Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Next Fifty Shades of Grey

"So you think you're gonna be the next Fifty Shades of Grey author, eh? I don't THINK SO!" she cried as she put her opponent in a full Authorial Submission Vagina Sleeper Hold. Image source: Ultimate

Here you'll see the latest book being touted as the next Fifty Shades of Grey. I'm not even going to mention the title in this story, I've seen dozens of such stories since Fifty Shades of Grey came out, and you know what the title “The Next Fifty Shades of Grey” has come to mean to me? It means “Also Ran.”

The success of Fifty Shades was not a matter of being well written, it was a matter of time, and tides. It was the first time a bit of fanfic (of the Twilight books) with the numbers filed off had ever had great success. It was the burgeoning of the long-building move of romance books toward more powerful sex scenes, and of the transformation of the traditional old bodice ripper romances to straightforward stories with themes of bondage, dominance and submission, along with the breakout of romance writers from the stranglehold of traditional romance publishers to the freedom of self-published ebooks. Finally, it was the rise of ebooks as a valid format for good writers.

It was ALL of these factors working together that made “Fifty Shades of Grey” such a tremendous success. I'm not saying it wasn't a well-written book, it WAS a well written book, but it's quality had a lot more to do with the understanding of its subject matter and its audience's interests than it had to do with literary sylishness (the basic gripe most of the lit-crit types have with the book is over style, not substance). In fact, it was arguably the feedback and editing that James got from the Twilight fandom community when she was working on "Master of the Universe," the fanfic story that became Fifty Shades of Grey, that made the book work so well.

There will be other very successful bondage-themed novels, and many will be very well written books indeed. But they will stand on their own as what they are. There will never be “another Fifty Shades of Grey” and saying that your book is such is more an admission of defeat than anything else. But there will be many, many books touted as “the next Fifty Shades of Grey” because marketers think it's a good “hook” for touting a book.

They would not think so if they understand the success of Fifty Shades of Grey the way I understand it.

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