New York Publishing and 50 Shades

fiftyThe astounding success of 50 Shades of Grey has a lot of folks bewildered.  Publishers included, quite clearly.

While all of us stumble around trying to make sense of it, I was stumped when a reporter asked me recently why it was such a success.  Expecting a succinct answer, I started to talk about covers and the appeal of the hero and it clearly wasn’t what she was looking for.  She wanted a firm and fast answer.

And I just didn’t – and still don’t – have it.  But you know what?  Its clear that publishers don’t either.

I’ve seen the recommendations for those who liked 50 Shades and they strike me as tone deaf.  As in, “here, are our stale traditionally published books, give us some of your money” recommendations.  Please.

One thing that’s completely clear to me:  50 Shades is fresh.  As in fresh in tone and feeling and style.  It’s got a feeling of freshness to it that I haven’t seen coming out of New York in a very long time.

New York publishers are bound (sorry) by tradition.  They do things the same way they’ve always done them.  And they are sluggish.  I have no doubt that they are scrambling right now to find the next new 50 Shades authors. They’ll put them on the fast track and, gee, we might see a resulting book in about a year.  Too little too late, I’m afraid since who knows what readers will want by that time?  Chances are, it won’t be another 50 Shades.

Traditional publishers also seem to be completely reactive and not proactive.  They react to trends, to unexpected hits instead of creating new ones themselves.  That leaves you a day late and a dollar short most of the time.

First and foremost, New York publishers need to open their ears and eyes.  Listen to readers.  Take a fresh look at that slush pile.  Open up to new and different pitches from the agents out there who haven’t already given up on pitching anything new and different to New York.  Look how sluggishly they are adapting to the eBooks.  (Or not adapting, more like.)  The debacle that is Agency Pricing is hard to believe now that it’s almost over, but what prompted it I think is publishers wanted to say “let’s punish all those eBook buyers for not supporting the Holy Altar that is the hard bound book.”

Long time institutions tend to disappear as technology changes.  Book stores already are part of the fall out.  I would hate to see publishing as we know it disappear like the video store.

To me, it’s no surprise that a hit on the level of 50 Shades didn’t come out of New York.  While the Big Six are still publishing All Regency All the Time or Paranormal knock offs, someone so far out of left field they didn’t even see her coming writes the biggest hit of the decade.  And you know what?  Unless there are some big, big, big changes made in how publishing works, the next one isn’t going to come out of New York either.  And I’m afraid I know what that will eventually mean.

– Sandy AAR

87 thoughts on “New York Publishing and 50 Shades

  1. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad. As an author, I’m going to carry on doing what I do. The only thing I’m clear about is my writing, so that’s what I’ll concentrate on.
    50 shades was a hit because of the readers. She went to the readers, drew them in with the fanfic and then put a price to it.
    A few years ago, Radiohead, tired of the hidebound record industry, got free of their record contract and released “In Rainbows.” On their website. They said you could pay what you thought it was worth.
    The record industry was appalled. Bands don’t do this, apparently. Well yes, artists like Prince had tried similar experiments before, with some success (the record industry said he was done and he said, “No, I’m not”)
    “In Rainbows” garnered Radiohead massive sales and lots of money. People took the band at their word and paid what they thought the album was worth, and since it was a quality album, that was a fair bit. Then they took it down and sold it conventionally, CD and download. It went platinum, and I think it’s still their biggest selling album.
    The same kind of thing is happening to the book industry. It’s less about books, product, and more about reading, the service. Old ways of thinking will not do.

  2. “I’ve seen the recommendations for those who liked 50 Shades and they strike me as tone deaf. As in, ‘here, are our stale traditionally published books, give us some of your money’ recommendations. Please.”

    One thing that’s completely clear to me: 50 Shades is fresh. As in fresh in tone and feeling and style. It’s got a feeling of freshness to it that I haven’t seen coming out of New York in a very long time.”

    I could not agree more with this. Although I am guilty of hosting my own “what to read after 50″ thread, with loads of suitably stale suggestions. ;)

  3. You are so correct. Picking up books published by the big six and reading the first chapter I have to heave a big sigh, I’m already bored. It’s always a rewrite of the same story. The dinosaurs should look to the phoenix and be reborn! Great Post!!!

  4. I guess I have a different interpretation of fresh, with all due respect. This book may indeed seem fresh to those who read it now, but it seems to me that there have been many to-do’s throughout time over pushing sexual or erotic boundaries in the public domain. This is just the latest one IMO.

    • Eliza: I guess I have a different interpretation of fresh, with all due respect. This book may indeed seem fresh to those who read it now, but it seems to me that there have been many to-do’s throughout time over pushing sexual or erotic boundaries in the public domain. This is just the latest one IMO.

      I can’t speak for Sandy, but when I say “fresh”, I mean the voice and style and feel of the book. I am not referring to sexual content.

  5. I haven’t read 50 shades; haven’t yet found a printed copy. I assume though, that it has an HEA? The great appeal of romance is, in my thinking, foreknowledge on the part of the reader that all will turn out well, regardless what happens before that point is reached. Agreed, the ways of getting to that point are myriad, but, to me, the romance formula requires repetition.

  6. To my mind, the problem with the New York publishers is that they are all owned by huge media conglomerates. I am old enough to remember when there were multiple small publishing house (DAW, Berkley, Jove, Bantam, Doubleday, Dell etc. etc.) all operating independently and they were the trendsetters. With the advent of “media convergence” all of the small companies were gobbled up by the media giants. IMO opinion, it’s why most of what’s on T.V. is crap and there’s nothing new in music or publishing coming out of the major labels/studios/publishers. I, for one, do not believe that the failure of some of these mega companies will ultimately be a bad thing.

  7. I don’t know what the answer is, but I know what it is not. Trotting out a novel with a similar cover, similar hero/heroine and situations only to find inside that cover, the book reads exactly like thousands of other romance novels. Romance readers may gobble it up but I am not sure those outside the romance community will love it. That approach is only a bandaid, not a solution. The thing is, many, many of the fans that made FSoG so popular are not romance novel readers. I know at least 10 friends and relatives in my life who read and loved the books and have never touched a romance novel. I have seen men buy the book in bookstores, heard women discussing it in grocery lines. Instead of the romance community turning up their noses at it like it has a bad smell, they should be taking a good look at why it worked if they want to grab new readers.

  8. Most people will follow where they are led, I just hope they stay around and look at the romance genre in a different light. But I do hope that the industry will pay close attention to the book cover, and stop with the ‘embrace/rippled chest/heaving bosom’, because simple and understated is the way to keep new readers. The seasoned romances reader already knows that the story inside is worth the snarky remarks and the raised eyebrows. :)

  9. I have not read 50 Shades of Gray. I understand it is part of a trilogy. Are there any plans to review any of the books on the All About Romance site?

  10. @dick, yes, there is a traditional HEA at the end of the trilogy. The three books are very much the story of their romance.

    @Renee, we reviewed 50 shades in a Pandora’s Box dual review here on the blog. You can find it by clicking on the Pandora link in the blog archives.

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments. There is a lot to think about with regards to the success of 50 Shades.

  11. Yes, I did understand what was meant by “fresh” and I respect that opinion.

    I have a different opinion, though: Each author has there own voice and style (one would hope), but each iteration of this kind of thing or anything seemingly new tends to get the same kinds of claims, breaking new ground, never done before, et al. I’m looking at a longer view and not only today’s current market. Compare “The Sound and the Fury” or “Finnegan’s Wake,” or even chivalric romance in its time, and then tell me how unique this book truly is.

