It is a salutary lesson for a first-time novelist: Be careful who you get to provide the glowing endorsement to splash across the cover.
That is the mistake Sherry Jones made when she suggested who might write a few warm words to promote her book, The Jewel of Medina, a historical romance about A'isha, the child bride of Muhammad, before its publication. It is a mistake she will not make again as she puts the finishing touch this month to its sequel.
Jones could not have anticipated that her action would become a spectacular own goal that would cause her American publisher to drop the book, a potential British publisher to be firebombed, and put herself at the centre of a publishing controversy. On the plus side, the previously unknown writer has become an international name.
The book hit the headlines in August when Random House in the US backed away, fearing it might incite violence and offend some Muslims. A Texan academic, who has since described the book as "soft core pornography", told the publisher it would be a "national security issue" and should be withdrawn.
The unravelling of Jones's book began when her publisher asked for the names of historians who might endorse the book. Jones did not know any personally but suggested several whose work she had drawn on in her research, including Denise Spellberg, a professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas.
Jones, a journalist based in Spokane, Washington, had written what she describes as an entertaining and informative novel about Islam for Western readers, one that might be used as a teaching tool in schools. The book, billed as a love story, history lesson and coming-of-age tale, is about the favourite wife of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. "Even though [The Jewel of Medina] is a work of fiction and there is imagination involved, it's all rooted in history," says Jones.
So she had no hesitation in suggesting a historian. And that is the problem. The goals and standards of the historical novelist and the historian are not the same. "In retrospect it was an incredibly naive thing to do to send the book to an academic for an endorsement," Jones says. "They are at odds with each other. One is to inform and entertain and the other is to present strictly the facts."
The book was eventually published in the US by Beaufort Books but it has received less than effusive mainstream reviews since its release in October.
The New York Times wrote: "An inexperienced, untalented author has naively stepped into an intense and deeply sensitive intellectual argument."
In Britain, Gibson Square's plans to publish the book have been in limbo since the publisher's home was firebombed in September. It is yet to be published in Australia. The sequel is expected to be published this year. "We need to speak up for free speech," Jones says.
"There are those extremists of varying beliefs who would like to impose their way of thinking on the rest of the world. It is important for us to be vigilant."
And she will be more careful about who writes the blurb.