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...