Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is Success an Indicator of Skill?

I don't go on Gaia's Writing Forums much anymore because it's filled with arrogant, cynical elitists who bash Stephenie Meyer (I'm not fond of her either, but their bashing is pure snobbery, as they believe it's fact that Stephenie Meyer is pure trash)and who do everything they can to argue their points, to put the opinions of others down, and to add brutal snark in response to what someone says. Occasionally I go on here just to see if there is a topic worth commenting on, and I stumbled upon this one: refer to title.

Rather than telling my answer, I'm going to show it. Marketing plays a part in the success of books, but from what I recall, I never saw Harry Potter marketed anywhere. I simply heard it by word of mouth, which I suppose is in itself a form of marketing. However, there must be some reason that it's getting spread through word of mouth. Some person out there must have loved the story so much to recommend it. And so it spreads from there. Same with Twilight. I only knew about the book because one of my friends was reading it--that, and its catchy cover, but people really only recommend a book if they like it. I never saw Twilight marketed anywhere. Never saw huge banners advertising its next book or any book commercials or anything. After seeing it in the hands of my friend, I began to see questions about Twilight popping up on YahooAnswers. I began to see more topics about it and more recommendations. It eventually gained that commercial success to where I did see banners, and posters, and other means of advertising. But commercial success is a different kind of success. Twilight was still a success before it was mass marketed simply because Meyer was able to have just one person fall in love with the book enough to recommend it to a friend who then recommend it to another, and then a web of recommendations expanded. She did something right. What she did was craft a story that most consumers loves. Now, I'm going to admit I feel that Twilight's lacking in its story and writing, but I can argue that all I want. It doesn't change the fact that most consumers of this novel love her storytelling. Even if they're conscious of her flawed writing, they forgive it because they can't help but to enjoy her story.

But of course, the snobs of the Gaia community believed it was marketing that indicated Meyer's success. Marketing helps, but if I see a poster advertising a flashy book, buy that book, and throw it in the trash because it was so bad, I'm not going to open my mouth to gush about it to a friend. In fact, I might sell it to a used bookstore instead of throwing it away. I do want my money back for a book that wastes my time. I do not believe sales indicate success on the author's part either. I believe that the positive emotions Meyer's series has elicited is an indication of how successful she is.

So, yes, success is an indicator of skill.

So, bloggers, what do you think?


Emilia Joyce Plater said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emilia Joyce Plater said...

Success may not be an indicator of writing prowess, but I do believe someone can have the "skill" of appealing to writers. SMeyer has that, if anything. As we all know, in the end, it comes down to what the readers want.

Travener said...

It's too easy for aspiring authors to fall into jealousy over other writers' success, particularly when the literary merit of their writing is questionable. I know I, like many tying to get published, wonder how so much "crap" gets published. But writing is more than just the craft of stringing together words. It's also story-telling, originality, and sometimes just being in the right place at the right time with the right idea. I think "Twilight" is, like the Harry Potter books, a phenomenon that's just not easily explainable. But it certainly appeals to millions, so Meyer must be doing something right.

Prince Trase said...

I agree with Travener. A lot of new writers look at authors now and cringe with envy. At times success does indicate skill. Look at Michael Phelps. Tons of gold medals and he's very skillful at swimming. But skill takes a lot of work and so does success.