50 Shades of the Next Big Thing Part 1

I have a friend that owns a bunch of small bookshops in Dublin. When there is a scheduling pinch and I’m free, I go in, sit behind the counter, read, and take peoples money. I could make a career out of this. Possibly the best job I’ve ever had. And get to sit around and read AND I get paid in books!!! Sweet!!!

So what have I noticed as I sit perched on my stool reading and drinking a latte? There’s always a BOOK. That one book that just about everyone walks in the door and asks for. Last year it was Game of Thrones. Every other person that walked in the door, regardless of age, sex, race, or fashion sense, wanted Game of Thrones. Couldn’t keep it on the shelves.

No shock, the BOOK that everyone has to have right now is 50 Shades of Grey. Disturbingly, I had a bunch of old ladies in when I worked a morning last week looking to buy 50 Shades of Grey. Even worse, they asked me about it. They were sort of cute about it actually. Very giggly and girlish. I had to tell them the truth. I hadn’t read it. Bondage isn’t really my thing. Besides, I’d heard that it’s not really that good. This comes from a few unrelated sources that I usually trust when it comes to books. The big critiques; poorly written, the characters are wholly two-dimensional, the sex isn’t all that great. One of the nice old women in her petal pink windbreaker with the Princess Cruises emblem on a sticker stuck to her boob, very rightly pointed out that I had said myself that I hadn’t read it. So, who am I to judge?

Absolute right! I haven’t read it. I am in no position to judge. Number one thing that bugs me about people smack talking a book or an author is when they haven’t even read the book themselves. Hand up – guilty as charged. They left with their books wrapped in discrete little paper bags and I picked up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. I sat there on my perch with my latte in one hand and the current BOOK in the other hand. My mind couldn’t get into the story. I kept on coming up with alternative names. 50 Shades of Tie Me Up and Tie Me Down. 50 Shades of Smack Me on the Ass Because I’ve Been a Bad Bad Girl. 50 Shades of Please Don’t Make Me Read Anymore of This Crap.

Oh my… sigh… If we lived in a meritocracy where only the truly stellar books made it to the top of the sales charts, then 50 Shades of Grey would be lingering on EL James’ laptop never to see the light of day. I have writer friends that are working like dogs to get noticed that produce books of much higher quality than 50 Shades of Grey. Yikes it’s bad!

It’s not that I think it isn’t sufficiently erudite or contains the sort of verbal gymnastics most people with advanced degrees in English think books should have before they become worthy of our notice, it’s just really poorly written. I mean ehhhh…. I’m a firm believer that books should be thought provoking, entertaining, accessible, and have a plot that can be found by the average reader without the need of a compass and a flashlight. I would have cheered 50 Shades of Grey for being at the forefront of the push to make erotica mainstream accessible and acceptable. But it stinks.

So how the heck did it get so popular? How did such a badly written book become the next big thing? I don’t know. I have no idea. If I knew I’d be out doing it. I’m pushing my new release Memoirs of a Gigolo like it was one of a million other books available for download on Amazon… which it is. I know two marketing people. I’m going to try to wrangle them into talking with me about what drives this sort of mass hysteria when it comes to a book.

50 Shades of the Next Big Thing Part 2 will be available a week from today

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33 thoughts on “50 Shades of the Next Big Thing Part 1

  1. Well, following on the heels of the bizarrely popular Twilight series, I read somewhere that the author of “50 shades” started out writing Twilight fanfic. So that explains the ‘quality’ of the writing. Why either of these series are popular is beyond me. It’s truly seasoned, real writers (who most often have degrees in English or at least have slaved away in the salt mines of publishing and/or attended tons of writing seminars) who deserve the following and the paychecks!

    Best of luck to you.

    • Twilight just bugs me. It is as badly written as some of the fanfic I’ve read. Digging through the mounds of mediocre fanfic to find the good stuff is nearly impossible. That said, I write fanfic and so do a few of my writer friends. It’s a great non-committal writing release that is perfect for digging out of a a writing block hole. The thing about fanfic that I really like is that it gives people that aren’t writers, have no intention of becoming writers, a creative escape. Like people that paint that have no artistic ability. I know one woman that is an accountant and writes Starsky and Hutch fanfic. Go figure. That said… I really don’t think fanfic was ever meant to make it mainstream. That it does on occasion and becomes shockingly popular is just astounding.

  2. I haven’t read the whole thing. But, I have read substantial chunks of it. What I read was poorly written, poorly edited, and in short, was nothing but bad porn. And before we go bashing “fanfic” – I have read (and written) some fanfiction that would put this Fifty Shades trash to shame. Novel length works with more attention to plot and character and detail than you could possibly imagine. Regardless of its origin, it, like any other book, is what it is. And what is it? Terrible. It catapulted to fame on the combination of Twilight and erotica. And it certainly isn’t erotica. Ms. James lucked out in the right place at the right time and somebody with some savvy marketing made gold for her. The only positive thing I can say about this is that it’s getting people to read. And that’s incentive for writers like myself to keep going and produce quality work that is worthy of the reader.

    • I actually didn’t mean to hate on Fan Fiction, You’re right, it can be very well-written, and there are a lot of people out there willing to put significant time and energy to it! I’ve read some x-files fanfic myself, and there is some great stuff out there. I think that what bugs me is that “Twilight” itself reads like poorly written fanfic, and so any “Twilight” fanfic out there is going to be even worse and more derivative! Just clarifying.