    • Eliza: Yes, I did understand what was meant by “fresh” and I respect that opinion.
      I have a different opinion, though: Each author has there own voice and style (one would hope), but each iteration of this kind of thing or anything seemingly new tends to get the same kinds of claims, breaking new ground, never done before, et al. I’m looking at a longer view and not only today’s current market. Compare “The Sound and the Fury” or “Finnegan’s Wake,” or even chivalric romance inits time, and then tell me how unique this book truly is.

      I have to say it. I agree with Eliza – 50 shades isn’t “fresh” to anyone who knows romance novels. There isn’t anything in this that I haven’t read before. What is “fresh” is that this is a book written for adults that is written at a high school reading level. Women (many of my friends included) who haven’t read a book since high school have run out and bought ereaders thinking “I am now going to be a reader. I read the 50 trilogy in a week.” They get a real book, and it is three weeks later and they aren’t even half way through. They got a much better written book, with a strong plot, good characters, and thought provoking writing and they are completely stumped at why it is taking them longer to read them. 50 Shades is the book that made the difference because of its flaws, not despite them.

      • Elizabeth:
        I have to say it.I agree with Eliza – 50 shades isn’t “fresh” to anyone who knows romance novels.There isn’t anything in this that I haven’t read before.What is “fresh” is that this is a book written for adults that is written at a high school reading level.Women (many of my friends included) who haven’t read a book since high school have run out and bought ereaders thinking “I am now going to be a reader.I read the 50 trilogy in a week.”They get a real book, and it is three weeks later and they aren’t even half way through.They got a much better written book, with a strong plot, good characters, and thought provoking writing and they are completely stumped at why it is taking them longer to read them.50 Shades is the book that made the difference because of its flaws, not despite them.Oh come on!! They read it so fast because it was so damn good they couldn’t put it down!!

      • Elizabeth: I agree with Eliza – 50 shades isn’t “fresh” to anyone who knows romance novels. There isn’t anything in this that I haven’t read before. What is “fresh” is that this is a book written for adults that is written at a high school reading level. Women (many of my friends included) who haven’t read a book since high school have run out and bought ereaders thinking “I am now going to be a reader. I read the 50 trilogy in a week.”

        This describes me perfectly.

      • Elizabeth:
        .What is “fresh” is that this is a book written for adults that is written at a high school reading level.Women (many of my friends included) who haven’t read a book since high school have run out and bought ereaders thinking “I am now going to be a reader.I read the 50 trilogy in a week.”They get a real book, and it is three weeks later and they aren’t even half way through.They got a much better written book, with a strong plot, good characters, and thought provoking writing and they are completely stumped at why it is taking them longer to read them.50 Shades is the book that made the difference because of its flaws, not despite them.

        You know, your thoughts about readers of FSoG sort of mirror what some have been saying for years about romance novel readers. We aren’t smart enough, we don’t read real books, we are not real readers. Interesting.

  12. I keep thinking about this trilogy since I’ve read it (and am in the middle of a re-read), turning why I loved it so much over and over in my head, and the one thing that sticks out to me is intimacy.

    I don’t read romance novels for the sex, but for what the sex between the hero and heroine implies. Sure, erotic romance exploded in popularity because readers sought edgier and more explicit sex in their romance novels, but what happened is that publishers assumed romance readers just wanted more sex–not more physical and intimate connection between the H/H–and what we have now is the meaningless increase in sexual content, sexy covers, blurbs, and titles.

    FSoG is explicit and features lots and lots of sex, but lo and behold, it’s actually the type of sex that romance writers say they write: to reveal the characters and move the plot forward. So I agree with Sandy that the endless lists of FSoG recommendations are tone-deaf: I’m not looking for more BDSM romance, or more erotic romance, or more romances with inexperienced heroines and tortured billionaire heroes. The freshness of FSoG is in its unconventional narrative style, its genuine mix of erotica and romance (Ana’s sexual awakening with Christian+their falling in love), and the overwhelming emphasis on trust, communication, and intimacy.

    It’s erroneous to say FsoG is better than the romance genre, but I do believe it will be difficult for many romance novels to match the experience non-romance readers had with James’s trilogy.

    • Evangeline Holland: I keep thinking about this trilogy since I’ve read it (and am in the middle of a re-read), turning why I loved it so much over and over in my head, and the one thing that sticks out to me is intimacy.
      I don’t read romance novels for the sex, but for what the sex between the hero and heroine implies. Sure, erotic romance exploded in popularity because readers sought edgier and more explicit sex in their romance novels, but what happened is that publishers assumed romance readers just wanted more sex–not more physical and intimate connection between the H/H–and what we have now is the meaningless increase in sexual content, sexy covers, blurbs, and titles.
      FSoG is explicit and features lots and lots of sex, but lo and behold, it’s actually the type of sex that romance writers say they write: to reveal the characters and move the plot forward. So I agree with Sandy that the endless lists of FSoG recommendations are tone-deaf: I’m not looking for more BDSM romance, or more erotic romance, or more romances with inexperienced heroines and tortured billionaire heroes. The freshness of FSoG is in its unconventional narrative style, its genuine mix of erotica and romance (Ana’s sexual awakening with Christian+their falling in love), and the overwhelming emphasis on trust, communication, and intimacy.
      It’s erroneous to say FsoG is better than the romance genre, but I do believe it will be difficult for many romance novels to match the experience non-romance readers had with James’s trilogy.

      OMG, Evangeline, you made all my points but so much better!

      I do not agree with Elizabeth that FSoG feels fresh only non-romance readers.
      Surely SAndy AAR qualifies as a romance reader and she said in her blog post it felt fresh to her. It sure did feel fresh to me and I’d read 100+ romance in two years before stumbling upon FSoG.

      And surely if the only thing fresh about it were high-school level writing, a writer of Mary Balogh’s stature would not have enjoyed the book as much as she did and moved on to the next books.

      As I said, for me the book felt really fresh. Does this mean it’s my #1 romance of all time? No. It’s only #15. But when I was reading it, I was completely engrossed with it and the moment I finished it, I wanted to reread it. Which I did right after I finished the 3rd book (I read it some three months after book 2 which I liked the least of the series).

      Do I think this series will become a classic? No, or really I don’t care. I am an egoist and am totally satisfied that such a book has come my way and gave me such great enjoyment that a lot of other, supposedly, better written romance books failed to provide. [I just want to mention that I read books 1 and 2 long before all the hype and hoopla started].

  13. I agree that the “freshness” of FSOG is what has lead to it’s mass(ive) appeal. I think it also has the benefits and disgraces of having been published in unedited form. What I mean by that is, under the hands of a really good editor this book would have probably been cleaned up, but retained it’s raw emotions and spark; under the hands of an oppressive editor seeking to push this story into conformity it could have turned into just another book we’ve all read already.
    I’ve read several comments on “how to fix” this book which involve everything from removing the inappropriate britishisms to removing all the “unneeded, abusive and inaccurate” BDSM. Would that still work? We’ll probably never know, but having written a few things myself and then re-worked them a few times I sometimes get frustrated that the feeling and emotion and rawness gets expunged in trying to perfect the prose or the plot.
    I know that when I first read these books I was obsessed with the characters and their emotions and their relationship and even though my “inner editor” was screaming at me about all the rough unfinished qualities I didn’t want to stop reading them.
    That doesn’t mean I think editors are unnecessary or that more authors should self-publish books without caring about the quality of the product; I just think that lighting struck here in a very real way and perhaps the rawness and unpolished nature of the book helped in some way.
    I work with several women who did not read much before they picked up FSOG and they are now happily consuming nearly all my recommendations for new books and authors. I have nudged them towards Kristen Ashley, Sylvia Day, Bella Andre, Victoria Dahl, and many others and they haven’t slowed down reading yet and have turned into consummate readers of contemporary romance novels.
    Ironically, I don’t think they had ever considered romance novels a viable source of entertainment before FSOG.

