Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Harry Potter Hunt Continues

I saw this over the weekend and thought it was an interesting read for anyone into books or writing them. We all know that with the final instalment of the Harry Potter series recently released to cinemas, publishers and studios alike are on the lookout for the "next Harry". Well, the latest to be submitted is The Night Circus, the debut book by Erin Morgenstern. The story goes that this is her first novel, ever, and with not even a short story published before she has suddenly been catapulted into the big time. Not by sales (the book isn't out until September), but by marketing and investment from the publishers, with Summit Entertainment already snapping up the film rights. And it isn't even out yet...

The story itself sounds intriguing, though a part of me can't help feeling it's retreading very trodden ground at this point, albeit in a different combination;

"Ms. Morgenstern's novel, set at the turn of the 19th century, tells the story of two young, love-struck magicians who compete in a magical circus."

I'm delighted for Erin and she must be amazed at her success so far. It is after all a huge achievement to be taken so seriously by the industry, not to mention making the vast amount of money she has already. On the other hand I fear that the massive investment could potentially finish her career before it's even started. With so much riding on this book there isn't a lot of room for even an average result; it has to be spectacular. I also think that publishers are kidding themselves if they think they can force a book to sell and be popular the way Harry Potter was. The first run of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was something like 500 copies. The Night Circus is going to have 150,000 copies printed in its first run. That's a lot of pressure to get those copies sold... and they're keeping the pedal to the metal with an online game, a publishing day party in Sydney (complete with jugglers and tarot card readers), and book parties scheduled around the globe.

The thing that most concerns me about this "event publishing" phenomena is that I wonder if it limits what a writer, "lucky" enough to have their book chosen for this treatment, can do next. Erin has herself already commented "It’s putting a lot of pressure on me in terms of 'what’s she going to do next?'" No kidding. With her admission that this was only ever meant to be a stand alone book, the side effect of The Night Circus being successful will be a massive pressure to do another one. And, if it doesn't do well, of possibly never being published again by traditional publishing houses. 

Fingers crossed for Erin and her book. It clearly has that certain something for so many professional organisations to be backing it, and I'll certainly be keeping my eyes open for it when it comes out. I hope it finds the success with the public that it's garnered from the professionals. Even if they should probably let the readers decide what's going to be a hit, rather than the other way around...

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