one of the biggest fans of the edgier covers, and I don't blame her. She's my front line for reader mail, and I still remember the first time she read a fan letter from a 9 year-old girl: "Me and my BFF like totally love Betsy and she is like the coolest grrrlll evah! and also we don't get the weird icky stuff she did in the swimming pool with Sinclair. but my BFF's big brother sez he'll tell us all about it!! and okay so it's like the coolest book and she is the coolest and we can't wait to save up our baby-sitting money for like the next one y r awesome!!!!!!!"
Tracy, a decent human being with children of her own, was frozen before her screen: "What do I do?" she asked, panicked. "What do I do?"
"Ask for her Mommy's cell phone number," I suggested. "That's a conversation I'd like to have."
Is this my fault, my worry, or my responsibility? Technically, no. Should I push for whatever covers I like and too bad about random FBI checks regarding corrupting the morals of minors? I s'pose. Still...it bugged me. And with each new exuberant letter carefully typed or hand-written by an enthusiastic child who hadn't been on the planet even ten years, who was younger than Tivo!, I felt worse.
So...parental responsibility? It's definitely not mine. My fifteen year old isn't allowed to read my books, never mind random elementary school kids. (Also: "Gross, Mom. I don't want to read any sex scenes you write. Just...gross." "But when you're older, I'm just saying..." "Just...don't. Please. Mom. Stop it now. Never. Never, okay? I WILL NEVER READ THEM.") And yeah, if your elementary school kid is buying romance novels in the ROMANCE NOVEL SECTION and you're not checking them out, that's not on me. But jeez, I'm not made of stone, people! I'M THE ONE GETTING THESE FRIGGIN' LETTERS!
"Hey, me and my BFF just figured out what Betsy and Sinclair did in the pool and now we're like the most popular girls in like fifth grade, like!!!!!!!"
Oh my God, just give me a Go-Cup full of vodka and a 9 mm so I can end it all. After taking a few parents with me. Oh, and by the way, parents buying romance novels for their little girls without checking content first? When I'm sitting in moral judgement on you, me with my indifferent parenting, inconsistent yet arbitrary rules, and frequent E.R. trips for stitches (not always stitches for me), it's time to re-examine your life.
So! The new covers are here to stay. That, I can live with. If you can't, go check the bookstore. There are still plenty of quirky romance novels with cartoon covers to choose from. Knock yourselves out, bay-bees.
No minor moral-corruptin' today,