As I put the finishing touches on the final installment in my fantasy adventure book series, the Jeremy Shuttle Adventures, I am seeing and hearing a recurring theme about my first book, “What if?”
The comments, boiled down to this: “Based on the cover, I thought it was a kid’s book.”
It’s a dilemma, to be sure. I wrote the book to be accessible for kids (well, middle grades) and I wrote it to be enjoyable to adults (young to older), as well. That’s not easy to do and I am gratified by the responses I have received from readers who suggest I managed to accomplish my goal. I am disappointed that a greater audience may be dissuaded from engaging the series because of ignoring the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover”.
The series is all about the journey of a young boy of great imagination gaining access to immense power. In order to use power wisely, Jeremy must mature. Indeed, maturity is forced upon him by the circumstances he faces and his success or failure at handling that change has serious consequences to everyone around him.
Because it’s a journey I had mapped out well in advance, I knew how I wanted to construct the stories. For example, the first book explores what a “kid” would do with that much power. Within the book, that exploration matures as Jeremy does; the adventures starting with the absurd and then getting more “real” as Jeremy’s desires mature. By the second book, Jeremy is no longer thinking of “kid” things, but more of family and relationships. The books progress along with Jeremy’s thought process, “growing up” with him. By the last book, the perils Jeremy and his fellow adventurers face are very real, even if the settings sometimes are even more fantastic.
Such is the same planning I mapped out with the book covers. The first book cover is cartoony, suggesting a light, even silly adventure. The second book cover is darker, offering images of threats real, if distant. The third book cover will likewise show the continued progression of Jeremy’s maturity and danger.
Sadly, thinking these things in my head is not the same as explaining them to others. Too often, I have had reviewers tell me they don’t review “children’s books”. That’s unfortunate, but I have to take the blame. It may be a case of “it sounded good on paper”, which is the siren call of failed ideas.
Likely I will have to wait until the entire series is completed in order to “re-pitch” the books to those that previously excused themselves. Until then, I welcome the reviews of those of you who have read and enjoyed the books. Those reviews do help others to make an informed decision and avoid the trap of judging a book by its cover.