HarperCollins Publishers announced today the inking of a new two book deal with best-selling author of the Divergent series, Veronica Roth. While no advance figure was noted, we can assume that Roth, whose series sold a combined total of 6.7 million copies in 2013 alone. It’s become increasingly rare to see a bona-fide hit sell upwards of a million copies in this over-saturated market faced with dwindling sales, so Roth’s success is probably seen as a sure-fire bet for HarperCollins. Indeed, the press release is full of hyped up language, from calling the just-announced duology “highly anticipated” to declaring Roth’s work to be imbued “with poise and poignancy”.
What stands out most in the glowing press release is the comparison of the to-be-released story to Star Wars. The scant information we are given doesn’t really evoke memories of the pop culture phenomenon, and such comparisons should always be taken with a pinch of salt since they serve more as publicity than a marker for readers. Then again, it doesn’t really need to resemble the series. This is all about the timing.
Divergent greatly benefited from its positioning in the post-Hunger Games dystopian YA boom, while also being publicised by an incredibly savvy team who focused on the factions element through Facebook quizzes and participatory games. The deliberate evocation of Suzanne Collins’s immensely popular series didn’t work for a lot of similar dystopian YA novels but the formula was on-point when it came to Divergent. I don’t need to remind you which iconic sci-fi film series is being revived over the next couple of years.
Whatever the case, and whatever the actual plot of Roth’s book ends up being, prepare for a long and highly concentrated publicity tour to follow. I wouldn’t say a hit is guaranteed 100% but in terms of modern publishing it’s pretty damn close.