– Because you know the world has no point…Really
A couple of years ago I was hostess at a book café for a bunch of teenagers. The topic was the biggest, meanest vampire/paranormal blast that the reader’s world had experienced since Harry Potter hit the shelves. A white, sullen teenage-vampire named Edward were more popular than even Justin Bieber. Or maybe Justin Bieber is somewhat more popular (he certainly knows how to merchandise his success). Anyway, the popularity competition was pretty equal. I can say that, because I don’t think a pretty lot of mothers have a crush – or anything like it – on Bieber. No thank you!
But Edward… a sulky teenager made of words from a female mormone and thereby able to fit every woman’s concept of The Perfect Partner… he was one hell of a rage amongst several moms. Man, those pictures were scary! Add the number of those mothers with the World’s population of teenagers = more females than even Justin Bieber can count as fans… (Any males reading Twilight, thinking Edward was cool, wisely shut up their mouths. I can’t blame them…)
The truth is though – Edward is the reason we have seen the vampires being “re-vamped” so to speak. Vampires are sexy, sleek creatures of the night who seduces you with sweet words, cold skin and sharp teeth and a breath that must stink with the leftovers from their latest “strawberry” smoothie! Whatever suits you.
I, for one, have read my fair share of vampire stories. Always found them fascinating. But that was just me in my teenage years, looooong before Edward entered the scene. So why was it, that a average woman with dubious, religious character succeeded with her stunt? This blog post is my version of why that happened:
1. A vacuum.
The literary world for teenagers were in a vacuum after Harry Potter. The next book were eons away and the fans needed something to fill out the time after magic spells and weird looking trolls. Two shy teenagers with a fondness for virgin sex were just the trick to blow life into the teenagers’ longing hearts.
Plus: The plot was different, but the paranormal element was still there, and the story also contained a bunch of stupid boys…
Now, I know that merchandise can only buy you so many readers. But its a fact that the World’s population is constantly on the hunt for The Evergreen Youth, and vampires are just the thing – they have Youth in spades and can sell out if it, being frozen into shape early in their life. As usual we wouldn’t like some old, waggling crone, now would we? No sex appeal in that – unless the old crone is the EVIL GRANDMOTHER with personality that matches her ugly nose.
Add to that: Lots of teenagers with a lots of friends. Plus – how much blunt do you need to put down in order to buy a book? Not much. And teenagers love to read about other (sulky) teenagers whose parents are jerks, and then the Magical Prince walks in and sweeps the girl up with the elegance they long to posses instead of knocking knees and dental braces. Hello… Beverly Hills anyone?
Look at those legs, guys!
3. The classical plot
Boy meets girl. Girl is attracted. Guy rejects her. Girl is hurt. Girl turns to her childhood friend – which is, by the way, a werewolf. Guy deserts girl. Girl is hurt and almost dies of heartbreak. Girl’s childhood friend saves her life. Girls’ childhood friend declares his feelings. Childhood friend and girl is attracted to each other. First guy can’t live without girl. Comes back. Girl is in dilemma. Girl chooses first guy. Childhood friend is angry – and go play with his friends. Which, by the way, are werewolfs.
Evil things are hunting society. Guy protects girl. End of part one.
Audience goes mad for part two.
You can probably see my point here. Even if the setting is in a vampires world – all the classical, dramaturgy elements are present with love, rejection, drama, external threat that brings the lovers together again and so on. By following a certain pattern and content it doesn’t matter if you’re Mr. Darcy and Charlotte – or Edward and Emma. The most addictive drug is longing and forbidden love. If your father tells you not to drink – what do you do? Go drinking like you were left with only one day to live in. The same thing appears in Twilight. And pretty much all other romance books.
4. Distribution – and pricing
It’s far easier to have your story published than – let’s say – read the whole Bible. Today you can read the books digitally, download an audio book, stream info and whatever not. The costs of distributing books have spiraled down and readers are not banging the bookstore’s door to get their favorite story. They know the internet, they can get the stuff in pretty much any way they want. This puts pressure on the bookstores – but it’s great for publishers and writers, since you can reach a much bigger audience this way. The first book in the The Trylle Trilogy was sold on Amazon for only a few bucks. Amanda Hocking did the right thing. Sure – she didn’t earn an awful lot of money with each sale – but when first the fever had hit several customers, the wave of downloads made her able to determine her succes, which was clear: She had hit a BIG audience. The second book was more expensive – but her readers kept on and her revenue soared. Get the point? Great. Now get that writing engine up and running!
With a bigger distribution network, the results worked their magic, establishing big networks of fans on the net. Blogposts, forums and Tweets made its way throughout the net and were harvested in these online communities were it was discussed in same fashion as the president’s new strategy is debated in the Tea Party. And let’s not talk about fan fiction, shall we? That shady business is right now getting a lot of attention…
At Amazon’s own network, Shelfari, readers are still debating whether Emma should’ve chosen Jakob over Edward. (If you ask me, I have always had a fondness for dogs, so of course I would have chosen Jacob over Edward – I have a fondness for warmth, especially when I creep into bed!)
Bingo. Your book is a success.