Fifty Shades of Book Selling
Yes, I’m shamelessly piggy-backing this blog post to the runaway winner of the book industry so far this year. Author E.L. James has been caught up in the perfect storm of publicity, hype, and genuine interest. Her books, which started out as fan fiction based on the immensely popular Twilight series, have become the hottest commodity since, well, Twilight.
There was even an article from BBC News a couple of days ago stating that the Fifty Shades books had “cannibalized the rest of the UK book market.” The article also stated that,
Eight of the top 10 bestselling novels last week were works of erotica.
The only two books to buck the trend were Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher book and John Grisham’s The Litigators. This information was for UK sales and the US chart looked different, but James still dominated it with her controversial series. Her books took the top three spots in USA Today’s top ten for the week of August 23rd, and the combo buy of all three came in at number ten! Lastly, the BBC post stated that Fifty Shades of Grey was the top selling book in British history. Think about that. If it weren’t for Elizabeth and all that royalty business, J.K. Rowling would be queen of England.
As a struggling writer, what am I to make of this? Should I drop my youth oriented fantasy and scifi for some naughty bits? Personally, that answer is, “No,” but I know a lot of writers who are doing their best to cash in on the Fifty Fenomenon. (That’s pretty catchy, I should trademark that! Apologies if I’m not the first to coin it.)
We all know that sex sells. We see it every day. But, before the ebook revolution, erotica literature was largely ignored, even shunned. Now that it has seen the light of day, will it ever take a back seat again? Should it? More importantly, I think this trend shows a growing freedom in the world of how we express ourselves and maybe a shedding of some inhibitions. I don’t necessarily mean sexual inhibitions, though those may be included too, but inhibitions about what we read and reading in general.
Books have become news. Thanks to the advent of ebooks and ereaders, and most recently the Fifty Fenomenon, reading has become more “hip” lately. Personally, I think that’s cool — not only because I’m a writer, but because I’ve been a reader all my life. If society starts to see reading as cool, for whatever reason, I’m all for it.
Not every one likes E.L. James or her books. Some object to the subject matter, some to the origins of the stories, but regardless of anyone’s opinions, I don’t think there’s any question she has changed the book publishing landscape. No one is universally liked. But, if you can say your writing had an effect on the world, I think you’ve more than done your job.