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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Harry Potter, Twilight and the forgotten ‘Dark Matter’

Hello dear reader. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me tell you a tall tale of hysteria and skewed perceptions. A tale where all may not be as it seams, where shady men in suits delight is meddling with people’s thoughts…

Ok, I have question for you. As of now, what are the two biggest selling children’s - YA book series?
Answer: you are probably wrong…

That is, you would be wrong if you answered Harry Potter and Twilight. The combined sales for the 7 main Harry Potter books are in excess of 400 million copies. The twilight series have sold just over 100 million. Both very good figures for any book series. But contrary to what the marketing machines would have us believe they are not the only game in town. There are other, perhaps quieter and les controversial, series that are sitting quietly in the background and perhaps chuckling at all the hysteria generated by the, rather vocal, fans of the ‘big two’.

Would it surprise you to know that there is another YA/children’s book series that easily tripled the Twilight sales and has only marginally less that the HP series? I think some people would be surprised by this; others will possibly already have guessed that I’m referring to the good old Goosebumps books. Ok, before the fans even get started, I know I’m comparing 60-something plus books to two relatively small series. And my intention isn’t to deride ether HP or Twilight here. I’m merely trying to show that the majority of pre-teen and YA readers may not be the HP and Twilight only generation that the media/marketing machine would have us think they are. By the way, the Goosebumps series has sold well over 350 million books, and is still climbing.
In the children’s market, Thomas the Tank Engine and Noddy have both doubled the sales of Twilight. Yes I know it isn’t the same audience, again that isn’t my point. The point is that there are other, invisible, things out there, with much larger sales, that don’t appear to be as ‘big’ as the two most hyped/talked about series. The general pubic perception is that vastly more children and young adults are reading these two book series, where in fact the overall sales figures do not bear this out.

So why the current fervour over HP and Twilight, and how do the others sustain their sales without it? What’s the secret? Is it all purely the marketing machines creation? Do people buy a Goosebumps book with a certain, safe, expectation, when their pre-teen, tween, or mid-teen would rather be reading the ‘edgy’ (or should that be ‘cool,’ ‘sweet,’ ‘wicked,’ banging,’ or whatever is in vogue nowadays…) Twilight book that they actually want – based of course of the hyperbole surrounding the series.
Obviously the TV franchise type books (Thomas the Tank Engine & Noddy, etc.) have a distinct advantage here, but it doesn’t explain why the quiet competitors like Goosebumps are still doing so well without the hype machine. And although the vast number of Goosebumps sales is split up between 60+ books, remember that The Hobbit has sold over 100 million copies, for one book, and The Lord of the Rings has sold over 150 million. Now, I’m honestly not trying to make this a competition, and granted, those sales are over a longer time-frame. My interest here is in how much of the children’s and YA audience really only have read the HP and/or Twilight books, and how much have read those as well as many from the other major and minor sellers. If all those books are still being sold then surely someone must be reading them?

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