  14. I haven’t read FSoG but have heard wildly varying accounts of the writing and the story from ‘this is a badly written rehash’ to ‘these books changed my life.’ I say each to their own. And to Ms. James, congratulations!

    The part of the blog that has me nodding my head is about the publishing industry. I understand the marketing value of a knock-off, read YA paranormal, and why the big 6 have spoon fed us repeats and rehashes. Because it works – we buy them.

    What I don’t get is why they have been so slow to respond to emerging Indie writers. I’ve got 2 historical romances for sale and have been very fortunate that my readers have really liked them and sales are going pretty well. When I get messages from readers, they often ask me why I self -published and that my books are exactly the kind of books they look for but have trouble finding. It is all I can do not to type/scream in capitol letters, ‘I tried. I tried for 10 years to get an agent.’

    I do understand the hesitancy of a publisher when there is a real cost, significant costs, in the printing of the books for an unknown. But that cost is now vanished. Poof! So if the cost of the printing is gone, why aren’t they battling Smashwords, Kindle and Bookbaby and all the other upstarts uploading to Amazon and other outlets? What are they waiting for? It seems to me they have yielded the battlefield without even firing a shot.

  15. I’ve read the FS trilogy and pray that the NY publishers take notice and start publishing more compelling romances because my want lists have gotten shorter and shorter.

  16. You’d think NY would wake up and notice that the old ways of attracting readers aren’t working anymore. Random House and Macmillan are at least trying in their clueless way to offer up their books as “better thans.” LOL! Today I saw Samhain’s limp list. Double LOL! None of their books caught the fancy of millions of women everywhere and it’s kind of sad to watch them try to get on board the money train.

    Publishers really don’t get the freshness or intimacy or rawness that has been so well articulated by people who have read and who get what James did that NY-trained authors have not been able to touch.

    I am surprised at the vitriol directed at readers who admit to being seduced by the books. Online friends aren’t speaking to me (temporarily, I hope.) I’m seeing tweets wishing for a gun to shoot up bookstore displays. Gee, how enlightened. Me, I’m just glad for my high school teachers, so I can, you know, keep up.

    Disclosure: Sandy is my sister and I agree with her 100% on this post. Mom would never have believed it.

  17. @Diana, lol…just lol. And, yeah I saw that tweet. *shakes head* What’s with the anger? I don’t get it.

  18. Pamelia: I read your post after I posted reply to Evangeline’s post, and I agree with your post too.

    I read FSoG as published by it’s original publisher (Coffee House something, basically a no-name publisher but what an amazing cover art!!!), and I noted lack of editing especially numerous instances of run-on words. Books 2 and 3 were already Vintage edition and they were much better edited.

    I read a lot of reviews (e.g. On Goodreads) saying that FSoG is 100/200/300 pages too long.
    To this I emphatically say: No, just no!

    I am a slow reader (e.g. I have never read a book in one sitting even in my first language, let alone English) but I never felt the book was overly long. Quite the country – I was sad when it was over. I was enjoying every single sentence of it (even the second time around – and yes, it’s one of e few romance books I’ve reread already).

  19. I am sorry, my last sentence in the 10:28 pm post is typo-ridden.

    it should read:

    “Quite the contrary – I was sad when it was over. I was enjoying every single sentence of it (even the second time around – and yes, it’s one of the few romance books I’ve reread already).”

  20. Pingback: Day-Old Books (Slightly Stale) | Something More

  21. I have read reviews pro and con to 50 Shades…I did read Twilight (laughed my a** off) as this trilogy has been compared to it as the “adult version” in many comments I have seen. What the heck does that mean? I have read comments that 50 Shades is written at a high school level? Well doesn’t that just get the blood flowing to read it…I have read comments that say its full of juicy sex…I can name 10 books right now from authors who write juicy sex in their romance books.
    The readers are what has brought this book to the forefront…but why? I doubt I will read these books anytime soon…maybe when I have exhausted my 300 book stash and the library…might be a while.

  22. Here’s what I think E.L. James did so well; not sure if “fresh” is the word I’m thinking of, but it might be:

    She made her characters interesting. She made them interesting despite the just-okay writing, over-the-top backstory, and cutesy conventions like the “Inner Goddess.” Ana & Christian’s emails to each other, their fights, their misunderstanding, and yes (although bottom of the list for me) their sex scenes, were all interesting.

    I rather assume that James, whose career was in television, understood what’s needed to make a TV show compelling. Reading Twilight convinced her that the same magic sparkle dust could be found in books. I think she’s done that.

    Sarah Wendell, of Smart Bitches Trashy Books, coined the term “magic woo-woo” to suggest the quality one character has for another such that everything about her (because it’s usually the less attractive heroine who can possesses the woo-woo factor) is wonderful and sexy. I realize that Wendell wouldn’t agree, but I think the protagonists in 50SoG have the magic woo-woo.

    I haven’t tried to suggest books to people who liked 50SoG primarily because the books that I think have the magic woo-woo (Balogh’s Simply Dangerous, for example, or Joan Wolf’s His Lordship’s Mistress or almost anything by Eva Ibbotson) might be just “bleh” to a 50SoG fan. That’s the trouble with the magic woo-woo: it works on different people in different ways.

  23. I haven’t read FSoG, and I have no desire to do so. Mostly, this is because of the hype about the amount and nature of the sex in the book. I tend to skim or skip altogether the sex scenes in romance novels, urban fantasy, paranormal, etc. not because I’m a prude, but because after the initial consummation between the lead characters, I find the sex scenes boring. I like to read about the developing love between the two leads, and the sex stuff almost seems, to me, to bring things to a grinding halt. Sure, I’m not a fan at all of “closed bedroom door” scenes that hint at a couple’s first time together, but once they’ve reached that point, I don’t necessarily want to read about every physical encounter they have with each other. I’m of the impression that FSoG is all about the sex, so I’m thinking I’d be skimming quite a bit. Fresh voice or not, there are only so many ways to go about writing those types of scenes.

  24. @ Ridley: I enjoyed Twilight when I first read it. I even enjoyed the sequels. For whatever flaws they had and for however lacking the plots were they had a definite narrative tension that worked for me. They did not have the same obsessive re-read the heck out of them quality I found in FSOG.
    Now, however, after having been cursed with seeing the first movie I can’t stand to even think about the books since I find both RPats and KStew to be rather wooden and repulsive and since the movie managed to take all the charm out of the story. It will likely take years for that taint to wash away to enable me to read them again.

  25. I think that whether or not you’ll like 50 Shades is a function of whether or not you liked Twilight. One is a fanfic of the other, and that they’re both blockbuster hits is not coincidence. Something about Twilight speaks to millions of readers.

    That’s why I think it’s fallacious to paint this craze as evidence that NY publishing is clueless. They found and published Twilight in the first place. I’d argue that, at worst, they’re batting .500.

    • Ridley: I think that whether or not you’ll like 50 Shades is a function of whether or not you liked Twilight. One is a fanfic of the other, and that they’re both blockbuster hits is not coincidence. Something about Twilight speaks to millions of readers.That’s why I think it’s fallacious to paint this craze as evidence that NY publishing is clueless. They found and published Twilight in the first place. I’d argue that, at worst, they’re batting .500.

