The Long Marketing Shadow of Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1)Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I haven’t yet figured out what all the hubbub is about this book. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James wasn’t nearly as bad as its critics would have you believe nor is it as great as its fans praise implies. It’s a decent romance offering that has one big foot in the erotic fiction genre. But it is by no means the first of such books, nor the best. That doesn’t mean that avid readers, authors, and publishers should be quick to dismiss it. There are plenty of great books out there and Fifty Shades might just help them get noticed.

People seem hung up on the fact that Fifty Shades started as Twilight fan fiction. Get over it! One could make the case that Twilight is nothing more than fan fiction for Romeo and Juliet. How an author is inspired for a story doesn’t matter. What matters is that an author writes a story good enough to keep people reading. How an author shares their story doesn’t matter either. No one would criticize an author for taking a piece they are working on to their critic group for feedback. Fan fiction just provides a large critic audience via a different medium. Fan fiction doesn’t make an author any more or less serious about their work. It used to be that storytellers could only use their voices as bards to communicate their ideas, but our world is filled with possibilities for communication. None of them is any more significant than another; a good story is a good story regardless of how you find it.

The graphic sex in Fifty Shades of Grey will get people talking about this book. A few people who haven’t seen the inside of a bookstore or library in a few years may find themselves purchasing a copy. And that is a great thing for all authors and publishers right now in an age of declining book sales. Anyway you can get a new reader (a new customer) to come into a bookstore, library, or online book shop it is good for all authors and publishers. Once people admit that they like reading, there is the opportunity for truly great books to be discovered, for new authors to find a following, and for publishers to sell a lot of books. So three cheers for Fifty Shades.

To avid book readers I say: Please read it. Talk about it to anyone you know who hasn’t read a book as an adult for the simple pleasure of reading. Tell them why you loved it. Or hated it. Get that non-reader to read. Have a discussion about it. And then ask that former non-reader to read something else that you can discuss with them. Share your love of reading.

To authors and publishers I say: Help Fifty Shades and James have their moment in the sun. You should be so lucky. Then wait patiently to see if the long tail of marketing theory holds true. Your books could be discovered by James’ readers; either because it is somehow like James’ or because it is nothing like the Fifty Shades series. Whether you want to admit it or not, you might just have Ana Steele and Christian Grey to thank for your next book sale. Fifty Shades could be the best, cheapest, and most sustainable marketing plan you’ve ever had.

To aspiring writers I say: Be inspired. Maybe you loved it and want to create something similar but with your vision. Or maybe you hated it and know that you can write something better. Be inspired by anything, share it with anyone, and improve your craft and skills any way you can. Good stories will pour out of you if you have the conviction to write.

For inspiration on how the long tail of marketing is going to work from Fifty Shades of Grey here are a few of my suggestions:

  • If you like the sex but want more plot:
    • Read Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake or Merry Gentry series as they will entertain you with complex plot lines and hot, passionate sex.
  • If you want to explore the darker side of sex:
  • If you want romance but really want to tone down the graphic sex:
    • Read anything by Brenda Joyce. Her Francesca Cahill Deadly series will provide plenty of mystery with hot romance that won’t embarrass you to read in the same room with your mother.

From Fifty Shades and with three suggestions, I’ve just opened the door into the following genres:

  • Paranormal Romance
  • Mystery
  • Historical Romance
  • Erotica
  • Horror
  • Contemporary Romance
  • Science Fiction

Let the reading begin…

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2 thoughts on “The Long Marketing Shadow of Fifty Shades of Grey

  1. Thank you, Zabeth! That was the best written and well thought out blog on the 50 Shades phenomenon I have read. As both a writer and an avid reader who has turned my nose up at E L. James’s breakout, I now feel like I have some good reasons to give it a shot. Well said. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you liked my post. I think *any* book that gets people reading these days is good for business. The more we can get people reading and talking about books, the more books that will sell. Time will tell us what are really the good books. Those are the ones people will still be reading 50 years from now.

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