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A new superseller

18 August 2008

A new star has burst upon the publishing firmament. Stephenie Meyer, whose new book Breaking Dawn already has 1.3 million copies in print in the US, recorded the largest-ever first-day sale when it was published there on August 4th. The book is the 745-page fourth book in her high school vampire series The Twilight Saga.

Meyer is not exactly unknown outside the US, as her books sell into 20 languages and she has sold over 10 million copies worldwide, but many fellow-writers will not have heard of her because she writes for a teen audience.

Stephenie Meyer is also a most unlikely person to write vampire novels. A 34 year-old Mormon housewife from Arizona, she had never written anything, not even a short story, just made up stories. Then she had a dream about a teenage girl who met a surprisingly courteous vampire who said he really wanted to drink her blood but couldn't bring himself to kill her. She couldn't get the story out of her mind, so started writing it down. She says: 'I wasn't intending that anyone read it; it was just for me.' The sexual abstinence of her characters may be what makes her books unusual, but it seems to be the accessible, fast-paced story and the emotional content which makes them sell.

Even bestselling authors get rejected. Close to J K Rowling's 12 rejections, Meyer received nine rejections and five of the publishers the first book was submitted to didn't even reply (which suggests they didn't read their slush-pile). The fifteenth offered her $750,000 for a three-book deal. No doubt there's an editor somewhere feeling pretty pleased with themselves.

Meanwhile Stephenie Meyer is writing away, and her life has not changed that much. Her accountant husband now handles her business affairs, but Meyer plans just to keep on writing: 'Now I've found out that people actually like my stories, it's definitely not a problem coming up with ideas about what to write next.'