Driven by recent questions, I want to ask a question about why on earth the Inheritence Cycle sold like it did, when everyone I've met agrees it is bad. The problem is, this question is about a particular series, and not quite as broad as most other questions are. I seem to recall some similar questions about specific works being closed as off topic in the future, so I wanted to check before asking.

Would this question be on topic on Writers SE? If not, where should I ask it?

1 Answer 1


To me, it is on topic, if you phrase the question so that it is about writing. Maybe something like this:

What makes a YA series sell?

Naively we would assume that the better a book is written, the better it will sell. But obviously that is not the case, even taking into account that tastes and opinions on what is "well written" differ. Series such as Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle have become bestsellers despite being widely regarded as badly written. So how do these and other YA books and series sell so well despite their apparent low quality? And what part does the writing play in their success?

Obviously marketing plays a role in Paolini's success, as does his young age, but with the last sentence you would be asking about the writing aspect of that success. Because of course the Inheritance Cycle, while maybe not a masterwork, obviously is not complete trash, and probably contains some things that appeal to its audience.

Finally, analyzing written works with a writers eye to learn something for one's own writing is certainly one of the most important parts of writing, which is why we illustrate so many of our answers with examples from existing works. I don't see why we shouldn't ask for a specific example as well.

If no one disagrees within the next few days here on meta, I'd just post a carefully phrased question (do take some time to compose it!) and see how it goes with it. I would definitely welcome that question, as it is one that I have been asking myself, too.

  • Will do. Thanks what. My personal theory is that originality sells (World War Z [letter format], Hunger Games [first popular dystopia], Harry Potter [magic school]) but that theory is having problems with Paolini. Sep 16, 2016 at 18:40
  • I like the question as proposed, but I wouldn't limit it to YA. Maybe title it Why do some critically panned series sell so well? because that really gets to the heart of it. The Twilight series and the ELJames erotic fanfic which followed it are also all very badly written but have sold gazillions. Sep 22, 2016 at 12:05

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