Contribution

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Edward Stratemeyer began his writing career as an author of dime novels. He wrote many novels under many different names. His imagination was so vast that he had no time to write every book his mind could conceive. When he left dime novels to write juvenile mystery fiction, he had real success with the Rover Boys series. From his experience with dime novels, Stratemeyer knew that it was important to include a bit of mystery in most books. He also created a template for his juvenile leading characters. The youngsters are usually orphans, semi-orphans, or else the children of extremely hands-off parents. The result is that the boys and girls are independent, responsible, resourceful, and self-possessed, the kind of young person Stratemeyer described as “wide awake.” These young people are propelled into the discovery and the solving of mysteries by a series of extraordinary coincidences. Stratemeyer ensured reader involvement by creating fast-paced action and ending nearly every chapter with a cliffhanger.

When Stratemeyer realized that he would never be able to write all the books that he wanted to write, he created his syndicate sometime around 1910. The syndicate was much like the fiction factory of nineteenth century French novelist Alexandre Dumas, père. Stratemeyer would generate an idea for a book or a series, work up relatively detailed outlines, and pay authors to write the books using house names (Carolyn Keene, Franklin W. Dixon, Victor Appleton). The authors were paid a lump sum for each book, signed over the rights, and promised never to reveal that they had written a book as one of the house names.

Stratemeyer also conceived the idea of the breeder set of books. The first three volumes of a new series appeared at the same time. That way the series momentum was established, and readers did not have to wait a year to buy a new volume in a series that they had enjoyed. His sales ideas were based on selling books for fifty cents per book and making his profit on volume rather than price.