      I never read Twilight and don’t plan to ever. I am not into vampires. When I read FSoG, I was not aware of any connection of the book to Twilight.

      Still, I am grateful to S. Meyer because if not for her books, I would not have the pleasure of reading FS trilogy.

  26. Admitting that I have imbibed the Fifty Kool-aid has certainly made my online interactions more interesting. There’s a whole lot of people who think I’m stupid, ignorant in the ways of sexuality (hello!), undereducated, and that I’ve got some hidden fatal flaw that they’re determined to out me on. The 50 likers are all wacky and required to explain and justify ourselves and apologize every time The Books come up. Good thing I’ve got a sense of humor because the erroneous assumptions are hilarious. No, haven’t read Twilight or seen a movie.

    But if it makes anyone feel better…I am a mouth-breathing high school dropout with hairy palms. Just like all the 50 likers. We have a secret club with a special handshake and we’ve sworn to never read another book unless EL James wrote it cuz she’s the greatest writer ever. Squeeee!

    Sheesh. Read 50 or don’t. It’s okay either way.

    • Diana:No, haven’t read Twilight or seen a movie. But if it makes anyone feel better…I am a mouth-breathing high school dropout with hairy palms. Just like all the 50 likers.

      If my question prompted this petulant display of defensiveness, I’d like to know why. What’s so wrong with Twilight that being accused of liking it is an insult? And if Twilight fans are assumed morons, why is it not okay for other to judge 50 fans?

    • Diana: Admitting that .But if it makes anyone feel better…I am a mouth-breathing high school dropout with hairy palms. Just like all the 50 likers. We have a secret club with a special handshake and we’ve sworn to never read another book unless EL James wrote it cuz she’s the greatest writer ever. Squeeee!Sheesh. Read 50 or don’t. It’s okay either way.

      What a freaking relief. I can now come out of the closet with my hairy palms. Figures I would like Those Books.

  27. Like Evangeline, I’ve never read Twilight nor have I seen any of the movies. I wouldn’t say I’m not interested, it’s more that vampires aren’t a huge fave for me.

  28. “But if it makes anyone feel better…I am a mouth-breathing high school dropout with hairy palms. Just like all the 50 likers. We have a secret club with a special handshake and we’ve sworn to never read another book unless EL James wrote it cuz she’s the greatest writer ever. Squeeee!

    Sheesh. Read 50 or don’t. It’s okay either way.”

    Diana! You broke our secret club’s sacred code. You will be shunned at our next meeting after we shave your palms. You have been warned!

  29. Ridley, I can only speak for myself but why would I feel that “being accused of liking it (Twilight) is an insult” — I just haven’t happened to read it. My daughter loved it — I wouldn’t be surprised if the books aren’t downstairs on her bookshelf. No one can read it all.

    That being said, so many readers that I respect have said that Twilight captures first love and yearning so magically that someday I will definitely make a point of reading them. Have you read the Twilight books? I suppose no one can escape knowing the names of the three main protagonists :)

  30. Ridley said: I think that whether or not you’ll like 50 Shades is a function of whether or not you liked Twilight.

    Why do you think you need to pigeonhole 50 likers? There just ain’t no secret code to crack. That’s what I am making light of. You are by no means the only person on the internet who feels justified in labeling the 50 reader based on your assumptions. No one is required to justify their reading choices. I’m not inclined to explain why one book/author appeals to me when another does not. Wait! Let me check my mood ring.

    • Diana: Why do you think you need to pigeonhole 50 likers?

      An intriguing comment in light of the blog post it’s on. After all, the only reason we’re talking about what 50 Shades right now is because Sandy was using its popularity to draw certain conclusions about the state of NY publishing.

      I guess only she’s allowed to wonder at the “secret code to crack?” That makes for a pretty weak conversation.

  31. Ridley, the fact is that the Fifty books have sold unprecedented millions all over the world. It is a publishing phenom. It is absurd to pigeonhole and dismiss millions of readers as just-alike twinsie clones. You posited the Twilight connection and several people said “not me.” I’m not following your leaps in logic. Is everyone supposed to agree with you?

    Just out of curiosity, have you read 50? Twilight?

    • Diana: Is everyone supposed to agree with you?

      No, but they could refrain from putting words in my mouth. I’m not pigeonholing anyone, just pointing out a hole in the argument that 50 Shades’ popularity means NY is clueless. While my inkling hasn’t been proven, no one’s disproved it either. After all, no one’s said they’ve read and disliked Twilight but loved 50 Shades, or vice versa.

      I’ve read neither book, since they’re genres I typically dislike and I’ve seen enough of the writing in both to know I’d hate them, good stories or not. I have no opinion of the fans of either book. It just means people found a book they liked.

      • Ridley:
        No, but they could refrain from putting words in my mouth. I’m not pigeonholing anyone, just pointing out a hole in the argument that 50 Shades’ popularity means NY is clueless. While my inkling hasn’t been proven, no one’s disproved it either. After all, no one’s said they’ve read and disliked Twilight but loved 50 Shades, or vice versa.
        I’ve read neither book, since they’re genres I typically dislike and I’ve seen enough of the writing in both to know I’d hate them, good stories or not. I have no opinion of the fans of either book. It just means people found a book they liked.

        I read Twilight and disliked it for the most part. Slogged through it actually. So, what does that prove?
        Getting a little tired of people having an opinion on a book they haven’t bothered to read. So…let’s discuss Harry Potter. Haven’t read it, but give me a half hour. I’ll read the first 5 pages, check out a couple reviews and be back with an opinion. Who’s in?

        • xina:
          I read Twilight and disliked it for the most part. Slogged through it actually. So, what does that prove?

          That maybe my inkling isn’t universally true. But there’s still no reason to get defensive about it, unless you think it’s insulting to be called a Twilight fan.

          My ego’s not tied up with this. I’m not sure what your attitude is about.

          • Ridley:
            That maybe my inkling isn’t universally true. But there’s still no reason to get defensive about it, unless you think it’s insulting to be called a Twilight fan.

            Why would I think that? Don’t put words in my mouth.

      • Ridley:
        No, but they could refrain from putting words in my mouth. I’m not pigeonholing anyone, just pointing out a hole in the argument that 50 Shades’ popularity means NY is clueless. While my inkling hasn’t been proven, no one’s disproved it either. After all, no one’s said they’ve read and disliked Twilight but loved 50 Shades, or vice versa.
        I’ve read neither book, since they’re genres I typically dislike and I’ve seen enough of the writing in both to know I’d hate them, good stories or not. I have no opinion of the fans of either book. It just means people found a book they liked.

        I started to read Twilight and could not get further than about 75 pages before I just gave up. I am about 75% through FSoG and it took me a little while to get into it, but now I want to know how it ends. Ana was very irritating to me at first, but she is getting LESS irritating…enough that I want to see how she grows from this experience. I am going to reserve judgment on the final rating of the book until I finish.

  32. Um, can I just point out that the fact I enjoyed the Harry Potter books as an adult and Georgette Heyer, apparently makes me in the opinion of A.S Byatt, puerile and ignorant of male/female relationships. Somehow my marriage survives, and my kids at least are convinced that I’m a functioning adult. And I now feel uncomfortable reading Byatt, which is a pity for me because I like her books.
    Using people’s literary likes and dislikes to categorise them is generally a fairly useless thing to do.

    I haven’t read Twilight or FSoG simply because they are genres that tend not to grab me. OTHOH I’m getting curious enough about FSoG to give it a shot. Anything that gets people this riled up one way or the other does catch attention.

