I’m presently reading “What We Talk About When We Talk About Books” by Leah Price. I’m only half way through the second chapter and feeling very much optimistic about the future of reading, literature, and print. What I’ve learned thus far, is that the reading of books is at a all time high. More accessibility and a “worship” of printed work has made literature an increasing pleasure to own, more people are reading physical books that ebooks now than ever, and the increase in quality of printed works has become a greater demand.
All of this is great news for book lovers and collectors alike, but one other thing has struck me as interesting: books are good for selling things other than books. Makeup companies such as https://storybookcosmetics.com and https://www.litographs.com/ prove that literature sells more than just literature, but other products too. How is this accomplished, and why are they so successful?
Most printed literature, especially the classics, are very accessible and often read by youngsters in school as required reading. While we often hemmed and hawed through those books we didn’t appreciate as much, some were nuggets of gold that stuck with us as a refuge from our own realities. They provided us with experiences outside of our own, or experiences much like our own that we can’t help but feel ourselves in the story. These stories make us feel something that makes us connect to them, and therefore a fandom is born.
Tribe mentality takes over. We find books we love, then we find authors we love, then we find people who love the same books and authors that we start to love, and the tribe grows and grows…and so does the market. Suddenly, we’re buying merchandise that helps us to affiliate with our tribe on a deeper level. Clothing, makeup, action figures, even movies all take on the names and stories of literature, but not necessarily in the name of literature, but rather in the name of commerce first, and the fandom second.
How do we feel about that?
I find it interesting that only some literature makes it into the arrest in multimedia platforms. You don’t often find t-shirts with entire erotic literature printed on it. Nor do you see cook book’s or self help book’s titles on makeup pallets. Even though both cook books and self help books tend to have impressively high sales rates. So why do we pick and choose which books make it onto other merchandise?
It’s the power of the people.
Some fandoms have a higher passion, therefore, more merchandise to affiliate with their tribe is in demand. Lovecraft, Wells, Rowling, and Doyle, just to name a few, included objects of notoriety that are easily marketed…and easy to covet. So we want Sherlock’s pipe, we want relic mementos of the Elder Gods, the Elder Wand, we want Huffle Puff t-shirts, we want to touch the ragged edges of the Maps of Middle Earth. We want the story to live in the real world. We want it to translate from imagination to reality, even if it means looking ridiculous and owning a lot of things.
We just want it all to be real.
That’s ultimately what makes it so marketable. The increased desire to make the fiction part of our reality. To build the tribe. To be affirmed by the tribe. To do life with the tribe. To recognize the tribe when we see them, and in turn to be seen. We want what speaks to us to speak to the rest of the world. So we ask for more, because those authors knew us and spoke to us so well, that just having the story end leaves us wanting. Wanting so much more.