Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Stephenie Meyer and her mean little fans

If you haven't heard of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga, a four-book series about a teenage girl's romantic relationship with a vampire, you're not a fourteen-year-old female and you don't have one living under your roof. The fourth and last book in the series, Breaking Dawn, was released earlier this month and sold an astounding 1.3 million copies on its first day out.

The book immediately shot to the number one sales position at Amazon.com, where, according to this article in Publisher's Weekly, the message boards are now buzzing with disgruntled readers who are encouraging others to return the book and get their money back. Why? Because the heroine ended up with the wrong guy and many readers didn't like the way the book--and the series--concluded. This from PW:

In one heavily trafficked thread [at Amazon] entitled “Unhappy with Breaking Dawn? Don’t burn it—RETURN it!,” commenters debated whether returning the book was a valid way to express unhappiness with the book. “Technically, reading a book and returning it is theft of knowledge,” read one post, while the original commenter, a former bookstore employee, wrote, “I don’t advocate making a habit of buying new books, reading them, and returning them. But once in a while... I do think mass returns are a useful form of consumer protest.” Another poster recounted, anecdotally, returning the book at Borders: “They took back my book with no problem. Got into a discussion with the cashier about how I was the 15th (!!!) person to bring my book back today.”

Not every fangirl hates the book. But many do, and some of them want to punish the author and the publisher for raising their expectations and then failing to deliver a satisfying read. Take a look at this snippet from the Amazon discussion mentioned above. Here's how "Baby Strange" launched the thread that has logged 527 comments as of this morning:

If you haven't already messed up your copy, GO GET YOUR MONEY BACK.

There's a good reason for this, besides well--getting your money back and getting that infernal book out of your house.

It won't harm the bookstores; they end up returning unsold hardcovers to the publisher anyway. If you feel bad for them, buy another book with the money or credit you get back.

Who it will hurt is Little, Brown, for having the gall to let this piece of trash hit the market in the first place. Seriously, they should be ashamed of themselves.

It will also hurt Stephenie Meyer. She earns royalties on books that have been sold. If you burn your books, she's already made her money off of you, so it doesn't really matter. If you return them, she won't earn royalties on those books. She should be ashamed of herself for handing in such a travesty of a book; she doesn't deserve your money. Don't line her pockets with any more of your money--take the book back.

I don't believe anyone needs to worry about Stephenie Meyers not being able to pay her electric bill. After the success of her first three books, the woman can probably afford to buy her own small country. So these angry little girls aren't hurting her by refusing to contribute to the royalties she'll earn on Breaking Dawn. What they are doing is whipping up vengeful attitudes and behavior that can't do our society any good. You didn't give me the entertainment I demanded so now I am going to hurt you and the people you work for!

Listen, children. Purchasing a novel is an investment that may or may not pay off. You do your research--consider your friends' advice, read the back-cover blurb and maybe the first couple of pages--and then you take your chances. You may have a pleasant reading experience or a disappointing one or an amazing one. That is the nature of novel-reading. If a book is morally reprehensible--say you get to the middle of it and there's a graphic child-rape scene--then returning it makes sense. But demanding your money back because you didn't like a book's ending? Childish and rude.



Jennifer Shirk said...

Oh, that's ridiculous that they want their money back because of the ending.
Gee, would they do that in a movie theater too?

Chad Aaron Sayban said...

I guess when your audience is 14-year-olds, any backlash is going to be nothing but emotion. This is why 14-year-olds are not allowed to drive, drink or vote. As my wife (who teaches 6th grade) can attest to, they are just hormones with feet.

Ameya said...

This is getting so annoying, stupid internet (wow, first time I've ever said that!) I'm a Twilight fan, even though I had to force myself through the first two (poorly written, IMO) books, but they grew on me (and improved) & the fourth is my favorite. The main character finally stopped being a clingy whiner (albeit because she had nothing to whine about) and everything that happened was cutesy and predictable and EXACTLY what one should have expected after getting half way through the first book. Everyone I know either loved it, or was apathetic but who are these psychos who are hijacking the internet and making everyone think (well people who don't know better) that everyone hates this book? I can't even find anywhere to go and just squee over it, like my fangirly instincts want me to do, because there are so many rabid, spoiled "fans" out there, on the attack. Gah. I want to get Steph Meyer a hug. I love what the poster above me wrote- Hormones with feet!

Brenda Coulter said...

I can't even find anywhere to go and just squee over it, like my fangirly instincts want me to do, because there are so many rabid, spoiled "fans" out there, on the attack. Gah. I want to get Steph Meyer a hug.

Oh, bless your heart. I'm sorry, Ameya, but you made me laugh. I guess you could squee here, if you really must.

Hormones with feet. Yes. And what does Chad's wife call the boys, I wonder?

Katie Alender said...

Meyer's publisher's marketing strategies have encouraged readers to get emotionally involved in the books--hosting "proms", etc. From what I understand, many readers are of the viewpoint that she "broke the rules" she created within the books' universe.

Unfortunately, there had been so much expectation built up that the disappointment created a bit of a tsunami. Teenagers are nothing if not passionate, and her readers more so than most (at least on this topic).

I've read enough of the series to know I don't need to read more. I don't support the mass-return effort, but it's a large enough reaction that I'm surprised the publisher had no inkling it would happen.

It calls to mind, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." Although I'm sure you're right, and Ms. Meyer won't have any trouble mailing off the check to the utilities company!

Brenda Coulter said...

