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The FIFTY SHADES Phenomenon
Nicki Hill
Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012 12:05 AM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175


I just read this interesting article on the popularity of Fifty Shades and what it means for the romance industry, and thought I'd post here if anyone else wants to take a read. 

http://articles.cnn.com/2012-07-13/living/living_fifty-shades-buzz-50-shades-success_1_e-books-novels-romance-readers

Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012 12:49 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438


Ha, this is a really cool article! Personally, I think Fifty Shades was "the right book at the right time" kind of phenomenon. There are much better written romance/erotica novels out there in my opinion, but Fifty Shades got lucky. Its prowess comes from the fact that it introduced a lot of readers to the erotica genre. It reached a wide audience that had never encountered anything like FS before.

That's why I really like Mala Bhattacharjee's quote in the article: " 'Fifty Shades' is no different from what's already being sold. The
major difference is that it has somehow become a part of current pop
culture, of the zeitgeist. People won't stop talking about it, so it
perpetuates the sales, perpetuates the mythos, of this work as some sort
of watershed for erotic fiction."

Thanks for posting, Nicki!

Nevena


Nicki Hill
Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012 1:35 PM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175


No problem.    I agree with the "right book at the right time" assessment.  It's so interesting to see what books "make it" and when and why.  I think they're spot on with the idea of changing the covers, too - I'm not a big fan of racy covers, myself, and only use them to figure out what type of romance is inside; otherwise, I flip past them very quickly on my e-reader and go on my merry way.  I think there's probably a decent percentage of readers like me who would be more likely to crack a romance if it wasn't obvious to everyone else that it was a romance, and I wouldn't be surprised to see sales go up with this idea.

Annah Johnson
Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:04 PM
Joined: 6/29/2012
Posts: 9


I was curious about the series because of all the hype that I had heard. I went to Amazon.com and read a few pages. It didn't do anything for me. Actually, the scene that I read just made me not want to read it at all. I had more fun reading the reviews. I highly recommend them.
Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 4:25 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438


The slick ala Eyes Wide Shut covers made all the difference, I agree! I'm not such a big fan of racy covers either, Nicki.

Annah, I feel the same way. I read like 2 chapters and couldn't go further. However, the parody, FIFTY SHAMES OF EARL GREY, was hilarious! Check it out. It's probably funnier if you've read the original books, though. 


Marcie
Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 2:09 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 103


I think it's a "right book at the right time" phenomena too, but I plan to attend my book club's meeting this month and listen closely to the non-writers thoughts on what they liked about it, and how many plan to read the entire trilogy.

Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 9:47 AM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438


I'm curious what non-writers think about the trilogy. You should report back to us after the meeting.
Nicki Hill
Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 12:16 PM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175


Yes, Marcie, that sounds great!  Please do report back. 

Nicki Hill
Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 4:46 PM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175


Here's a video on how FSG is affecting digital sales of romance.  Personally, I only own one romance in hard copy (plus two more that are primarily horror/paranormal with romantic/erotic subplots); all the rest of my romance stash is on my e-reader.  So it makes me wonder how many other readers out there were already tapping into e-book-only format before FSG came out.  I'm cool with it promoting more digital sales, though, since that's the market I have in mind for my own work. 

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/business/2012/07/19/soares-fifty-shades-of-publishing.cnn

Nicki Hill
Posted: Saturday, July 21, 2012 12:46 PM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175


This is a pretty fascinating blog post by author of Wired for Story Lisa Cron about the importance (or not) of good writing to good storytelling, vis-a-vis FSG:

http://www.wiredforstory.com/fifty-shades-of-story-vs-%E2%80%9Cwell-written%E2%80%9D/#comments


Atthys Gage
Posted: Saturday, July 21, 2012 6:08 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


I was wondering what all the hype was about.  After scoping a few pages, I still am.  Seems like a weak retread of stock erotica, a badly written 9 1/2 Weeks (and that was a pretty bad movie).   Goes to show, timing is everything.  But, my my, what mediocre writing!  
Nicki Hill
Posted: Saturday, July 21, 2012 10:37 PM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175


I have yet to read it myself, Atthys - I previewed a bit of it on Amazon once, but haven't gotten any further than that.  I'm imagining it being a bit like an adult version of Twilight (with a bit of a different theme, of course), where the narrator is probably fairly shallow, personality-wise (so it's easy for any reader to put themselves in her place), the environment/relationship is a bit risque or forbidden, and the love interest is smoky and aggressive and perhaps territorial over the narrator.  I think it's those sorts of elements that make it easy to get involved in a romance, and that as long as the romantic/erotic pull is strong, the readers will be able to forgive/overlook/ignore less-than-stellar writing (as long as it's not so bad that it's distracting).

