Thursday, May 08, 2008

We're Not Dinosaurs (Yet)

A PBW regular (you know who you are) sent me a link to this Maryland newspaper's summer wannabe/probablywillbe blockbuster book report and asked why an unknown would be offered a seven-figure contract for a book that is already being touted as a Da Vinci Code knockoff.

That's an easy one. Dan Brown reportedly earned at least $442 million dollars from sales of his novel, The Da Vinci Code, and the movie version earned at least $678.5 million worldwide. Although knock-offs rarely do as well as the originals, the publisher who signed the rookie is hoping to cash in on some of that lovely success. Her being young and a grad student won't hurt, either.

When something works very, very well in any business, it becomes a model to be emulated. Fast food, the microcomputer and the SUV are prime examples. Why would publishing be any different?

Sometimes you can see these things coming. Back in early 2006, I started hearing some rumors about YA paranormal becoming a big trend, and at the time I predicted to some friends that if someone could write a vampire series appropriate for teen readers that it had the potential to go platinum. Now we have Stephenie Meyer burning up the BSL lists with her YA vampire series -- even my daughter, the nonfic animal story lover, has read her books -- and you can bet we're going to see a lot more vampire/paranormal fiction for youngsters hitting the shelves over the next couple of years.

Will Stephenie Meyer knockoffs do as well as the original model? As with Dan Brown imitators, probably not. However, popularity opens doors for writers who already have something in mind that, while not a knockoff, is likely to have strong appeal for readers who enjoy Stephenie Meyer, and publishers who are looking for the next Stephenie Meyer. So if you have a proposal for an original YA vampire series sitting on a shelf gathering dust somewhere, I'd say now would be the time to pitch it.

8 comments:

  1. $442 million? That is a whole lotta money. I'm trying to translate that into copies sold, and it seems like such a big number. Maybe that money includes movie rights/royalties, and other subrights?

    In any case, I say, good on him. Dan Brown wrote a book that many people enjoyed reading. At the end of the day, that's every writer's goal.

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  2. Didn't good ole Dan also offend some people with that book? Not that I found it offensive, but some people are just like that. I have noticed when something causes a stir, it instantly becomes popular and the Dan Brown knock-off's will sadly fall short.

    As for Ms. Stephenie Meyer, think her knock-offs will do well. The teen readers today seem more progressive and more open to the vampire idea than when I was that age and age appropiate material makes me smile (now that I am a parent).

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  3. Do you really think so, on the vampire front? I keep reading on agent blogs that vampires are getting stale. I've pretty much shelved by vampire novel, but maybe I should dust it off...

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  4. I followed the link but I'm not seeing the relevant article. Is it me?

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  5. Buffysquirrel wrote: I followed the link but I'm not seeing the relevant article. Is it me?

    Nope, that was my fault -- I didn't copy the link correctly. All fixed and checked now, so you should be able to click on it and go right to it.

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  6. Brigid wrote: Do you really think so, on the vampire front? I keep reading on agent blogs that vampires are getting stale. I've pretty much shelved by vampire novel, but maybe I should dust it off...

    I think romance novels with a vampire theme (especially J.R. Ward brotherhood knockoffs) is at an all-time glut; you'd really have to have something spectacular to catch an editor's eye. However, YA fiction is a completely different genre, and the only vampire fiction writer I'm seeing on those shelves at the moment is Stephenie Meyer. So if your proposal would be appropriate for younger readers -- and if you're not sure, check out the genre -- it would definitely be worth the printing and postage costs to make a pitch to a YA publisher.

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  7. I don't think I could write YA if I tried.

    POSSIBLY younger kids. But YA?

    Nope. Of course, I also have no interest in trying, so that's probably part of the issue.

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  8. Ah, that worked, PBW. Thanks :).

    Once again I learn that I'm out of touch with the-rest-of-the-planet; I wouldn't touch a celebrity memoir. I buy non-fiction on subjects that interest me, which lately has pretty much been the historical Royal Navy. I blame O'Brian....

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