  33. While I haven’t read Twilight, I have seen at least some of the movies. I was surprised by the fan fic connection because they don’t seem the slightest bit similar to me.

    No matter how dunce- like we seem to you, Ridley, nobody likes to be pigeonholed and that is the crux of the problem people are having with your theory. I liked but did not love 50 Shades. I have no idea about Twilight since I haven’t read them. I do not think that sparkly vampires are responsible for the runaway success of 50.

  34. @Elizabeth Rolls You’re right about her view of Harry Potter–she doesn’t recommend it for kids, either, because she thinks it’s bad fantasy; she loves Terry Pratchett–but Byatt’s on record as a Heyer fan.

    • Liz Mc2: @Elizabeth Rolls You’re right about her view of Harry Potter–she doesn’t recommend it for kids, either, because she thinks it’s bad fantasy; she loves Terry Pratchett–but Byatt’s on record as a Heyer fan.

      That’s interesting. I was sure I remembered her having a snipe at Heyer in that article as well, but it was years ago so I might be muddling it up with someone else.

  35. I think a point is being missed here and that is how these books were initially released and if the volume of sales of Fifty Shades reflects on PUBLISHING overall as an industry. Notice the emphasis on the word “publishing” since it’s the third word in the title of this blog.

    Since I’ve heard the word “massive” amounts of Fifty readers a number of times, I decided to look at some sales figures, something that shouldn’t tend toward name-calling or defensiveness.

    The current sales figures for the Fifty series is 10 million copies.

    The Harry Potter series sold 450 million copies in 10 years.
    The Twilight series sold 116 million copies in 6 years.
    Larrson’s Millennium Trilogy sold 53 million copies in 2 years.
    Diary of a Wimpy Kid series sold 37 million copies in 5 years.

    The Da Vinci Code as a single book sold 80 million copies in 10 years. It sold about half that in the first two years. “It’s been our No. 1 fiction book for two years in a row, and I can’t remember another time that happened,” said Bob Wietrak, vice president of merchandising for Barnes & Noble Inc. “People come into our store all the time and ask for it or ask for books that are like it.” Sound familiar?

    The above books were sold by PUBLISHERS. Here is a completely different take on why people buy best sellers that leads to quantity sales: “Readers who read a few books a year don’t want to take chances, and the best indication that a book is worth trying is that other people are already reading it. Even if they don’t like it, they won’t feel left out of the conversation. Consequently, a bestseller, whether ‘commercial’ or ‘literary’, now does not have three or five times the sales of the next echelon, but 30 or 50.”

    As for the “new” alternative publishing argument because publishers seemingly don’t take risks “these days,” how about this: “James’ ultimate template is Tess of the D’Urbervilles…. That book, after being refused publication, appeared serialised in an illustrated paper, the London Graphic. Alternative publishing models have been around for a while. But Thomas Hardy was a risk-taker…and here he is, inspiring authors 120 years after his initial cold reception.”

    And you know what? It’s entirely possible that the next blockbuster will sell even more books than Fifty because of the exponential increase in population. You know how movie revenue is adjusted for the value of the dollar changing over time to come up with the biggest movie hits? Apparently the same can’t be said of book sales re the population, at least that I’ve seen. Remember how every one and their sister bought Gone with the Wind when it first came out? BUT even though there were fewer people in the country then, it still had a similar kind of excitement and hoopla. That’s part of being a best-seller or an “oh my goodness” type of book for its time.

    In a different topic from publishing, I have to confess that in the end I myself am not really influenced by MASS or MASSIVE choices. I was brought up to believe in taking responsibility for making my own choices and decisions, and not to do what others were doing just to go along or to assume that they were right because of their numbers. Reading popular books isn’t the same as some other human stuff that was done en masse in other times (from the Crusades and concentration camps to corsets, hula hoops and pet rocks), but the principle of individual choice and responsibility IS the same. So I do indeed research best sellers before reading to make an informed decision that is right for me, and that meant yes to Harry Potter and no to Fifty. The idea that one has to completely finish a book before she can decide it is not for her is a non starter.

  36. @Eliza: Thank you for your well researched post!

    Honestly, here’s where I’m coming from. I’ve been around publishers for 10 years now and I’ve gotten to see the inside of the business and how it works from a number of different perspectives. Publishing is not in a healthy state right now and they are financially struggling. As a result, genre fiction buyers (and that’s all I know about) are getting increasingly conservative. And I understand that, really I do.

    But it’s also a self-fullfilling prophesy. Start being less adventurous and the next big thing will pass you by. As it did in the case of 50 Shades.

    All the examples you cite were before eReading truly exploded — that is a new development and it is one that publishers are not equipped to deal with. Not in the slightest.

    The game has changed in an astonishingly short period and publishers aren’t ready for it. They are far too slow to adapt and others are beginning to take their place. The financial risks are not the same with eBooks as they are with paper. I hope they’ll get on board soon. Truly, I do.

  37. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books

    Above is a link to best-selling books. Not a large number of books have sold over ten million copies when you take a look at this list (not a large number especially in relationship to the vast number of book titles which have been published). I’m not saying this is necessarily an exhaustive and complete list, but I put as much credibility in it as I do anything on Wikipedia (70/30 belief maybe?)
    The other factor that I think makes FSOG’s success notable is the genre in which it was published.
    I don’t actually pick my reading from best-seller lists. I read Harry Potter before it was a huge hit. I first read FSOG last November. I have not read The Hunger Games or The DaVinci Code or The Kite Runner. I don’t tend to put my faith in the general public when I chose my reading material or my tv shows or my films. I usually rely on book reviews on sites such as this one.

  38. Thank you, again, Pamelia, for doing the heavy-lifting! I can’t believe the endless reasons I’ve read why FSoG is really “no big deal”. For the record, a girlfriend gave me the first book as an e-gift and I was loaned #2 (of course, Random House is not permitting lending … this was back in the day). I bought 2 & 3 and ended up buying #1 as a paperback because I don’t want my local B&N, unsatisfactory as it is, to go out of business.

    I haven’t read Twilight but I probably will. Even though I bought the Hunger Games for my daughter, I haven’t read that trilogy yet, nor have I read The DaVinci Code or The Kite Runner or any books by Nicholas Sparks. Fifty Shades sold through word of mouth from readers who enjoyed it, as far as I can tell. Bestsellers/recommendations from Oprah — that’s hardly how I decide what to read: personal recommendations and reviews work for me.

    Of course there will be a fair number of bandwagon purchasers. My “job” should I chose to accept it, is to find some great follow-up books for my friends who have read “Fifty” but have never before read a romance. The copy-cat books are inevitable and I’m sure some of them will be terrific. Like “Overseas” … I’m liking it a far amount and it does feel appreciably different. I’ll weigh in when I’m done. “Bared to You” I would not recommend to a non-rom reader but So Far, “Overseas” I would. Others have suggested this but I think “Outlander” is very much in the spirit of “Fifty”.

    • I bought the Hunger Games for my daughter, I haven’t read that trilogy yet, nor have I read The DaVinci Code or The Kite Runner or any books by Nicholas Sparks. Fifty Shades sold through word of mouth from readers who enjoyed it, as far as I can tell. Bestsellers/recommendations from Oprah — that’s hardly how I decide what to read: personal recommendations and reviews work for me.Of course there will be a fair number of bandwagon purchasers. My “job” should I chose to accept it, is to find some great follow-up books for my friends who have read “Fifty” but have never before read a romance. The copy-cat books are inevitable and I’m sure some of them will be terrific. Like “Overseas” … I’m liking it a far amount and it does feel appreciably different. I’ll weigh in when I’m done. “Bared to You” I would not recommend to a non-rom reader but So Far, “Overseas” I would. Others have suggested this but I think “Outlander” is very much in the spirit of “Fifty”.

