The Help – Readers Take Power Away From Publishers

Every now and then you read a book which sticks with you. The author’s message, the characters and the writing combine to create an unforgettable world, brought to life through the power of storytelling. Kathyrn Stockett’s first novel The Help is a masterpiece of storytelling. The novel (and the subsequent movie) tell the story of three women living in Jackson Mississippi in 1962. The stories are told from the perspectives of two black maids and a young white writer who works with them in secret to write a book about what it’s really like to be a black maid in the South. It’s funny, compelling and moving – and for once the movie does the book justice. Published in 2009, the novel still dominates best-sellers lists and book club reads. Stockett has appeared on television, in print and online. She’s been talked about, tweeted about and written about. The Help has been a phenomenal success and rightly so – thanks to the readers. Social media has given everyone the chance to give and share their opinion and as a result readers have more say and more power than ever. In an article published by The Economist, Joel Rickett (an editor at Penguin) says publishers used to be able to create best sellers by flooding stores with their choice of novels. In other words, the best seller lists of the 1980s and 1990s were the result of marketing (think Stephen King and Danielle Steel). These days it’s largely down to word of mouth (which spreads like wild fire thanks to social media). This is an important step for publishing. Sites like Amazon and eBay offer customer reviews on everything from socks to sofas, so it’s about time publishers paid more heed to reader’s opinions. What’s more, it means unknown writers are given a chance to break into the big time – and I for one am glad Stockett’s book pushed it’s way all the way to the top.

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