Thursday, September 23, 2010

Other than fame, what do Rowling and Meyer share?

So I'm on the CSUS English E-mail list. I received an e-mail from the list service concerning a high school boy who was writing a paper on Twilight. I think I over responded to the question: "Who spread the word?" (about Twilight, that is).

I made the case that it needed nothing. And as I built my argument, citing the history of the industry, I found out...well, that was market analysis. And now, creepy as it is I can see why Twilight was a hit. Just by looking at the trend.

Wanna know why?

Fantasy has always had vampires. We share them with our Horror brethren, and get the creeps from them. Then in the early years of this century Paranormal Romance boomed. And it didn't boom small. It took over the romance genre so rapidly that Harlequin released an imprint, Luna that shook up the Fantasy genre.

Meanwhile, fantasy authors began reverting to YA. When Harry Potter exploded onto the scene, YA exploded with fantasy. Classic Fantasy novels were reprinted with YA covers and stacked on YA shelves. Harry Potter, despite its overtones of high fantasy, occured in the modern world. Which is a trait Urban Fantasy shares. A lot of paranormal romance shared the same traits.

And Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series which bridged horror, fantasy and erotica got popular in the early 21st century. (Related to the complicated nature of Anita's relationships, perhaps?) While Hamilton began publishing her series in the early nineties, during the prior ascension of then-named "dark fantasy," she didn't see popularity until the rise of paranormal romance.

Lastly, novels with conservative ethics have made a comeback. Christian writers can write in any genre and as long as they have moral overtones...they can be hosted in Christian bookshops. And novelty shops, like Christian bookshops, are the only types of independent stores that stand a chance anymore.

When Meyer came along, she bridged all of these popular areas. The time was just right for her. Rowling had opened urban fantasy to the YA-reading crowd (children and adults alike) and taught the publishers that This Stuff Sells.

So her first book hit the shelves in '05. By the release of her 3rd book, popularity had increased to insane levels.

Luna books published urban fantasy that bridged paranormal romance, pulling those readers into other genres, and the heady mix produced the modern industry. Hachette, the publishing group under which Twilight was published, saw so much success that last year (I think, look it up :P) they opened Orbit. A SFF imprint that is really putting out some interesting things. So maybe Twilight IS making the world better for us.

Though where Twilight falls on the spectrum, is clearly as a "YA Romance with horror/fantasy and christian themes." Yes, I know she is Mormon, but honestly, all conservative religious ideologies share more in common than they differ in. And I'm more concerned with the marketing slant than the "truth" of her value-origin. The marketing slant and the behavior of the readership is related. For something to be this successful, not only does the marketing have to work, the audience has to be there...lying in wait....and they were.

2 comments:

Steven Sylva-aRT said...

It's strange how an author's book hardly has a chance at one time and then several years later goes big when someone hits the market at the right time.

Actually, Rowling's first book of the Harry Potter series must have been before 2005; I had been attending grad school in 2001 or 2002 when a fellow grad student had introduced me to the Harry Potter series. Could've 2005 been the first time the series was introduced to the U.S.?

drea moore said...

2005 was Twilight, not Harry Potter :P Harry Potter's 1st book came out in the 1990's. I was making the point that Rowling opened up YA for authors like Meyer.

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