      Yes, I recommended Outlander to my good friend who read Fifty Shades but doesn’t read romance. She loved it! She has gone on to read the entire Outlander series and I can’t help being so proud that I found a romance that she enjoys. We meet twice a month for lunch and wine. I’ll never forget the lunch she told me she had read Fifty Shades Of Grey.

    • I’m really not sure how drawing a connection between the popularity of one book and the wild popularity of the book it’s a fanfiction of is “pigeonholing” readers. Twilight sold an ungodly number of copies. Obviously it had qualities that appealed to a wide number of readers. Pigeonholes aren’t large enough to fit 100+ million readers.

      Janet W: Others have suggested this but I think “Outlander” is very much in the spirit of “Fifty”.

      Then I’m even more certain the appeal of 50 Shades has to do with it not being a romance. Its success has more to do with its similarities to Twilight than the few traits it shares with genre romance. Twilight, 50 Shades and Outlander all have everything romance readers say they hate – first-person narration, no HEA, lots of introspection, and so on – that are staples of general fiction. I really don’t think the book is all that fresh and new so much as just very different from your average romance novel.

      • Ridley: I’m really not sure how drawing a connection between the popularity of one book and the wild popularity of the book it’s a fanfiction of is “pigeonholing” readers. Twilight sold an ungodly number of copies. Obviously it had qualities that appealed to a wide number of readers. Pigeonholes aren’t large enough to fit 100+ million readers.

        I am sorry if my post was misunderstood. I believe that publishers limit their audience for romance books by using the same marketing techniques they have used for decades. Twilight was not marketed as a romance as much as a young adult vampire book/series. The vampire element made it easier to breach gender boundaries than if it had been marketed as a young adult romance. FSoG also was “spared” the typical romance marketing technique – slap a cheesy cover on it, place it in the romance section of bookstores, etc. Because it was originally seen as a satirical Twilight fanfic story, it would be natural for those Twilight fans who frequent fanfic boards to pick up on it first. The Twilight following is HUGE, therefore Twilight readers would naturally be drawn to a book that is loosely based on that story. This large following would ratchet up sales and success breeds success. As sales climbed, people would want to know what all of the fuss was about.

        I also do not think this book is all that fresh. I just think it escaped the boundaries of that limited audience that romance is generally targeted toward. If a Loretta Chase, Karen Ranney, Linda Howard or Jennifer Crusie book was marketed toward a general audience rather than a romance specific audience, then we might see sales climb dramatically. In some ways I think FSoG is tearing down a barrier because it has made it more acceptable to read a romance and seems to be breaking gender barriers as well.

        • Mary Skelton:
          I just think it escaped the boundaries of that limited audience that romance is generally targeted toward.If a Loretta Chase, Karen Ranney, Linda Howard or Jennifer Crusie book was marketed toward a general audience rather than a romance specific audience, then we might see sales climb dramatically.In some ways I think FSoG is tearing down a barrier because it has made it more acceptable to read a romance and seems to be breaking gender barriers as well.

          All true. Readers that would have never picked up a ‘romance/erotica’ are reading it. Doesn’t hurt the genre to have a few more readers.

      • Ridley: I’m really not sure how drawing a connection between the popularity of one book and the wild popularity of the book it’s a fanfiction of is “pigeonholing” readers. Twilight sold an ungodly number of copies. Obviously it had qualities that appealed to a wide number of readers. Pigeonholes aren’t large enough to fit 100+ million readers.
        Then I’m even more certain the appeal of 50 Shades has to do with it not being a romance. Its success has more to do with its similarities to Twilight than the few traits it shares with genre romance. Twilight, 50 Shades and Outlander all have everything romance readers say they hate – first-person narration, no HEA, lots of introspection, and so on – that are staples of general fiction. I really don’t think the book is all that fresh and new so much as just very different from your average romance novel.

        You are exactly pigeonholing 50S readers and romance readers.

        I have not read and not plan to either Twilight (not into vampires) or Outlander (not into time travel), have been reading romance for two years now.

        Yet I read and loved 50SoG. I don’t like to analyze why I loved it, it was just my visceral reaction. I wanted to reread it right away and eventually did, with no less pleasure. It felt very fresh to me compared to other typical romance.

        Despite all the checks Laura did comparing 50S with harlequins, it is nothing like them.

        I don’t hate 1st person narration (9 of my top 30 favourite romances are written in 1st person) and have nothing against introspection.

        • mirole: I have not read and not plan to either Twilight (not into vampires) or Outlander (not into time travel)…Yet I read and loved 50SoG.

          You do realize that this doesn’t address my point, right? That I am not saying that Twilight fans are who are making 50 Shades a success?

          In case that has escaped you, I’ll explain. I am saying that 50 Shades contains story elements similar to Twilight that resonate with lots and lots of readers. People who would never read Twilight due to sparkling vampires are nonetheless digging Twilight’s characters in 50 Shades. In the process of borrowing Twilight’s characters, James also managed to take a bit of the story’s wide appeal, whatever that is.

      • Ridley: Twilight, 50 Shades and Outlander all have everything romance readers say they hate – first-person narration, no HEA, lots of introspection, and so on – that are staples of general fiction. I really don’t think the book is all that fresh and new so much as just very different from your average romance novel.

        Really? I was always under the impression that Outlander was quite popular among romance novel readers. Outlander was the first romance I read, recommended by a romance reader. And since when do romance novel readers hate first person narration? News to me.

  39. Oops…posted too soon. Anyway..I was so shocked to hear that she had read all 3 books and loved them. I wouldn’t have thought Fifty would be a book she would ever choose. She reads quite a bit…we used to exchange books before we both went digital. So, I recommended,” Welcome To Temptation” too, but she hasn’t mentioned that book, so I assume she didn’t like it. I would probably not recommend “Bared To You”. Too, too romancy, too much formula-like. Possibly, “Overseas”. I will have to read it first before I suggest it.

  40. @Sandy: Thank you for your thoughtful reply and expanding on your reasons.

    Here’s where I’m coming from: A 30-year career in publishing, books and magazines, with publishing struggling for several decades from my experience. People hope for success but no one I’ve known went into publishing expecting to get rich. That’s not a new development. I’ve always taken heat from my architect/lawyer/etc friends for choosing the path I did.

    I also have a background in the history of publishing, academically and in practice, from the conversion from hot metal to computerized typesetting and on and on to where we are now–for this moment in time anyway. There has never been a time in these years when something new or different wasn’t happening, and I see no reason for the history of change to, well…change.

    While I do believe self-publishing will be easier than it has been, I see these changes just as today’s steps in what has been a longtime, ongoing process since books have been put into writing instead of being told by storytellers.

    If anything was truly revolutionary, it was the printing press (and the printing of bibles) that enabled literacy to spread to everyone instead of just the privileged few. Each step since then has been a variation on a theme. (Well, maybe except that literacy has dropped in the US even with tech advances.)

    In addition to that, recall that a goodly part of recent times have been especially difficult for everyone financially. Is there any field that hasn’t been hit in recent years? –other than the wealthiest few, I mean. No business–including publishing–is going to produce without profit. The ramifications of what will happen, right now during hard times, remains to be seen on a lot of fronts.