    • You and I should start a fanfic blog. Search out one stellar piece of fanfic a week and highlight it. There is a great value in fanfic. It gives people that aren’t writers a forum to explore their creative side. Personally, I want to know how she did it. I’m getting my marketing friends in a room and I’m not letting them out until they give up the goods.

  3. Pingback: 50 Shades of the Next Big Thing Part 1 | Nightwyn

  4. I can absolutely agree with what everyone has said so far. Unfortunately, EL James and her hubby are laughing all the way to the bank. There are so many reasons I could go into about how bad 50 Shades really is, but I don’t have the time to write an essay here. However, I did find the basic characters worse than 2-dimensional (as someone pointed out). Virgin college graduate who suddenly goes for S&M? Right! And the preposterous idea that she can ever change him? Right?! Cliche after cliche?! GRRRRRR. Next time…I’m sticking with shape shifters and demons. :J

  5. I think (and I really hope I’m wrong) that it boils down to nothing more than the sheeple reflex. People are buying it for no other reason than because all the other people are buying it.

  6. Also, most people just get a kick out of reading something they think is a little naughty. When I worked in a bookstore way back in the dark ages, people would come in and read only the pages of Valley of the Dolls or whatever that were supposed to be “dirty” just to be in the know. And I’m told 50 Shades (I don’t like erotica–find it boring. Guess I’m getting old. ( – : ) isn’t even proper BDSM, but rather an abusive relationship (much as Twilight was).

    • Another excellent point – It isn’t proper BDSM. I haven’t spoken with any of the mistresses that I know, and I think I should. They probably find 50 Shades as disturbing as I do.

  7. Livia, so glad you are posting a true evaluation from a writer’s perspective about this book. I am sad to see it get so popular across the pond. I had hoped the “fever” would die down on the trip over and that it woudl remain a garrish American thing. Poorly written. Poorly edited. . . people should be enjoying books like ours. Sexy, salacious, sassy and well written! Check on FLYING SOLO on Amazon.co.uk Or at http://www.ageviewpress.com Thanks for your post!

  8. I’m looking forward to your feedback from the mistresses, Livia!
    Does anyone else have a hilarity problem with BDSM? Get togged up in leather gear and face mask and furry handcuffs and … I would break a rib laughing.

    • When I was living in New York a few years back, I was upstate in Albany visiting a friend. We were driving home late from a party and this guy was walking down the street in a vinyl speedo with a dog collar and chain around his neck. All I could think, was that something must have gone really really wrong with his night. And it was cold. I’m going to pass if anyone ever offers to tie me up and smack me.

  9. Simply put it that your book is banned. Once the publisher that got a hold of it said it was banned it then sold. Of course the ban the publisher is talking about is the fact that a few libraries said they won’t carry it. It sure makes me think….

    • I’m going to start targeting sights that would find every aspect of my book insulting – even people that don’t like the English. With any luck I’ll be on a few banned reading lists before long! Excellent suggestions!

  10. We could do mutual bans. You ban mine, I’ll ban yours. Hurl insults! Excommunicate each other! Write to the papers describing in graphic detail the horrors to be found in the other person’s book. 🙂

  11. Another 50 Shades knocker….. I’m not a writer, I’m not even a fanficker. I am an everyday mum of 3 working and making myself a living. I read the books and….wait for it….I enjoyed them. I’ll admit that by the end of book 3 I was totally over the sex, but in the long run overall the story was quite nice and whether it was good or bad writing or good or bad plotting didn’t matter. EL James wrote a story and made a packet out of it. Good for her. Maybe the idea of writing isn’t to be grammatically perfect with a plot to die for, but maybe just to be entertaining. Everytime I read a blog putting down this story and author I can’t help but think “sour grapes”. That is my opinion!

    • I was waiting for the sour grapes comment – and voila! I was not to be disappointed. I’m very pleased you enjoyed it. Anything that encourages people to read fiction is great as far as I’m concerned. Please consider reading a book from an unknown author next time around. You might be surprised by how entertaining it is.

  12. I’ve read and enjoyed Harry Potter and I’m delighted she’s done so well – she’s a beacon and an inspiration. I’ve read and enjoyed Game of Thrones and I’m delighted he’s done so well with such an unconventional structure, he’s an inspiration.
    I couldn’t get past page 40 of Twilight. I couldn’t get past the concept of 50 Shades, let alone it’s history. Will it be sour grapes if I give them a bad review?

    • Mark you read my mind. Game of Thrones was the big book last summer. I should have mentioned Hunger Games was the big book this spring. Both of them were fantastic books. Fantastic. I’m happy to recommend them to people. Excellent plotting, incredible characters, and entertaining. The three best characters for young women come from those books; Hermione Granger, Katniss Everdeen, and the sword swinging take no prisoners Arya Stark. I weep for girls that actually think that simpering, whinging Bella or that ineffectual Ana who can’t even manage her own finances are somehow rolemodels. Yesh!

  13. Livia, I just read your post from last night. I had not even thought about the strong woman role model aspect. OMG – My daughter is almost 6, a fast-rising gymnast, and a person who is entering kindergarten with a great self-image. I would MUCH rather her take command of her sexuality, like Anna (who is busily changing her name to Frida) in my book. Any of your lovely readers who want a soft-core, but woman-in-charge, experience should check out her section of my book. I would love to continue this discussion between the sheets of http://3throughhistory.blogspot.com!

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