Tuesday, March 12, 2013

...And Now What?

I was watching Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 this weekend when something occurred to me.

This is awesome, I thought. I mean, this is WAY awesome. This is the coolest thing ever. Nothing could be cooler than this! Wait...nothing could be cooler than this. Oh, my God. I've made some really bad life decisions. 

Aside from revealing the striking depth of my emotional immaturity, my infatuation with the Twilight saga sheds light on a difficult truth in publishing: the profitability spikes in our field are more often than not driven by literary lightning, projects that illuminate the publishing world for a ferocious moment before disappearing and leaving a bunch of clouds behind.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest bolt of the hour tends to spawn smaller sparks who light up their own corners of the sky (preferably in a manner that achieves recoupment), which explains why Stephenie Meyer's accomplishment was followed by Vampire Academy and the television show True Blood, both of which capitalized on the niche Meyer exposed.

The reason for Twilight's success is not hard to grasp: her books provide readers with comforting visions of true love, handsome heroes, and supernatural power presented in a conveniently sexy package. Beneath the vampire/werewolf rivalry, Twilight is the story of a directionless young woman rescued by a rich, hot guy. Doesn't everyone secretly wish for something like that, at least once? If they don't, it's hard to explain how Fifty Shades of Grey (which started as Twilight fanfiction, mind you) has sold 65 million copies worldwide.

But what's next? Conventional wisdom, not to mention human nature, dictates that every trend has a shelf life, and with Twilight's last film installment done, vampires should be headed the way of the Baha Men (on a completely unrelated note, I'd like to point out that I hated that song back when it first debuted--even at 12 I demonstrated the effortless good taste that has since become my trademark).

That's right: Bella and her ilk are destined for a swift death.

Except they're not.

In fact, the vampire genre is still enjoying robust success long after it should have died down; the final book in the Twilight series was released in 2008, which means that vampire lore is captivating the reading public a full five years after the the era's greatest success wound up. That, much like Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway, constitutes some serious staying power.


Vampires have lurched on like the literal undead in publishing largely due to the absence of anything to replace them. In some corners of the industry there is a consensus emerging that zombies will be the new thing but, at the risk of demonstrating a dangerous lack of foresight, I'm going to call their bluff. Zombies may be a natural successor to vampires in a mythological sense, but they're missing everything that made vampires all the rage to begin with: good looks, sophistication, wealth, grace. Vampire stories tap into an archetype we all want to emulate; zombies are just us with hangovers and bad skin.

So it's vampires, at least for now. As for what comes afterward, your guess is hopefully only marginally worse than mine. There are only two things I know for sure: 1. Whatever displaces the vampire juggernaut will allow us to indulge in the same kind of fantasies Twilight did (see the profusion of successful romance novels of late) and 2. We probably won't see it coming.

Any ideas, guys?

As always, you can learn about my manuscript editing services here. This month I've had the privilege to work with two new writers, both of whom learned of me through the blog. That would not have happened without you having this ongoing conversation with me, so thanks for all your awesomeness!

And for my next trick: a contest...


  1. I think the next big thing will be stories about the trouble lurking in farm country and the kids that get caught up in it!:) Hey....we all have to eat! Zombies will never be big. You're right. They're too ugly.

  2. It's fun to wonder about the next big thing! I'm surprised the vampire thing has lasted so long, although the students in my class haven't been interested in vampires for me for a few years. :)

  3. I expect the vampire love fest will be back in the next decade or two. I enjoyed a number of YA paranormal books starring the blood suckers, thanks to Stephanie. I enjoyed them more than the zombie fest that was short lived.

    I still have to see Breaking Dawn part Two. Maybe I'll watch it next week.

  4. It's hard to predict market trends, but Dystopian seems to almost outweigh vampires at the moment. Of course, whatever blows everything else out of the water will just be a new twist on an old hat :)

    P.S. I'm a closet Twihard as well ;)

    1. Here's to closet Twihards! Dystopian can be really cool, but it's sort of like zombies to me: all the stories sort of blend together after a while. There can only be so many plagues or nuclear wars. If it's well done and fresh I can get into it, but it's one of those things where the stories all tend to resemble one another.

  5. I'm a manga nerd and like paranormal stories with depth or weird twists - like Loveless, Descendants of Darkness, or even Bleach - and, while I do enjoy vampires (greatly), I don't read something just because it has them in it. The last book I read was about dragons who fold into human form - Seraphina - and I liked it, but I'm not going to start reading every dragon book, either. There is such a diversity to the market that I think foreseeing the next big thing is difficult. No one really saw Twilight coming, or The DaVinci Code, or Fifty Shades, and what makes each of those things a success at the core is different, but they all had mainstream popularity driving people's curiosity to find out why or what this "thing" was all about. Fortunately or not, I have a decent hold on my curiosity, so while I've seen the DaVinci code-related movies, I have not read the books, and I have not read or seen anything Twilight-related or Fifty Shades-related.

  6. Wouldn't we all like to know what 'the next big thing will be'. I'm hoping I'm writing it this very minute. You can never tell.

    IMO, all the fads are only window dressing for a really good love story. Set it in a history, include mythical beings, fly in spacecraft, but whatever you do include 'truth, beauty and love'.

    Did you say contest? I love a contest.

  7. Holy Cats! With all the vitriol spewed about Twilight, it's nice to hear something good for a change.

    Excellent way of comparing vampires and zombies, btw. After The Walking Dead hooked me (still can't believe it), I am the newest acolyte of the undead genre.
    CD Coffelt ponders at Spirit Called
    And critiques at UnicornBell

  8. I've been a vampire fan for my whole life and grew up with old zombie flicks. While I adamantly dislike Twilight, I do approve of anything that gets teens to find a library and actually read. I've always found that some of the best books with vampires or zombies or dragons are the ones you never hear about. Such as Flight of Dragons, or any of the Robert Aspirin novels or Warm Bodies (haven't seen the movie but loved the book when it came out). The Jeanne Kalogridis and Tanya Huff books blew me away and I picked them up in the library by accident.