Maybe I was living under a rock, but until late last week I had never heard of the 21 year old British author Samantha Shannon, whose futuristic debut novel, The Bone Season, hit #7 in TheNew York Times September 8, 2013 Best Sellers list (hardcover fiction) in its first week. It also became the first book chosen for the Today show book club.
What drew my attention was a headline in my alma mater, USA TODAY, “Is Samantha Shannon the Next J. K. Rowling?” I didn’t realize that there were other articles going back more than a year raising that comparison, when she was still a student at St Anne’s College at the University of Oxford. In May 2012 she signed a three book, six figure publishing deal with Bloomsbury, Rowling’s UK publisher. Bloomsbury will also publish the three Shannon books in the U.S. The Bone Season is projected as the first of a seven book series.
Of particular interest, beyond Shannon’s back story and that of how she wrote the book and secured her contract, is the light it is shining on the publishing industry, at least for fiction, and the continued need of publishers for blockbusters and franchise authors. This is especially evident in two recent articles by Jeff Bercovici in Forbes, one when the book was released last week, and “Is 21-Year-Old Samantha Shannon The Next J.K. Rowling?”, published online in June and in print the following month.
Also highly interesting is “A Book from the Beginning,” the blog Shannon has been writing since April 2012. It’s a fascinating window into how her publishing experience unfolded during her final year at Oxford, and especially the whirlwind of activities in the past few months leading up to publication. Some of the posts are publishing-oriented Q&As, such as with her agent David Godwin, and Bloomsbury’s art director, David Mann.
She has been gracious about and quick to deflect the Rowling comparisons. And Rowling herself remains firmly in the news.Topping the NYT fiction chart that Shannon entered is The Cuckoo’s Calling, the novel Rowling wrote under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Earlier this summer, Scholastic celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Harry Potter books in the U.S. with reissues of the trade paperbacks featuring new illustrations by Kazu Kibuishi. In the USA TODAY article “Shannon emerges from ‘Oxford bubble’ with ‘Bone Season’,” Shannon said of the comparison, “The truth is, I don’t want to be the next somebody. I want to be the next me.”
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