    Even the self-publisher has risk because of having to support oneself and the project until it comes to fruition with no guarantees for success there either. We hear about the successes; no one wants to read about the flops. We like a happy ending! :)

    It’s my belief that every generation thinks it is the most advanced and has the best whatever. It’s an ideology that seems hard-wired and people seem to need to believe it. But there was supposedly good ole meek Thomas Hardy bucking the odds 120 years ago, finding a way to get Tess published. Publishing that book in that society impresses me far more than Fifty in a far more open society.

    We just are taking different views, I think: yours is close-up in time and mine is panoramic historically. Plus, I’ve always thought Ecclesiastes has had it exactly right: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

  41. Pameilia said: “Not a large number of books have sold over ten million copies when you take a look at this list (not a large number especially in relationship to the vast number of book titles which have been published).”

    I only cited more recent books because: (1) In early days, only the wealthy could afford books. Charles Dickens and friends were made available to middle classes via cheap serial newsprints, or via subscription libraries. Classics are now available online for free so those numbers aren’t going to move. (2) There are a gazillion more people on the planet every year now and we’re expanding exponentially, so comparing sales now to sales when there was a lesser population is apples and oranges–if you know anything about statistics.

    Janet said: I can’t believe the endless reasons I’ve read why FSoG is really “no big deal”.

    It’s the “big deal” of this moment in time, yes, for those who care. The point is that if one lives long enough or checks history, what will be found is that there always is a big deal of some sort, in succession, with similar amounts of energy and hullabaloo associated.

    BTW, how many Fifty readers have said they have NOT read it because of all the hype yet another bunch keep hyping it? I’d bet much of the blowback is normal for hyped big deals.

    And yes, there must be “bandwagon purchasers.” Maybe half, since that’s how the reviews are roughly splitting pro and con.

  42. The real problem with FSOG, imho, is WHY is it different from the ten million harlequins and other similair books that preceded it?
    It has the classic emotionally damaged hero (check) who’s a billionaire (check), who’s a player (check), the naive virgin (check) the ‘I don’t want a commitment’ (check).
    OK there’s a bit of BDSM that’s lacking in the run-of-the-mill series romance, but still, to me at least, it read like a long harlequin, and I freely admit I never would have read it if not for all the hoopla. In fact, I had a hard time finishing it.
    It occupies all the top places in Amazon’s best selling list. It’s the publishers’ job to understand why, and as far as I understand, they don’t have a clue

    • Laura: The real problem with FSOG, imho, is WHY is it different from the ten million harlequins and other similair books that preceded it?
      It has the classic emotionally damaged hero (check) who’s a billionaire (check), who’s a player(check),the naive virgin (check) the ‘I don’t want a commitment’ (check).
      OK there’s a bit of BDSM that’s lacking in the run-of-the-mill series romance, but still, to me at least, it read like a long harlequin, and I freely admit I never would have read it if not for all the hoopla. In fact, I had a hard time finishing it.
      It occupies all the top places in Amazon’s best selling list. It’s the publishers’ job to understand why, and as far as I understand, they don’t have a clue

      I have finished the first book. I probably would not have read it without the hype, but I finally succumbed. It is a decent book. I care enough about the characters now to read the next book in the series. I thought a little about the WHY of its popularity this morning and I think part of the answer is just plain marketing…or the lack of pigeonholing the marketing. I have certainly read MUCH better romances. I would say just from MY perspective, the book is average or a little above in terms of romance books in general. I believe that typical romance marketing (including the cover art) steers certain people away from the genre. The publishers set the tone for said marketing and therefore influence its sales. Since this book did not go the typical route, the marketing was more “word of mouth” and probably first picked up by the Twilight crowd since they would be more likely to be familiar with fanfic sites concerning those books. As the sales grew, others began to take a look that were outside of the Twilight reader crowd and then we also have the e-reader revolution and its influence on book choice. E-readers give people the freedom to read books without anyone knowing WHAT they are reading. Fear of peer pressure may have kept many from reading a highly sexual book in the past, but the e-reader explosion makes it possible for people to explore books without fear of condemnation. So, in essence, the success of FS0G may just be an instance of “the perfect storm.”

  43. @Mary Skelton: I think you made some great points–cover art, not being overtly tied to romance, possibly/probably picking up from a previous audience, word of mouth (i.e. best seller phenomenon?), e-reader anonymity, sex, gender boundaries, and “perfect storm.” I hope I got what you said right.

    I’ve been thinking about this too, like how discouraging the financial news is now, and wondering if a book like this at this time, especially one that could safely appeal across gender boundaries as you said, could provide a needed distraction, or at least something different to think and/or argue about. Not that it would start the whole big deal, but could certainly help fuel it.

    • Eliza: @Mary Skelton:I think you made some great points–cover art, not being overtly tied to romance, possibly/probably picking up from a previous audience, word of mouth (i.e. best seller phenomenon?), e-reader anonymity, sex, gender boundaries, and “perfect storm.” I hope I got what you said right.
      I’ve been thinking about this too, like how discouraging the financial news is now, and wondering if a book like this at this time, especially one that could safely appeal across gender boundaries as you said, could provide a needed distraction, or at least something different to think and/or argue about. Not that it would start the whole big deal, but could certainly help fuel it.

      Eliza: That is exactly what I meant. I think the success of FSoG can be attributed to many different things all happening at once. I will read the next 2 books in the series because now I am committed to seeing how it all turns out, BUT I do not personally see it as a very strong book. I can think of 50 romance books off the top of my head that are better written than this one. I also do not think it is as bad as many make it out to be.
      However, I commend ANYONE who can FINISH writing a 3 book series. That, in and of itself takes commitment. I also think the fact that the author bypassed the traditional publishing route and was able to create a successful product in spite of this is also a person who has great persistence. So, in my opinion she should be commended. I could not get into the Twilight books. At this stage in my life, YA love stories just do not do it for me. I like a little more maturity in my characters. Obviously quite a number of people disagree with my tastes…and that is OK. We all have preferences and I think that individual preferences should be respected. When I finish reading books 2 & 3, then I will be able to discuss the series with more knowledge.
      I actually see the success of these books as a boon for romance in general. As many posters have already pointed out, they are now getting requests for recommendation of other romances. This just might be the event that smashes down the stereotypical barriers for the romance genre.

      • Mary Skelton:
        I actually see the success of these books as a boon for romance in general.As many posters have already pointed out, they are now getting requests for recommendation of other romances.This just might be the event that smashes down the stereotypical barriers for the romance genre.

        My, aren’t you optimistic? I certainly hope you are right.

        • AAR Sandy:
          My, aren’t you optimistic?I certainly hope you are right.

          I hope I am too! I also think that e-books have changed the entire literary scene. The fact that just about anyone can now publish a book without the assistance of an agent and publisher just breaks the whole industry wide open. Authors can have total control of their product and not have to bow down to industry pressures and requirements. Cover art and genre labels are such a large part of marketing. I see a great decline coming in heaving bosoms among the romance cover art and a broadening of genre placements. You can find Diana Gabaldon in the general fiction section of a bookstore, but very few romance authors are shelved away from the romance aisle. PLUS…e-books make it easier for people to read what they want without snarky comments about their reading choices. Without societal strictures dictating reading choices, people may become much more adventurous.

          • Mary Skelton:
            I hope I am too!I also think that e-books have changed the entire literary scene.The fact that just about anyone can now publish a book without the assistance of an agent and publisher just breaks the whole industry wide open.Authors can have total control of their product and not have to bow down to industry pressures and requirements.Cover art and genre labels are such a large part of marketing.I see a great decline coming in heaving bosoms among the romance cover art and a broadening of genre placements.You can find Diana Gabaldon in the general fiction section of a bookstore, but very few romance authors are shelved away from the romance aisle.PLUS…e-books make it easier for people to read what they want without snarky comments about their reading choices.Without societal strictures dictating reading choices, people may become much more adventurous.

