Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why 50 Shades of Gray is a Bestseller

I can just imagine the backlash I'll get for writing this post.  I ran this past a few friends of mine, and I got a little taste of what to expect: They told me not to write this.

But you can never tell a writer to keep quiet :)



50 Shades of Gray, for those of you who don't know, is a erotic adult novel by E. L. James that revolves around wealthy Christian Gray's... exploits with young Anastasia Steele. (For the rest of the summary, go here.) Basically, Gray forces Steele into a bunch of sexual experiments which she finds scary at first, but exhilirating. She loves being submissive.

I can't say it better than Cupcake's (hehe) review on Amazon.

"Is 50 Shades Darker good? Hell to the no, it is not good. But is it entertaining? Yes. Is it hot? Yes. Is it worth reading? Yes..... Do not, however, mistake an enjoyable read for something well written, because this is NOT well written. It's like literary crack. You know it's bad for you, and you feel dirty and low for enjoying it, but you can't stop."

Cupcake, a Top 1000 reviewer on Amazon (who seems incredibly knowledgable about the craft of writing) gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. Why?


And here is where it gets exciting. This book has TONS of faults, mainly: its writing is not the best. Also, people get upset about its origins as a Twilight fan fiction.

Why is this a bestseller, if it is riddled with bad writing and content most people shy away from? Because, it is content most people shy away from. You don't have to admit it (and most of you probably won't) but everyone had their... dreams. James wrote a book that exposed this dream as rawly as possible; she wrote what everyone else shies away from; what they dare not write. She wrote a book as opposite from today's moral standards as possible.

I respect E.L. James. There, I said it (and I'm a guy). I bet all of you are going to attack me now. I respect her not for her writing, but for her raw material and the courage it must have taken to publish this in today's market. I hope in my writing, I can evoke emotions (maybe not the same emotions as in James' books) that are as raw as hers. Mine won't be erotic, but hers was. So what? She didn't do any editing (maybe she went a bit too far in this ;) ) of the 'inappropriate' content of her book. She wrote the book how she felt it. And that paid off.

I ask you, did you, before this book, ever freely discuss some of the fantasies you had with a large number of people? This book opened that gate for so many women (and men) worldwide. JK Rowling said that there is a dark side to humanity, and it is much better to bring it into the light and discuss it rather than ignoring that it ever exists. (If you don't read any other part of this post, read that line.)

I hate censorship. I hate it with a passion, and most people are under the false impression that censorship must be tangible. No. It can take form as the invisible social restrictions on our thought. E.L. James exposed the desires of people worldwide, and she shattered some of those restrictions. She wrote something that everyone else would be afraid to write. And she wrote it rawly: No toning it down. This is why she is a bestseller.

I agree, she could have use a GOOD number of years in writing lessons and she could have used a good editor. But she did wrote most of us would never dream to write (admit it). E.L. James wrote something that we all think about, but we get scared to talk about. She opened up gates of thinking worldwide (read JK Rowling's quote again on why this is important). That is something all writers strive (and mostly fail) to achieve. That is why she is a bestseller.

What do you think? (I'm almost too scared to ask that.)

And don't forget to subscribe for more posts like this! You get free cookies :) Maybe. Not really. But still :)

26 comments:

  1. I really liked that part about JK Rowling.

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    1. Hehe, me too :) It's one of my favorite quotes (sadly, I can't remember the exact quote). It's from her interview with Daniel Radcliffe.

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  2. I agree with this and I don't agree with this. There are TONS and I mean TONS of erotic fiction just like 50 Shades on the market today. Some of it is even darker and dirtier than anything James could think of. And it has been around for years and years and years. I have a lot of writer friends who have BDSM erotica published and theirs is at least grammatically correct and well written, unlike 50 Shades. I especially would recommend Roni Loren's erotica series.

    You wanna know the only reason 50 Shades is a best seller and hers isn't? Word of mouth. Thats it. That's all. People bought 50 Shades and they blogged about it and told people about it and it just kept getting around. I wish some of my erotic author friends could get this kind of publicity, and maybe they will thanks to the crazy 50 Shades has created now. But I don't think it's popular because it is the darkest BDSM novel ever written, because that it definitely is not.

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  3. I was one of the 2 people in the world who didn't read the book, but my sister feels the same way about the writing, but she has the books. lol

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    1. That's so weird, because that's the same with me! My sister bought the first two books and plans to read it, and I read a little part of it..... hehe, I decided it wasn't for me ;) I got all the info in the post by reading Amazon reviews and listening to other people. I think a lot of people KNOW about the book, but just decided not to read it.

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  4. So either my comment didn't get posted or it got deleted lol. Either way I'm gonna try again and apologize if this shows up twice!

    I agree with some of your thoughts here but not on why the book is a best seller. There are tons, and I mean TONS, of erotic novels out there that feature things darker and dirtier than James could ever imagine. I have so many author friends who wrote erotic fiction featuring BDSM and at least their books are grammatically correct and well-written. The BDSM Subculture has been around for years and years and there have been novels written about it for just as long. I personally would recommend Roni Loren's erotica series.