Atthys Gage
Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2012 2:24 AM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


Nicki: I wasn't drawn in by Twilight either, and I'm not a big romance reader, so my opinion is pretty much irrelevant.  But it seems like a lot of the positive reviews focus on the therapeutic benefits its readers receive from the books.  If a reader discovers they like being dominated and this leads to a happier sex life, great.  Good for them.  But, lord, this stuff is ancient!  Virginal good girl succumbs to the domination fantasies of a troubled ("Stay away from me, baby, I'm bad news!") grey-eyed master, only to find that her true sexual fulfillment lies in giving in to his every whim...well, pardon me but I think I've seen this one before. 

If the writer had brought something new to this tired scenario, that would be one thing...but she didn't.  The writing is formulaic and cliche-ridden.  If people find it easy to read, that's probably because it doesn't challenge the reader, any more than your average bodice-ripper or letter to Penthouse.  I'm not talking about the subject matter.  I don't care about the subject matter.   But the dozen or so pages I read were bad.  Not comically bad, just plain old boring, no-risk writing.  The prose of least resistance. 


Nicki Hill
Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2012 3:19 AM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175


Oh, yeah, I'm definitely not gonna argue that it's not an old story.  Hence why so many romance publishers are trying to get in the game by packaging reprints that are similar to FSG.  It's not about how good or bad the writing is - it's about what's selling.  I'm not defending the quality whatsoever, but I do think it's pretty interesting that romance seems to be able to get away with quite a bit that would never fly in other genres.




Atthys Gage
Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2012 1:05 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


Looking over my previous post I can see that I probably unloaded more than I should have.  I'm sure Fifty Shades is no worse than many and better than some of the other bondage-submission erotica books out there.  BUT those books don't sell tens of millions of copies.  

Am I jealous?  Sure.  I've worked hard on what I've written, and part of that work has involved trying to appeal to a wider audience – you know, try to find a grabby plot hook or two, and write well but not so hifalutin that you have to appreciate my subtle use of the subjunctive mood to like it.  I still believe that there'll be an audience, but I'm not expecting millions, even in my grandest dreams.  

The sad (perhaps) truth is that most people really don't care that much about quality.  They might recognize it, even appreciate it, but they don't go looking for it.  They go looking for a book because they've heard about it through media or word of mouth and it sounded salacious or funny or because they just wanted to be in on what everyone else was talking about.  Fifty Shades even showed up on my low-tech radar, so I can only imagine just how big it really is.  Frankly, I had the same reaction to Twilight.  I don't know why it was such a hit.  I can't even really understand why Harry Potter was such a hit.  The difference there is that I liked Harry Potter very much, but that still doesn't explain three hundred million copies.  Of course, probably nothing can really explain that. 
Nicki Hill
Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2012 2:11 PM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175


I think it was in one of these links that I posted where it said that FSG has sold more copies at present than Harry Potter has in its history to date.  Pretty insane stuff.

I agree, I kill myself trying to make my writing the best it can be (though whether it's still any good is up to debate and individual tastes), and I have no illusions of grandeur whatsoever.  I can only hope that someday, somebody (with money, please) will like what I created enough to give it a chance on the market, period. 


Atthys Gage
Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2012 2:39 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


The figure I heard was approaching 30 million world wide, which is insane enough, and may be more than the original Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone.   (Obviously, it isn't a patch on Rowling's world wide sales for all seven books, which I believe to be approximately 500 million.)  It will be interesting to see how long the buzz lasts.  After all, Harry Potter still sells a lot of copies and probably will for years to come.  It's hard to picture 50 Shades being more than just a very successful flash in the pan.  I used to work in bookstores, and believe me, this year's biggest thing ever can go to the remainder table with blinding speed.  
Caitlin Bronaugh
Posted: Monday, July 23, 2012 9:25 PM
Joined: 7/23/2012
Posts: 2


I personally loved the 50 Shades books. I think they defiantly opened up the eyes of romance readers to the world of more erotic novels. You don't find many main stream books that explore bdsm or anything other than traditional sex. And the fact that it's not all about kinky sex and threesome's is refreshing. Some people refer to it as "Mommy porn" but I'm 22 years old and defiantly dont see it that way. I myself am an erotic/ romance novel writer and I think its refreshing to see someone stepping outside of the box and writing something most people may see as too much or just a heat of the moment buzz. I think the 50 Shades books will open up more doors for undiscovered erotic writers.

