Thursday, September 11, 2014

A brief anatomy of how long it took a bestseller to land on the nightstand

The book in question is The Hunger Games. Massive bestseller, right?

I know what you're thinking. Bah, kid's stuff! That's what I thought too. I was wrong.

Setting aside the merits of the book, I wanted to track the path it took for this book to land in my hands. Briefly;

The Hunger Games comes out in 2008. Over the next year, it's in my peripheral vision. The book seems to be everywhere but the cover doesn't reveal much about the story. I dismiss it at the time as more YA lit. Harry Potter kid's stuff. Not for me. 

My nephew gives me a copy for Christmas the next year. He tells me it's good. I don't even read the blurb copy, my bias is that strong. Kid's stuff. Not for me.

The movie adaptation comes out in 2012 but it still doesn't register. I do, however, have a vague idea of what the story is thanks to the movie trailer. I dismiss it as a Battle Royale knock-off. The release of the sequel the following year does nothing to sway me. Bias firmly in place.

Then a friend of mine mentions the book a number of times. Heather Jackson is a member of the Writeonsisters, an excellent blog about writing and publishing. Heather is unabashed in her love for Suzanne Collins' book, often referencing it in her posts about writing.

My ears perk up. Why? Two simple reasons; I know Heather and I respect her tastes. If she loves the book that much, then there's gotta be more to this than my bias is telling me.

The movie is on Netflix. Easy peasy. I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed it, at how intelligent it is.

A week later, the sequel pops up on Netflix too. Could I be any lazier? No. I watch this one. Same reaction. 

By this point, I'm curious about that first book. How did the writer establish the specific world of Panem and its thirteen districts? How was the protagonist introduced (something I'm always curious about)?

I download the sample of the Hunger Games to my Kindle, start reading.

Sold. The book is on the nightstand. I rip through it in two days.

Do I feel like a fool for unfairly dismissing the book for so long? Sure. But I was struck more by the winding path it took to get here. I bumbled along oblivious and wilfully biased through the publishing phenomenon of the entire series, a gift in my hand and two big Hollywood movies . What finally convinced me to try it? The recommendation of someone whom I know and trust. Simple as that.

So what's the take-away for authors? Advertising doesn't sell anything. Marketing, at best, builds awareness but that takes a long time and buckets of money. Even blockbuster movie adaptations only go so far. In the end, what gets a book into a reader's hands? The same method as always; word of mouth.

You can decide whether that's comforting or frightening. 

1 comment:

  1. Yay! So glad you enjoyed The Hunger Games. And I'm honoured you value my opinion so much that you gave in and finally read it. Maybe your nephew will give you books 2 and 3 this Christmas! ;)