    Now, why is 50 Shades a best seller and her books aren't? Word of mouth. That is all I attribute James' success to. One person read it and told someone else then that person blogged about and so on. It just got out there. I feel like it has nothing to do with the genre since it has been an established genre for a long time. I can only hope that some of the really talented BDSM writers out there might get some high book sales now that 50 Shades has sort of opened the door to mainstream it.

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    1. Oh gosh, 50 Shades' word of mouth.... I hear about it EVERYWHERE! I don't think there has been a better (or worse?) word of mouth since Harry Potter, and the reason it is so discussed is because of the content.

      Also, this is just a question, because I really don't know the answer: Are the erotic novels that you mention on the same line as James'? With a submissive female character and all that stuff? I'm just wondering what the difference would be between this book and theirs. Maybe it might just be the publicity, but I'm not too sure.

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    2. Oh, and no, your comment didn't come up twice ;)

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Good question! I'll use Roni Loren's 'Loving on the Edge' series as an example.

    All her books revolve around happenings at a place called The Ranch, a secluded BDSM retreat for those who partake in the lifestyle, and for those who are just curious. Here is the synopsis for her first book, Crash Into You:

    Sometimes the past can bring you to your knees...

    Brynn LeBreck has dedicated herself to helping women in crisis, but she never imagined how personal her work would get, or where it would take her. Her younger sister is missing, suspected to be hiding from cops and criminals alike at a highly secretive BDSM retreat--a place where the elite escape to play out their most extreme sexual fantasies. To find her Brynn must go undercover as a sexual submissive. Unfortunately, The Ranch is invitation only. And the one Master who can get her in is from the darkest corner of Brynn's past.

    Brynn knows what attorney Reid Jamison is like once stripped of his conservative suit and tie. Years ago she left herself vulnerable only to have him crush her heart. Now she needs him again. Back on top. And he's all too willing to engage. But as their primal desires and old wounds are exposed, the sexual games escalate--and so does the danger. Their hearts aren't the only things at risk. Someone else is watching, playing by his own rules. And his game could be murder.


    So yes, it most of the books I've read in the genre, there is a female submissive and at least one male dominant, typically two though. The only difference I've really noticed between the usual BDSM stuff and 50 Shades is that normally the woman, while still being a submissive, is a strong, female character. She has a high paying job and is confident in herself and her abilities. Where as in 50 Shades, the lead female is a flaky college girl who hasn't even held anyone's hand in her life, lol.

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    1. I think your last sentence might have summed up the reason. Today, with strong females such as Katniss (and the backlash at one other famous female ;)), the market hungers for a strong female protagonist. In fact, it does: Just look at the new movie 'Brave' by Disney/Pixar.

      James wrote something that is COMPLETELY opposite to the strong female character, and yet, she related to most of other females worldwide in their.... yea, you know ;) It's a deep, dark, secret urge, and James wrote something that would have feminists crying murder, but something everyone secretly relates too. A strong female in some BDSM sometimes doesn't make sense and might not be relatable. James' character, maybe, is.

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    2. It's another kind of fantasy, SC. The one where someone takes care of you just like when you were a wee tiny thing. And thinks for you so your poor little brain doesn't hurt.
      My guess? (Totally off the cuff, no research, lol)-- so many women today have to juggle so much. Careers, families (of all types), taking care of older parents, taking care of communities, juggling everything like a circus clown... I don't think the fantasy is really the S&M, the fantasy is that somebody is TAKING CHARGE and relieving the stand-in (the young protagonist) for these women of having to do anything but enjoy life and all the sexy times. Heck, sounds good to me! (Not really, though there are days...)-- LucidDreamer

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    3. I think you summed it up PERFECTLY. It's a 'selfish' fantasy, I guess, and that's why people are ashamed to admit it, but a lottt of people would love to have someone take charge. They would. I feel that is why 50 Shades really stood out and became a bestseller.

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  6. Jeez...

    Lol. No, really, It's cool that you posted this. I have not read any of the books, nor do I plan to. Am I sometimes a little curious? Yes. BUT I have seen some of the writing in there and it's too bad for me. I can't read regular books without critting them, no way could I handle the horrible writing in 50 Shades.

    One thing I think people don't always understand when someone mentions the bad sex in the book. It's not the sexual content that is bad, though some of it makes me want to go and hide somewhere. (And I am a Romance writer and reader.) Never should there be a sex scene in a book that involves (sorry, everyone) menstrual blood or a man pulling out a female's tampon and then doing her. That's not sexy, it's not okay, it's just plain nasty.

    I read Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood and there is a character who only gets off w/ the bondage/S&M (or whatever it's called). I don't mind those scenes. Hell, the picture of that character in my mind is a very nice one.