Nicki Hill
Posted: Monday, July 23, 2012 10:44 PM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175


Lots of people refer to erotic romance as "housewife porn," but those tend to be the people who've never read it, I think.  Though at 25, married, and primarily home for the summer, I suppose it fits me... ;P

I haven't read any of the books (yet...I'm sure I will at some point just to see what the buzz is about, though I tend to not be as big a fan of straight romance to begin with), but from what I've heard/excerpts I've read, I'm in agreement with Atthys so far in that it's not a "new" story.  There are quite a few BDSM stories out there in the commercial romance market, and FSG isn't necessarily the best or best-written one, so it's curious to see it skyrocket onto the bestseller's list.

I do think it would be fantastic if it helps to open that door to new authors, and I hope that turns out to be the case.  It'll also be interesting to see if it encourages romance writers of all different flavors, or just those who write kinky sex.

Alexandria Brim
Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 1:24 AM
Joined: 10/20/2011
Posts: 353


I do think it's a mixture of "right time" and "word of mouth." I was doing research on a blog post for self-publishing vs. traditional publishing and I recalled a book Amazon suggested I read. It was written by Sharon Lathon and was self-published Pride and Prejudice fanfiction where Elizabeth and Darcy just have lots and lots of sex, judging by the comments. And the comments are brutal on Amazon. Which makes me wonder--is it because Elizabeth and Darcy are too beloved?

@Caitlin: "You don't find many main stream books that explore bdsm"

True, but the BDSM community is actually against the book's portrayal, saying it is both inaccurate and dangerous.
Nicki Hill
Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 8:36 AM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175


Wow, Pride and Prejudice has certainly been seeing a number of reincarnations lately, hasn't it?

And that's pretty interesting about the BDSM community's feelings on Fifty Shades.  I'm assuming there's probably a warning in the front of the book(s) about not copying the behavior/seeking guidance before attempting anything?  I know several of the erotic romances I own have warnings like that; it seems like it's an automatic addition to the beginning of any book I own by a particular publisher, too, since that's a popular flavor for them.  Not that this would necessarily make the BDSM community feel any better about the accuracy of the content, but it's perhaps a small measure toward addressing the danger factor.


Alexandria Brim
Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 1:06 AM
Joined: 10/20/2011
Posts: 353


"Wow, Pride and Prejudice has certainly been seeing a number of reincarnations lately, hasn't it?"

It has. I guess because the book is in the public domain, so it's fair game. Amazon recommended Ms. Lathon's book to me because I had read Pamela Aidan's wonderful trilogy that retells the story from Mr. Darcy's point of view. While Austen told us Elizabeth's journey to loving Darcy, we see more of Darcy's journey in Aidan's books.

"I'm assuming there's probably a warning in the front of the book(s) about not copying the behavior/seeking guidance before attempting anything?"

Not that I've seen, but I can't bring myself to pick up the book. All I've seen has been the disclaimer that the story started out online under a different title. No mention that it was inspired by Twilight, though.

Arden Anderson
Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 2:22 PM
Joined: 8/31/2012
Posts: 3


My name is Arden, and I write thrillers rather than romance, though I do have a romance woven into the novels. I read the "Shade of Grey" trilogy, and I was certainly entertained by it. I'm not sure what its popularity, and others  books like it, say about women, but does it perhaps open up the idea of whether we really want to be all that "liberated??"  I don't mean in regard to our professional lives, but in our personal desires and needs.
Just though I'd drop the thought in.


Nicki Hill
Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 8:59 PM
Joined: 4/22/2012
Posts: 175


Hi Arden.  That's an interesting point you bring up, about how those types of books reflect on their readership.  To me, mainly what it reflects is the type of fantasy readers enjoy - fantasy which does not have to be in any way, shape, or form related to reality.  Just like I can enjoy reading post-apocalyptic or dystopian books without wanting to live in a post-apocalyptic or dystopian world, I should be able to enjoy reading kinky fantasies without wanting them to be my personal reality.

