The 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.
For those who’ve remained blissfully unaware, 50 Shades of Grey is the latest publishing phenom. Discussed obsessively everywhere from the Today show to Newsweek, the plot can be teased in just a few sentences: Christian Grey is a 27-year old billionaire in modern day Seattle who proposes an unusual relationship to graduating student, Anastasia Steele. He offers her a contract in which she would agree to serve as sub to his dom every weekend for a period of months.
We decided to subject the book to the scrutiny of our Pandora. This time it’s Sandy AAR and Jean AAR who open Pandora’s Box.
Jean AAR: I really wasn’t sure what to expect, considering all the buzz, but there also seemed to be a lot of hyperbole in either direction – either it was the greatest thing since the Pill or the worst thing ever published. So I kind of took it in stride. If I had to grade it, I’d give it a C+/B-. Parts of it are weirdly compelling, but other parts are just downright amateur. Still, it’s not really any different from hundreds of other romance novels.
Sandy AAR: I agree. It’s a romance novel. I kind of land in the B- territory. I thought it was kind of like an HP in a weird way. Mysterious gazallionaire meets virtuous student and sweeps her away to his lair yadda, yadda, yadda. But then there’s the sex. Which is actually pretty raunchy.
JW: Do you think the raunchiness gets tiring, or becomes unnecessary, especially in the second book? I haven’t read the third book yet, but I feel that if you took out two-thirds of the sex, edited heavily, and compressed, there’d be a B/B+ in there somewhere.