English: A female African Bush Elephant raises...

“Don’t look at me! I sure haven’t read it!”

I want to talk about Fifty Shades of Grey, the originally self-published romance novel that started as Twilight fan fiction with elements of S&M and bondage that has been ruling the bestseller lists for weeks. I don’t feel like anything that can sell that many copies without those of us that sell for a living stopping to take a look.

Why, yes, I am a dork. Clearly.

Fair disclosure: I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey myself but MANY friends have told me to read it so I’ve been somewhat surrounded by fans. I haven’t read it partly because my To Read pile is insanely long and I’m really freaking busy at the moment but I’m also not sure if I want to read it because it doesn’t sound like my kind of book. (If you’re curious what my kind of book is, here’s my Goodreads page. My taste is somewhat random.) But I’ll probably end up reading it eventually because I like to know what everyone else is reading/thinking about.

What I want to know is, what do you think as a writer (published, unpublished, aspiring or otherwise) or peddler of goods (digital or physical) of the success of this formerly fan-fic sensation?

On one hand, I find myself happy that people are excited about a book no matter what it’s about. I like when people are reading in general as it makes me feel like there is still hope for this earth. It’s also another run-away self-publishing success story which can only mean good things for the future.

On the flip side, though, the rumors that it’s not well written make me a little sad simply because I’m afraid a poorly written book will turn a casual reader off of reading in general. Though, if someone loves it and doesn’t see anything wrong with the writing, then it could start them on a life-long reading habit. So that could go either way.

As a career writer, of course I feel that little twinge of “Oh, sure, THIS book is a bestseller but what about MINE?” because I’m obviously human. But I don’t feel the venom towards E. L. James (EL? Might that actually be code for elephant?) that a lot of other writers do because, frankly, I like to see anyone with stuff to sell succeed no matter who they are. To me, we’re all in the same boat and a victory for any one of us is a victory for all.

Sales of anything tell me there’s a way to make money no matter how down the economy and I see no reason not to cheer it on. I don’t think a sale of this book has anything to do with whether my books sell or not but you may disagree.

But I want to turn this over to you now.

  • What do you think of the runaway success of this book?
  • What lessons do you think writers and sellers can learn from it?
  • Does the success of a book like this annoy you or do you see it as a good thing for the big picture?
  • Why has no one on the entire freaking internet photoshopped a silly pic of an elephant in S&M gear that I could use for this post? You people disappoint me. (In other news, stop abusing elephants. Seriously.)