A PBW regular (you know who you are) sent me a link to this Maryland newspaper's summer wannabe/probablywillbe blockbuster book report and asked why an unknown would be offered a seven-figure contract for a book that is already being touted as a Da Vinci Code knockoff.
That's an easy one. Dan Brown reportedly earned at least $442 million dollars from sales of his novel, The Da Vinci Code, and the movie version earned at least $678.5 million worldwide. Although knock-offs rarely do as well as the originals, the publisher who signed the rookie is hoping to cash in on some of that lovely success. Her being young and a grad student won't hurt, either.
When something works very, very well in any business, it becomes a model to be emulated. Fast food, the microcomputer and the SUV are prime examples. Why would publishing be any different?
Sometimes you can see these things coming. Back in early 2006, I started hearing some rumors about YA paranormal becoming a big trend, and at the time I predicted to some friends that if someone could write a vampire series appropriate for teen readers that it had the potential to go platinum. Now we have Stephenie Meyer burning up the BSL lists with her YA vampire series -- even my daughter, the nonfic animal story lover, has read her books -- and you can bet we're going to see a lot more vampire/paranormal fiction for youngsters hitting the shelves over the next couple of years.
Will Stephenie Meyer knockoffs do as well as the original model? As with Dan Brown imitators, probably not. However, popularity opens doors for writers who already have something in mind that, while not a knockoff, is likely to have strong appeal for readers who enjoy Stephenie Meyer, and publishers who are looking for the next Stephenie Meyer. So if you have a proposal for an original YA vampire series sitting on a shelf gathering dust somewhere, I'd say now would be the time to pitch it.