I don't believe Little, Brown can be surprised by the fans' outrage; neither do I think they're dismayed by it. As we saw with The DaVinci Code, all this negative attention will just make more people curious enough to read Breaking Dawn--and the other books.

Bad publicity isn't the worst thing that can happen to a book. The worst thing that can happen to the book is to languish in obscurity.

I wasn't going to say this, but I have actually read (okay, skimmed) all of the Twilight books, including Breaking Dawn. I thought they were very poorly written. All four, but particularly the last one, read like rough drafts rather than finished novels. I'm not talking about the typos and grammatical errors, which are legion, but about the scores of plot holes and especially that whopper of a deus ex machina ending.

But... The thing that kept me reading (okay, skimming), apart from curiosity to see just how she was going to wrap it all up was her knack for writing emotion. That's the single most important quality for hooking romance readers, and these books are romances.

So what did I think of the ending of Breaking Dawn? After finishing the last page I shrugged and said, "Well, that was stupid."

Did I waste my time reading the books? Not really. I did rip through them pretty quickly. The vampire angle was mildly interesting, but nowhere near as fresh and original as you've heard. The books are popular because they're popular, if you get my drift. Who's surprised that a quartet of vampire romances written for young teenage girls and heavily promoted turned out to be a hit? Girls talk. Once enough of them had read the first book, that snowball was rolling and couldn't have been stopped.

Katie Alender said...

I'm the same way, Brenda--I couldn't stop reading the first book, but the whole time I was annoyed that I couldn't stop! Same thing with DaVinci Code. Wanted to finish it for the joy of getting to heave it at the wall.

Laura Weldon said...

I've jumped on this Twilight bandwagon a little late, but since I'm writing YA right now, I thought they were worth investigation. I wanted to pick them up at the library, but there are currently eleven holds on the first one, so it would be months before I got my hands on it. So I bought the first one. I must say, another thing she does well is suspense, imo. I ordered the last three from Amazon. I'm curious to read the book that sparked the backlash!

Brenda Coulter said...

You're right about the suspense, Laura. I should have mentioned that.

Sheri Boeyink said...

The emotion is what got me about these books. I've read three of the four and am dying to see how the fourth one turns out. I'm fearful I already know (if it's anything like the epilogue on the 3rd, I'm scared...but I'll read it anyway, just to find out.)

I'm new to the writing craft, and I write YA supernatural, so I try and check out anything along that line, secular and Christian alike. I did see the typos, a few plot holes, but the intensity of the emotions of her characters is what grabbed me.

I'm going to run out and get the fourth on Friday so I can finish up the series this weekend. Disappointed or not, it'll be money well spent as far as I'm concerned. Both for leisure reading and research in my genre.

Thanks for the blog, Brenda.

Brenda Coulter said...

My pleasure, Sheri. Thank you for reading NRJW.

Kristin said...

And this proves one thing, Ms. Meyer is actually a pretty decent writer if she managed to wring out this type of vitriol. Maybe her writing skills aren't the best (and I could argue the same about J.K. Rowling and her overuse of adverbs and rambling backstory that sometimes makes the book drag on endlessly...), but clearly she can evoke the emotions that brings her legions of readers.

I haven't read any of them. I'm not particularly interested in reading YA romance. Been there, done that. Don't need to be reminded of it. But I'm sure my daughter will pick them up someday, and then I'll probably sneak a read.

Oh, and I also was one who read "The DaVinci Code" to see what all the fuss was about only to happily throw it against a wall when done. Strange which books end up as runaway bestsellers...

Anonymous said...

>>It won't harm the bookstores; they end up returning unsold hardcovers to the publisher anyway. If you feel bad for them, buy another book with the money or credit you get back.<<

This is a ridiculous uniformed comment. The bookstores are harmed by this because they have to pay shipping to get the book and then pay shipping to return the book, that credit does not make the shipping back.

It also hurts the publisher, no matter how big! They are then faced with a book that they paid to ship to the distributor and then paid to get back from the distributor, and then they have to dispose of the book that is no longer sellable and that is a loss.

The author is then hurt because that royalty is taken away from them and if enough people return those books it is a blatant waste of everything.

When you buy a book you ALWAYS take a risk. Is this the only book anyone was ever disappointed in?

If everyone took this attitude there would be chaos in our world. You return everything you didn't like it would crush our economy.

Get over it and move on. And it's not a romance novel with the rule that it has to happen the picture perfect happy ending? Meyer wrote the book, she can end it any way she wants. Don't like that? Write your own book!

Karen Syed

Anonymous said...

I am working my way through the series and I am enjoying them. I think the writing is good, and some say I have good taste. I haven't stayed in business for 8 years by not being able to recognize good writing. The books I have read did not have plot holes, and I did not find very many typos at all.

And if anyone thinks every single person likes every single person, they should get out more.

Brenda Coulter said...

Karen, just wait 'til you get to the fourth book. In every chapter you'll be asking, "How come they...?" or "Why didn't she...?" or "But what about...?"

Yep. Plot holes. Watch where you step!


Anonymous said...

I don't want my money back because I disliked the ending. I want to make a statement by sending my book back. SMeyer sent awful messages in her book while raping the written word as well as a thesaurus.

Someone commented that you should watch your step and don't step in plot holes, but it's more than holes. There are plot craters. It is impossible to avoid falling into them.

Sending your book back wouldn't necessarily mean getting money back. You could take store credit or send it back but purchase another book in its place.
If enough people send the book back, hopefully Little Brown, maybe even the dense SMeyer, will receive the message. Stop trying to sell us this kind of crap.