Zombie death

<p>It is a truth universally acknowledged that a publisher in possession of little originality must be in want of a zombified classic novel. Lame, perhaps, but all too true these days.</p>
<p>At first it was funny. When tiny American independent publisher Quirk Books came up with <i>Pride and Prejudice and Zombies </i>last year&mdash;seamlessly combining Jane Austen's text with a new storyline in which the Bennet sisters were a zombie-fighting troop&mdash;it was something fresh and amusing and clever. Quirk had no idea of the hit it had on its hands; author Seth Grahame-Smith was utterly unaware a six-figure book deal&mdash;and film&mdash;were lurking on the horizon.</p>
<p>Today, the landscape is somewhat different. Quirk has sold over 92,000 copies in the UK of its various editions of <i>Pride and Prejudice and Zombies</i>, according to Nielsen BookScan, and has followed this up with<i> Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters</i> (almost 11,000 sold to date) and the forthcoming Android Karenina. Grahame-Smith has a deal for a reported $500,000 with Grand Central. And, of course, the lumbering beast that is publishing has sniffed out an easy win.</p>
<p>I blogged last summer about the trend for <i>The Bookseller</i>; it's a bit of fun, I said, rather amusing&shy;&mdash;I didn't think it would last. I had underestimated publishing's love of a bandwagon. To date, literary mash-ups include <i>Mr Darcy, Vampyre</i> (14,601 copies sold), I<i> am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas</i> (5,442), <i>Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter </i>(4,707) and <i>Vampire Darcy's Hunger: A Pride and Prejudice Adaptation </i>(502).</p>
<p>Last week, a copy of <i>Murder at Mansfield Park </i>landed on my desk; also lined up for this year are zombie/Beatles combo <i>Paul is Undead, Henry VIII: Wolfman </i>and Grahame-Smith's <i>Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter</i>. Why?</p>
<p>None of these sales&mdash;apart from Quirk's original (and I mean that in both senses of the word)&mdash;are huge. None of these books are titles the world can't live without. I find myself picturing acquisitions meetings: we need our own classic mash-up&mdash;they're the new big thing. I've got a great take on Carroll: <i>Alice&lsquo;s Adventures in Zombieland</i>, or how about <i>The Vampire Kama Sutra</i>? (Actually, that last might be rather fun . . . )</p>
<p>Enough, though. A clever independent publisher did something quirky and unique, which worked because it felt irreverent and original. Flooding the market with quick-turnaround copycats is none of those things. This particular seam has been mined: it's time for something new.<br />