    James' writing in every sense of the word is horrible. The sex scenes are 'acceptable to read' because they SUCK. I've read some sex that was poorly written, but nothing like 50 Shades. (I also find it wrong that she writes a female character who loses her virginity in a rough and raw sort of way...That does not appeal to me at all.)

    And that is why these books should not have made it so far. Kudos to her for writing them, but shame on her for thinking it's good enough to publish. Shame on her for not realizing how useful critique partners/groups and editors are. Shame on her for not reading some BDSM erotica that's actually written well so she could've learned how to write it better. I've seen reviews from people who say how embarrassed they were when they bought the book. People who were slightly embarrassed reading it because of the 'steamy' bits. Those are the sort of people who made this book a 'bestseller'. Those people who think reading erotica is a guilty pleasure, something that should be kept secret and should make you embarrassed if anyone knows about it. Those sort of people read it and thought they were doing something 'naughty' and 'exciting' and therefore spread the word to their friends who are the same way.

    And sorry again for posting such a long comment :/

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    1. The writing... yea, a lot of people are up against it :) And THAT is the reason she is getting this much backlash! Imagine what might have happened if the writing was GOOD? Crazy bestseller, if would have been; I'm actually getting depressed thinking about the potential this could have gotten. But she had raw content and relatable material, and she exposed a lot about desire. I feel that merits something, at least. What exactly that merits, we could debate for a very long time ;)

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  7. GAH, SC, I'm going to have to stop commenting on your blog....Or you're going to have to refigure your topics. XP

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  8. Bringing this over from the AQC link:
    I agree with you absolutely about the censorship part. And I also agree that if people want to read a book and make it a bestseller, that's their choice and more power to them.

    I just wish someone (editor? publisher? anyone?) could have gotten a handle on James' manuscripts and worked with her to craft something that doesn't celebrate bad writing. I don't care who or what gets published or read. That's not my call. But but I do care about good writing and, let's face it, from the excerpts I've read the writing is "It was a dark and stormy night" bad. But this too shall pass. Let's face it, 50 Shades is a flash-in-a-pan. Today's latest hot topic. It will fade faster than the blush off its readers' faces.

    As for the erotic part -- There's a lot of well written erotica available. It's been around for a while. This book is all about the marketing. It's not some social commentary or sudden awareness that sex exists. (Even in Peoria). It's savvy marketing, that's all. And for that, I give James kudos. She's a television exec., for heaven's sake. She knows how to sell something.

    And I think I'll finish before (as I read in one excerpt) my "inner goddess" goes on a rampage. -- LucidDreamer

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    1. Hehe :) And yea, I'm literally sad because I know how huge 50 Shades could have gotten if the writing was better. And that just means maybe one editor getting rid of the bad stuff. I do think this does touch on some aspects of society, however, meaning the hidden desires many people have.

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  9. ( BOWING IN ADORATION) Yay! Someone ELSE gets it!
    You nailed it right on the head...
    I cannot tell you how ANNOYED I was at the end of the third book! I kept waiting.... and waiting for some kind of miraculous twist that would have thrilled me....made me feel it was worth the time and money spent.
    But it never came.
    TOO PREDICTABLE.
    The only thing that kept this book afloat was the sex. Period, and I was even bored after about half way through the first book.

    I agree about why and how " Fifty Shades" became so popular. Not because of it's spectacular writing, but because of content.
    We'll see if E.L. James can pull off another best seller, and the true test of talent is on a completely different subject.

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    1. Oh, I REALLY want to see what she will write next! I think that would be very interesting to see :) Is she a one-hit wonder or something more?

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  10. I don't think the problem is her writing. The problem is the ridiculous main characters and their ridiculous relationship. I know it's fiction, but it's offending my intelligence. This book belongs in the garbage

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  11. There are TONS of better written, filled with fantasy, erotica out there. Authors who actually took the time to learn BDSM and what it stands for. EL James didn't do BDSM any favors. A few of my friends, deep in the lifestyle, can make your ears burn with how ELJ messed it up.

    That being said, *shrug* Like Twilight, I think it was the weak character. I can't. My eyes cross and not a snowball's chance of getting past page one. however, there are a lot of people who need a weak female lead. I'm okay with that. The world isn't full of strong women, or strong men.

    But the least they could've done was EDIT THE BLOODY THING! It shames those who do work hard to learn how to craft a good novel. And makes it look like writing a novel, a well written and thought out novel, easy. It sure doesn't help others understand how damned hard it is.

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  12. I can't wait to see Anastasia Steele in the movie Fifty Shades Of Grey

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  13. Christian Grey has finally responded to rumors that he's a favorite to play this role in the Fifty shades Movie

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  14. Thank you so much for the wonderful book! I finished it a few days ago and cannot get it out of my head. It is pure magic. It was everything I hoped it would be and much more. ...
    50 Shdes of Grey Movie

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  15. I m excited for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie.I cant wait for releasing date of the movie.
    Fifty Shades of Grey

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