Emily Harms dives into Fifty Shades of Grey to find out what all the hype is about.
Already the no.1 bestselling adult paperback around the world, and no.1 ebook in the US, UK and Australia, E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey is apparently sold every second in the US, selling more than two million in four weeks!
E.L. James is a former TV executive and mother of two, based in West London who was inspired by Stephanie Meyer’s bestselling Twilight series (and for those millions of fans, there are apparently some thinly-veiled Twilight characters throughout). The book was originally posted under the name of Master of the Universe on fanfiction.net as a ‘chapter-at-a-time work in progress story’ for which fans provided, non-commercially, similar editing services that were traditionally the reason authors sent manuscripts to publishers as referred to by Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blogpost.
It soon attracted an unprecedented amount of readers online as each new chapter gained attention by tens of thousands of comments. Then it was kicked off fanfiction.net for violating the ‘no erotica’ policy and moved onto another fan site instead where it gained even more momentum, particularly with bloggers, given its controversial viral origins. The books’ followers were so dedicated that 700 of them raised $28,000 for a charity auction for E.L. James to write ‘a missing sex scene’.
E.L James now has an agent and a publishing contract with one of the big six publishing houses. But the interesting sign of our times as highlighted on blogger Chris Meadows’s blog is that E.L. James didn’t need publishers to become a bestseller. They were only necessary for the negotiations of her $US5 million film rights with Hollywood, worldwide distribution, large-scale hard copy production, bookings on radio and TV shows, and money in advance. ‘Most novelists will never need these services’ so ‘how much do they really need the publishing companies’?
Surely the success of this online fiction is not going to be the last of its kind given publishers around the world are tightening their belts and as a result minimising their risks by taking on debut novelists.
After all the hype, I was intrigued to find out what the fuss was all about. Personally, I was completely underwhelmed. Described on its cover as ‘romantic, liberating and totally addictive, this is a novel that will obsess you, possess you and stay with you forever’. This supposed ‘romance’ is between a 21-year-old uni student called Anastasia Steele (or ‘Miss Steele’) who has been asked to interview ‘the richest, most enigmatic bachelor in Washington state’, Christian Grey (Mr Grey) by her friend and roommate Kate, who is the editor of a student newspaper and has called in sick on the day.
Call me old fashioned but there don’t seem to be any sparks flying between the two - just a lot of secretive smiles and smirks in the lead up to the bad sex scenes. Without wanting to ruin the plot of this supposed page-turner for those of you who haven’t indulged, the ‘romance’ really sparks up, however, when Mr Grey’s S&M fantasies are revealed! While Christian has ‘male model looks’, he appears to be a monosyllabic, male chauvinistic pig. If that’s your idea of the ‘perfect’ man, then this book is for you!
For the millions of fans of Fifty Shades of Grey however, thankfully there are the two sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed - oh, and of course, Hollywood’s interpretation of these sweet romances no doubt just around the corner.
Emily Harms is Readings' Marketing Manager.