It is a slightly old article, but the results of the Forbes Top Ten authors list is as interesting as the authors are (in my opinion) mostly mainstream. The list taken from this page includes a surprising number of authors who write for children or YA markets.
The list encourages one to draw the following conclusions about the book market:
- Kids are reading more and more than ever before, especially if authors like Kinney are writing exclusively for young kids and others are branching out into the younger readers market. The first article mentions the advantages tech-savvy authors have when they tap into the massive eBook market. I wish I could remember where I read it, but the YA market is possibly the fastest-growing market. It makes sense to write for it. And judging by the books that I see in the subs with the book reps, there is a desperate need for someone to write better YA that doesn’t involve emo vampires or sad fallen angels or hairball-hacking werewolves. Or mermaids. (Why mermaids? That is a question that speaks to some very deep-seated issues.)
- Writing crime pays, apparently. Judging by the high earnings of Patterson, Evanovich and Steel, writing about or involving crime in one’s books seems to be successful. However it is a highly saturated market with far too many authors competing for one of the most unforgiving markets. Crime readers tend to follow one author just because the selection is so overwhelming. If anyone wants to break into the book market, crime and romance are definitely the hardest to crack. Fantasy and sci-fi readers are much more likely to pick up new authors.
- Writing for women is more likely to pay off (Steel, Evanovich, Sparks and Meyer are prime examples) and it has long been established in the publishing industry that men don’t read, or at least not enough to matter. (An unfortunate conclusion but that’s how the numbers roll.) Now that I have been meeting with reps for about six months, I have been able to piece together a great deal about the industry. Women do read a great deal more and across more genres, and while I don’t doubt that men read, they don’t read enough to dictate to many markets. From what I gather, non-fiction tends to be more unisex but there is a growing trend in what is unofficially called ‘dick-lit’. Its chick-lit with a male protagonist who too is unfulfilled and seeking love. It sounds a lot rougher than it really is.
- Mainstream works. None of the authors on the list are particularly challenging or even controversial. Meyer with her necrophilia and bestiality is so bodice-ripper and hetronormative to be puke-inducing, so that puts her firmly in the heart of the mainstream.
I understand that reading is always going to be escapist and simple for 98% of the world’s literate people. That’s why none of these authors write anything that is particularly stimulating. And I can respect that most people are not interested in reading challenging and mind-rearranging material that inspires debate and anger. The list is interesting for many reasons, but mostly for me because it serves as a handy shorthand for what people want to read more than what booksellers want to sell. If I had a book store I know it would be very much like Black Books, with really interesting but badly selling titles. This is why I have a blog and not a book store.
The most important thing to take away from this is that people are still reading, and while a large part of me wishes they were reading more interesting things I’m just glad that kids are still loving books and that people haven’t given up books for reality TV.
While I’m on the topic of top ten lists, it is always interesting to get the Top 50 books sold here at Exclusive Books. While I cannot share numbers with you, I can share the top sellers, and it fascinates me that the local top 10 this week is 90% South African non-fiction. This may change when all the big international Christmas titles come out (Night Circus, Language of Flowers and the Freddie Mercury biography, for example) but for now it is good to see South Africans supporting South African literature, especially non-fiction.