I posted a Bitstrips comic of a friend of mine not being sure whether I was invincible, or a vampire. (There were copious sparkles involved.) Another friend of mine made fun of me for being a Twilight vampire. And I thought about it a moment, and thought, If I could have Stephanie Meyers readership and royalties, I would be laughing all the way to the bank.
For all that my hipster friends poke fun at the sparkling vampires, I have had multiple friends admit that they’ve read her books. They read them simply because they wanted to know. They wanted to be a part of something; they wanted to understand the attraction. Now, most of those readers did come away with a lot of poor reviews, but they read the books, nevertheless.
There is a lot of speculation on what made Stephanie Meyers so famous, and mine is this. She did something audacious. She flew in the face of ‘what is known’ about vampires. She kept a lot of what people love, which was also smart, but she had that one thing that drew attention, that created question marks above people’s heads and made them want to know.
It is impossible to know what will sell. Steve Jobs didn’t know how well the iPad would do when he set it loose into the saleosphere. He had a gut instinct and a clever idea. J.K. Rowling was on welfare when she wrote Harry Potter. She was unemployed and had the time. That’s my story as well, although that’s where the similarity stops, of course. Her story certainly resonates will me, but there is no way of knowing if I will do what she did, and come up with that one thing.
The certainty is, that if I tried to write a story about sparkling vampires, that there would be those who would read it, but because it’s a copy cat idea, I would be the recipient of a lot of ridicule and a lot less readership. That, and even though it was the ‘hot thing’ for a while, it’s not really the trend anymore, and people would know that I wasn’t writing about sparkly vampires for the love of them. (Not after this post, anyway.) During my writer’s conference I listened as a woman asked, “What’s the hot trend right now?” My gut instinct was to be horrified that anyone would ask that. I want to be a commercial success, but not more than I want to enjoy my art.
The trick in art is to find the one thing that you love, and base your work around that. That way, the creation process is enjoyable, or at least mostly enjoyable (as it’s always more work than you expect.) At the end of the day, your beloved project may just be that – a pleasant way to spend your free time. You don’t want to have regrets about how you spent your time, after all. Then, if you do manage to get picked up, and other people see how brilliant you are. One way is good, the other way better, but both ways you win.