Fifty Shades of Success

There was recently an article in THE GUARDIAN by Hannah Ellis-Petersen about the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY phenomenon, due to the most recent release of GREY. If you aren’t a fan, you are probably beyond fed up with all the hype. When are we going to stop talking about it? Why do we care so much?


Hannah’s article perfectly captures why we should never stop talking about FIFTY SHADES- it has completely transformed the erotica genre, let alone the publishing landscape itself. Despite if you read the book or not, nor if you find the genre enticing or sickening, there is so much we can learn from this single book.

As we all know, the book was self-published fan fiction before being “discovered.” The author was unknown and the genre was taboo. Critics are harsh on E.L. James, many label her writing as “boring and clunky.” Some aren’t afraid to say that it is the most poorly written book to ever be published. Putting all the book’s challenges and criticisms aside, somehow it still managed to do the impossible- becoming one of the most read and talked about books of the past few years.

It is now very clear what made this book so successful- the readers. It proved that all readers are really looking for is a good story and they don’t care how they get it. Historically, as Hannah points out, the publishing industry’s opinion used to be the only thing that mattered. If they didn’t like your writing then you were out of luck, it wasn’t getting published. Their opinion was mostly based on the literary style and quality of writing. We are now seeing that readers have a completely different opinion how what makes good writing and that opinion is really starting to matter.


Not only did FIFTY SHADES start to force writers/authors to think more about their audience rather than their editors or agents, it also catapulted digital publishing. It showed that digital publishing is actually a fantastic way to publish quickly, build a platform, and reach the masses. The print publisher followed the trends of digital publishing when releasing the print books, releasing each book really close to each other. “Thick and fast” worked in the digital world, why wouldn’t it work in the print realm as well?  FIFTY SHADES shattered traditional print habits and never looked back.

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY also completely legitimatized the erotica genre, pushing it from the back of the book shelf into the spotlight. It took what many readers want (a deep love story) and cast it in light of a completely different world (BDSM). It was new, intriguing, and risky. It was wanted, or perhaps it was needed. Reading should be enjoyable and no one can be the judge of that better than the readers themselves.

That is why we shouldn’t stop talking about or learning from books that overcome the impossible, whether we want to rip the pages to shreds or keep reading. Write On.