Which brings me to my question.  I'm not sure what you mean by "...does it perhaps open up the idea of whether we really want to be all that 'liberated'...".  Do you mean that we (women) say that we want to be free to express (and maybe be dominant with) our intimate/personal desires and needs, yet feel that we really want to be controlled?  Because personally, I don't think that's true at all. 

And since I know FSG has a bit of focus on BDSM, I'd like to point out that some women (in real life), just like some men, are going to enjoy being in a (safe and healthy) D/s relationship (as either the dominant or submissive partner), or enjoy engaging in (again, safe and healthy) S&M or other fetishes.  The key to "safe and healthy" that I've heard doesn't jive with the way FSG portrays BDSM is that the submissive person is always, always in charge of the situation, and the dominant person never uses their position of power to force a submissive to bend to their will.  In a healthy D/s relationship, there is no question of reluctance or dubious consent.  The submissive willingly gives up their power to the dominant person, whom they trust fully not to cause them harm, and whom they trust fully to back off as soon as the submissive person says the word.  If any of those elements - trust, full consent, concern for safety of and enjoyment by both partners - are lacking at any point, it becomes an unhealthy and unsafe situation.

This has really turned into rather a long-winded response, and it may possibly be a little TMI, but it's something I feel strongly about.  I am a woman who enjoys reading and writing erotica, both with and without kink, and to me this doesn't negate my desire to, in real life, be autonomous in bed and have the ability to make my desires known, or be more or less aggressive according to my moods, etc.  I may enjoy certain elements of kink in my own lifestyle now and then, but it doesn't mean I want my partner bulldozing me and ignoring my needs whenever we're together.  That sort of imbalance of power and ignoring of needs of both partners doesn't happen in a safe, healthy, trusting traditional relationship, and it doesn't happen in safe, healthy, trusting alternative relationships, either.  Relegate any deviations to fantasy, and assume that while (some) women may enjoy the idea of being bulldozed into reluctant submission by a strong, powerful, sensuous man, most women would probably consider the reality to be a form of rape.

Alexandria Brim
Posted: Friday, September 7, 2012 1:34 AM
Joined: 10/20/2011
Posts: 353


And don't forget that in reality, women do dominate. Dominatrix? In fact, some people I've heard complain about 50 Shades is that Christian, in reality, most likely would be the sub looking for a dom. And I'm sure there are women out there who would love to read that as much as they apparently love to read 50 Shades.
Arden Anderson
Posted: Friday, September 7, 2012 5:35 PM
Joined: 8/31/2012
Posts: 3


Hi, not long-winded, and very reasonable. I don't think women wnat to be "dominated," but I do think women o]love strong men, who respect them and are equal (and I did) was that he respected Anastasia, appreciated her (especially when she fell flat on her face into his office, and still maintained her dignity up to a point) and loved everything about her (maybe in spite of himself.) I think the that the author gave him a loving family made him much more interesting, as well as likeable.
I confess that in my own writing, my heroes are strong, loving men, willing to expres emotion, and without my realizing it, I've also given them loving families,(well,withone exception, -there's a half-brother in my most recent effort who's mad as a hatter and lethal.) My herioines are far from wimpy, but not afraid of letting the men they love care for and take care of them. Does that sound crazy?  
BTW, I  am mature enough (ha!) to have lived through the birth of the women's liberation movement. Men's reaction  was not exactly positive at the beginning, because our "role" up to then, was more in the June Cleaver mold! Today many women I know are the principle breadwiners for their familes, married or not, thanks to the reacent financial catastrophe, severe, where I live on the Faifield County "gold coast." A lot of childen are getting to now their fathers a lot better than they would have. I believe firmly that women should be paid on a par with men, and have the government of their own bodies and well-being. 
I have been in the classical musical field (opera) most of my professional life, and in that life, if you could do the job, and were a good colleague, nobody cared about anything else, (except maybe a few egocentric conductors and directors! With those, you won them over with your talent, your ability and your manner and your charm! Worked every time, and you never "lost face!" (The temperamental "diva" is mainly a myth. They don't last long.)

Uh-oh, too long!
Best wishes,
Arden 
 

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