            I’m not sure it is that simple. You know there are authors out there right now, trying to figure out the magic of this series. Good for them, because…everythng changes eventually and nothing stays the same. Time to think about that instead of acting like someone infringed on your territory. It is…what it is.

  44. I hope you’re right too and time will tell. This country is famous for its conservative backlashes, though, as we’ve been seeing in other areas of life recently. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen while we’re at it.

    I think with new things there are always pluses and minuses and again it takes time to assess and adjust. For instance, one of the things one can see in published books and blogs is a change in the use of language. Some of it is conversational, fresh and fine. In other places, there’s plain illiteracy. Certainly in publishers’ books, mistakes have been mounting with the pruning of editorial staff.

    With the loss of editorial jobs, more of the risk will be placed on the writer, who, yes, will be freer, but still has to pay herself. If you’re Nora Roberts and can write multiple books a year, you’re fine. If you’re Jean Auel-like you have to divide the next book’s earning by the number of years it took you to write it. And…there’s still no guarantee every book self-published will sell.

    I’m not trying to be negative if it’s coming off that way. Honestly. I’m just one of the people who seems to like to balance scales, and my experience of life is pluses and minuses travel together.

    • Eliza: I hope you’re right too and time will tell. This country is famous for its conservative backlashes, though, as we’ve been seeing in other areas of life recently.

      So, do you think Romney will declare all gray ties evvvill?? LOL.

    • Eliza: I hope you’re right too and time will tell. This country is famous for its conservative backlashes, though, as we’ve been seeing in other areas of life recently. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen while we’re at it.I think with new things there are always pluses and minuses and again it takes time to assess and adjust. For instance, one of the things one can see in published books and blogs is a change in the use of language.Some of it is conversational, fresh and fine. In other places, there’s plain illiteracy. Certainly in publishers’ books, mistakes have been mounting with the pruning of editorial staff.
      With the loss of editorial jobs, more of the risk will be placed on the writer, who, yes, will be freer, but still has to pay herself.If you’re Nora Roberts and can write multiple books a year, you’re fine. If you’re Jean Auel-like you have to divide the next book’s earning by the number of years it took you to write it.And…there’s still no guarantee every book self-published will sell.
      I’m not trying to be negative if it’s coming off that way. Honestly. I’m just one of the people who seems to like to balance scales, and my experience of life is pluses and minuses travel together.

      I think there will always be a need for editors whether they are affiliated with a publishing company or are freelancing. I also think that everyone involved in the publishing industry is going to have to feel their way through the rapid changes that are going on. I like balance as well and I think from an outsider looking in (and from what I have read on this board and elsewhere) that the large publishing houses have had too much control over what gets into print and then into the hands of readers. The pendulum may swing too far in the opposite direction as everyone struggles through the changes, but I think a balance will be achieved in the end.

  45. I finally read the FSoG trilogy because of all the hype . . . I wanted to be able to discuss it, so I had to read it.

    I didn’t really like the first one . . . I hate first person narrative, and frankly Ana irritated the hell out of me. Also, her inner goddess and subconscious pissed me off – But I absolutely loved the e-mail exchanges.

    I moved on to the other two because I am obsessive and if I start a series I can’t quit until I get to an ending I can live with. The last two books drug me into the story. Ana finally grew on me, but then Christian started pissing me off.

    So, the upshot for me was: I’ve read better and I’ve read worse; the writing was sub-par, but the story was good and the characters at times compelling. As for it being “fresh”, the only thing in it I hadn’t read before was a particular intimate act in the first one that I wish I hadn’t read.

    I agree with those positing that it was the readers who have made this a success and the great degree of discussion surrounding the books. And, I’m sorry if this offends, but I do think that part of the mass appeal is the less-than-stellar writing – someone here called it high school level. That level of writing simply makes things more approachable. I thought the same think about the Hunger Games when a friend finally convinced me to read it – and I enjoyed it in spite of what I saw as flaws. The themes Hunger Games explores are by no means new – crack open Fahrenheit 451, 1984, The Once and Future King . . . etc if you don’t believe me. I read all of those in high school and I know many of my friends who hated those but loved the Hunger Games. Why? . . . Approachability. The toned down writing makes these newer books more approachable to more people. – It’s not a jab, just my observation.

    • Elysa:As for it being “fresh”, the only thing in it I hadn’t read before was a particular intimate act in the first one that I wish I hadn’t read.I agree with those positing that it was the readers who have made this a success and the great degree of discussion surrounding the books.And, I’m sorry if this offends, but I do think that part of the mass appeal is the less-than-stellar writing – someone here called it high school level.That level of writing simply makes things more approachable.I thought the same think about the Hunger Games when a friend finally convinced me to read it – and I enjoyed it in spite of what I saw as flaws.The themes Hunger Games explores are by no means new – crack open Fahrenheit 451, 1984, The Once and Future King . . . etc if you don’t believe me.I read all of those in high school and I know many of my friends who hated those but loved the Hunger Games.Why? . . . Approachability.The toned down writing makes these newer books more approachable to more people. – It’s not a jab, just my observation.

      Approachability? I don’t know of the popularity of this series is that simple, but that is your opinion. as for The Hunger Games, you left out the novel that most resembles the theme and that is Lord Of The Flies. Would you agree?

      • Xina: as for The Hunger Games, you left out the novel that most resembles the theme and that is Lord Of The Flies. Would you agree?

        Yes, it does belong there. I also had to read that one in high school and I hated it. It kind of proves my point because at the time the stye annoyed me and the violence was off-putting (I was a freshman still exploring my love for all things Austen). As I have continued to read and expand my experience with various forms of literature I have become better equipped to engage with different writing styles. Had it been written in a less subtle style (a la Hunger Games) I may have found it more approachable at the time.

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  47. @Elysa: I’m really appreciate your post. Thank you.

    I think “Approachability” is an extremely “kind” word for what has been and is happening that simply isn’t kind at all–and I don’t necessarily mean this book in particular either. There also are non-fiction books written in recent decades covering similar themes and issues. Have you read any of them?

    • Eliza: @Elysa: I’m really appreciate your post. Thank you.I think “Approachability” is an extremely “kind” word for what has been and is happening that simply isn’t kind at all–and I don’t necessarily mean this book in particular either. There also are non-fiction books written in recent decades covering similar themes and issues. Have you read any of them?

      Yes, I have read many of those. However, I do not think this is a new trend. You can find threads of common themes re-trod throughout history – some done better than others.
      I hate to keep harping at The Hunger Games but it is one that sticks out the most for me right now. One of its major themes involves our Reality TV obsession (i.e. . . our voyeuristic penchant to watch peoples live unrail on television). This is not a novel theme explored in literature, nor is it a new societal development. One only had to remember Roman Gladiators and their forebears, Boxing, MMA, Scandal Sheets . . . etc. As a society we have always been voyeuristic. We also tend to prefer destruction over glorification . . . particularly when we tear down that which we have built up. I could list ad nauseum the books that have explored this phenomenon. The Hunger Games just seems to present it in a way that is approachable and resonates today. Is it great literature? Not by my standards, but there are worse books out there.
      I try to be philosophical about these current trends (Twilight, Fifty Shades, Hunger Games, Harry Potter . . . etc.). On the plus side, they seem to get people reading. If these readers aren’t as discerning as I would like them to be, well, such is life.

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