Zombies, Schmombies! Teen Girls Are Vamping It Up!

Of course, vampires’ popularity is not limited to the young adult market. Perhaps the biggest deal of last year was a vampire trilogy for adults by Justin Cronin that sold for a reported $3.75 million to Ballantine. And Anne Rice’s books, which started, and defined, the contemporary vampire trope—Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview With a Vampire announced to the world that vampires, though technically dead, were also sexy—are targeted at adults, though certainly countless teenagers read them when they first came out. The difference is that when Ms. Rice’s books were topping the best-seller lists, the craze had not yet fully trickled down into the young adult market. Sure, there was Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and, well, The Lost Boys—but neither of them spawned the literary craze that has the nation’s teenagers in a chokehold.

Instead, it took a book by a young Mormon mother of three, who says the idea came to her in a dream, to kick-start the latest vampire craze. The 34-year-old Ms. Meyer’s Twilight series has been a runaway success for Little, Brown. The first book, Twilight, was published in 2005 and has sold 190,000 copies in hardcover and 722,000 in paperback, according to Nielsen BookScan; a movie, helmed by <
em>Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown director Catherine Hardwicke and starring teen actress Kristen Stewart, is scheduled for release in December. Two subsequent books, New Moon and Eclipse, have sold 706,000 and 702,000 copies in hardcover, respectively. The fourth book in Ms. Meyer’s Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, doesn’t come out until August, but it’s already No. 15 on the Amazon best-seller list.

Hers aren’t the only vampire books selling. HarperTeen recently reissued L. J. Smith’s Vampire Diaries, a quartet of books originally published in the 1990’s, in a special two-book edition. Elise Howard, senior vice president and associate publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, told me that the series has “really been blowing out since that re-publication.” Prolific YA author Melissa de la Cruz, 36, is the author of several best-selling books (including the series The Au Pairs and The Ashleys), but she said that the series that’s the most popular is her vampire chronicle, Blue Bloods, about young vampires on the Upper East Side. (“When I wrote it, I didn’t think it was Gossip Girl with vampires, but then I was like, oh, I guess it is—but I thought it was more like Dynasty,” Ms. De La Cruz said.) Blue Bloods, the first book in the series, came out in 2006, and Ms. De La Cruz said she was worried, at first, about the Twilight effect. “I thought the market was a little sated, but the kids say they really love reading about vampires,” she said; Blue Bloods sold a combined 66,000 copies in paperback and hardcover, according to BookScan—not quite Twilight numbers, but hardly shabby, either.

Despite some recent attempts at getting away from vampires and anointing the next hot paranormal genre (Publishers Weekly recently declared that 2008 was the “year of the zombie”), publishers are continuing to fuel the vampire craze. Authors who have long written for adult audiences are making the jump, including Nancy A. Collins, whose Vamps (another Gossip Girl-with-vampires conceit) comes out in July. Zombies, werewolves, faeries and ghosts are all showing signs of popularity, but as Ms. Howard said, “I think vampires are always the leading edge in the interest in paranormal fiction.” One YA imprint gave its editors what essentially amounted to a mandate to acquire fresh vampire stories; the list of new vampire books coming out in the next few months, in addition to the ones just acquired, is a long one. Vunce Upon a Time, about a vegetarian vampire, comes out this fall; Evernight, a book about a vampire boarding school, will be published in May; and a new book in Ellen Schreiber’s Vampire Kisses series comes out in June. Recently sold YA vampire books include Vamped, about a fashionista vampire; a new book in Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series; two more books in Heather Brewer’s Chronicles of Vladimir series; Svetlana Grimm and the Circle of Red, about a middle-schooler with the power to destroy vampires; another book in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series; Kimberly Pauley’s Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe); and Mario Acevedo’s Jailbait Vampire, a book in a series about a vampire private detective.

That being said: “I don’t think you can just slap a vampire on the cover and assume your book will sell a million copies,” said Ms. Tingley, the Little, Brown editor of the Twilight series.

But the appeal of many of these new books seems to be that they take real-life (or realish) situations and put vampires in them. (Not so the Vampirates series, which, in a twist, is geared at boys ages 8 to 12 and, as the title suggests, marries vampires and pirates.) The books themselves generally take place in a world that’s recognizable to readers—with the caveat, of course, that they are generally populated by stunningly handsome vampires.

“Her vampires don’t come across as the stereotypical vampires,” said Bella Penombra’s Ms. Bludworth. “They don’t murder humans and all that sort of thing. The way Stephenie describes them, they’re absolutely gorgeous. It’s definitely a selling point for the females.”