Forbes magazine recently came out with another one of its annual lists pertaining to the wealthiest, richest, magnificientest etc. persons. This one was a list of the highest paid authors in the last one year, having sold phenomenal numbers of their books, movie rights and book based merchandise. None of the persons featuring would be considered literary geniuses but, then again, that is not what making money is about.
Not surprisingly J K Rowling topped the list this year, the release of the Cursed Child having placed her there. It is quite another matter that the word ‘cursed’ is an oxymoron when used in conjunction with any book written by JK considering the magic her books have worked on the author’s bank balance. This year she displaced James Patterson who had apparently topped the list for the last three years. He is an author who has somehow never figured on our reading lists. Neither have too many of the others for that matter.
With the exception of John Grisham and Dan Brown and the children’s authors whose popularity with the younger readers comes close to achieving a cult following, the popularity of the others mystifies us. As far as Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson books) go, parents are just grateful that they are getting the children to read. Rick Riordan is largely to be credited for the resurgence in interest in Greek and Egyptian mythology with pre-teens throwing around random bits of information about classical mythology and the Olympians and leaving their parents wide eyed. Had he been an Indian, we can imagine a godman advising him to construct a temple to those gods because of whom he has become so famous (read ‘rich’) leading to a resurgence of dead religions and long forgotten gods. A separate business plan could be constructed around the religious experience thereby bringing further wealth to the writer. We can see thirteen year olds buying Medusa Shampoos and Poseidon bottled water. The Nike sneakers already exist but the Hermes ones would do as well.
So, readers, it would seem, are creatures of habit. They like the authors who are able to churn out their standard formula, at regular intervals. With the exception of Paula Hawkins who has written just two books so far, all the other authors on the list do not believe in deviating too often from their regular style (Dan Brown and John Grisham both deserve honourable mentions here), so much so that they become boring after a while. But it doesn’t matter because it obviously works. After all, what is gained by being on the long or short list of the numerous literary awards around? The Forbes list is the one list to be on. The writers all know whom they are writing for and are able to satisfy their readers year after year. Also, no one is surprised to see EL James on the list. We all know what sells. And so does she.