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Friday, 6 July 2012

Why did 50 Shades of Grey make it so big?

There are rumours that the delectable Ryan Gosling, my favourite actor may play Christian Grey in the film that will inevitably made of '50 Shades of Grey'. The 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon is a puzzler I was trying to explain to my 91 year old mum. She couldn't get her head around why a book which in her day would have been unthinkable in polite society had become so popular. What on earth has brought erotica slap bang (if that's the right phrase to use!) into the mainstream so that respectable grandmothers are buying it in Tescos? It is extraordinary that a very niche area of writing should suddenly sell squillions of books. So, I tried to explain. Firstly the author E L James worked in television first so had a background in PR and had built up a sizeable following on social media networks when she supplied her book initially on a print on demand basis. This meant that once it started selling, the publishers knew it was worth taking a risk. Then, her book was originally written as fan fiction, a genre I had to explain to my dear mama. This, I told her is where people cannot get enough of their favourite genre. Fan fiction is a sort of homage to things people already love like Dr Who or the Alien films. 50 Shades was a homage to the phenomenally successful Twilight series and so neatly jumped on that bandwagon. It was very clever of E L James to put together two protagonists - Christian who is a millionaire and into some seriously adult stuff with Anna who is somewhat virginal and unworldly. The two would be unlikely to get it together in just the way that the two protagonists in Twilight had their seemingly insurmountable difficulties. This is ideal for a searing romance. Give your couple huge differences and then find a way to get them together, it's classic Romeo and Juliet stuff. Why erotica? Erotica is already selling big time particularly with the advent of Kindles. E L James was extremely savvy to pander to that trend even though authors such as Kitti Bernetti , Lucy Felthouse , K D Grace and Kay Jaybee have been writing and selling it for years. I explained to my aged relative that 50 Shades is therefore a perfect storm which has come together in our interesting age of social networking, self-publishing and the advent of bookselling in the supermarkets so that you can now buy erotica with your frozen vegetables. I haven't read 50 Shades myself but have read reviews of it, good and bad. The amazing thing for me is what a fantastic story there is behind its success. Even that respected newspaper The Independent is running an article claiming 50 Shades might start off a baby boom. If you'd written a novel about a woman who decides one day to write a smutty book that would be read around the world by grannies and twenty-somethings, readers would never have believed it!

5 comments:

Judy Jarvie said...

Great post Cara and it is incredible isn't it. I've boggled at the amount of people I've overhead in supermarkets talking about it!

K D Grace said...

Great post, Cara,

Thanks for the clear explanation of how the 50SoG came about! And thanks for the shout-out.

Kay said...

Great blog hun. Would never have dreamt of this media storm just a few years back! Thanks for the mention hun! The link is www.kayjaybee.me.uk if anyone wants a peep. Xxx

Lucy Felthouse said...

Thanks for the shout out, Cara! I appreciate it, and think your write up was fab :)

Cara Cooper said...

It really is incredible Judy, the stuff that dreams are made of. Hi girls!!! How on earth did I manage to miss your link Kay, sorry. My IT skills leave a lot to be desired I'm afraid. I'll try and go back to the post and pop it in.