Sunday, 11 November 2012

A wizard boy, a vampire and a bit of kink

Once again I must apologise for my lack of posts.  I can really only blame myself but I don’t like doing that so instead I’m going to blame work which has been very busy this last week.

Following on from my previous post about bestselling ideas, I was a little shocked that the first three bestsellers that immediately came to mind were all women; J K Rowling, Stephanie Meyer and E L James.  

Where are the bestselling males making headlines?  Well of course there is Stephen King who everyone has heard of, but he doesn’t seem to have the same punch as these three women.  What about Terry Pratchett?  I am slightly biased, being a fantasy fan, and I have a strong suspicion that Mr Pratchett is more a household name recently because of his commendable campaigning for euthanasia and Alzheimer’s rather than his wonderful books.  There are others; Iain Banks, Dan Brown, John Grisham, but no other writers have made quite as big a splash as J K Rowling, Stephanie Meyer and E L James.

 All three women are the creators of a franchise, are household names, they have all owned headlines and the book series, movie deals, crowds of screaming females (the ages of which depend on the particular books) and inescapable merchandise.  Harry Potter even has a place in the Universal Studios theme park – I wonder if they’ll do something similar for 50 Shades.

Why have these three women succeeded in making headlines where others have failed?  Does them being female have something to do with it?

I’ve been having a good, long think about this and I do think that being female is a part of their success.  Not because women are better at writing than men, of course they’re not.  It’s because of the market.

More women read than men and women are more likely to discuss the books they’ve read and share with friends and family.  These three women cover every age bracket; J K Rowling captures the young and subsequently their parents, Stephanie Meyer has hold of teenage hearts and E L James taps into the (consenting) adult.

Success in publishing is largely down to understanding your target audience.  Who is your book aimed at?  Young adult fiction and romances are the largest parts of the publishing market, so it seems only natural that these three major bestsellers should fit into these two categories (if 50 Shades can be considered romance).

I still think that 50 Shades’ success was actually down to the taboo idea.  Let’s face it, E L James didn’t necessarily have to build up her readership in the way that other authors do.  She simply jumped onto Stephanie Meyer’s grown up readership with a new twist on an already successful idea.  She threw in a lot of kink and her own fantasies and came out winning.  Not to mention that the story was so taboo that people who would usually not be interested in erotica felt the need to read this book.

So 50 Shades can claim that it went beyond satisfying the need of a major target audience and it broached the concept that humans are social animals.  To a large extent to be different is to be outcast, and instinctively humans need other humans to survive.  So a handful of people read a book, raise questions, criticism and glow about it which means that other people read it to find out what the fuss is about.  Soon enough, people are buying it purely to be ‘in with the crowd’.  What a feat!

So here’s another question; would a man be able to do what these women have done? 

Of course!  Ian Fleming did it before any of these three.  Will Twilight and Harry Potter survive as long as Bond, James Bond?

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