I have just come back from a visit to my local Waterstones and what a depressing occasion it was. The children’s and teenage sections were utterly swamped by ‘Dark Fantasy’ books about hunky vampires, as if some minor publishing god had wandered in after gorging itself on Stephenie Meyer’s oeuvre with a side-order of soft porn, and then vomited copiously all over the shop.
The effect of the recession of publishing, as everyone knows by now, has been to make publishers less risk-averse, more keen to bet on winners. Hence the rush to turn out lookalike titles.
This faddist approach to publishing is not in anyone’s best interests. It creates a barrier to originality and makes it harder for new writers to break into the market. When combined with the near monopoly exercised over high street bookselling by a tiny group of retailers, it denies young readers access to the greatest emotional and educational resource mankind has ever created: the vast sprawling, bustling, metropolis that is literature. Instead it confines them to a purpose-built suburb, garishly painted but ultimately predictable.