The social media buzz surrounding the erotica title Fifty Shades of Grey has resulted in impressive sales for author E.L. James, but the book itself—while an enjoyable and engaging read—is only half as exciting as the story of how the book came to market.
There has been a lot of media coverage surrounding authors who take a less than traditional route to publication, such as Amanda Hocking who inked a four book deal with St. Martin’s Press following her unique success as a self-published ebook author on Amazon. Likewise, a significant number of traditionally published authors like HP Mallory are enjoying the switch to self-publishing for some of their personal projects, while still writing for the traditional publishing industry.
But James’ title took a route that more and more authors are finding available, which is to self-publish a book electronically only to have it later picked up for publication by a traditional publishing imprint. In the case of Fifty Shades of Grey, the Random House imprint Vintage Books.
Yet, engaging might be a misleading word for the book. While it relies heavily on the taboo with eye-openingly detailed descriptions of the manifestations of a BDSM relationship, it is at heart still a tale woven with romance, intrigue, and a cliffhanger ending that will hopefully meld seamlessly into the second book in the trilogy, Fifty Shades Darker. Books one and two and the third installment, Fifty Shades Freed, have all enjoyed number one spots on the New York Times bestseller list and it’s fairly easy to see why.
James takes her readers on a completely understandable tour of the mindsets of two people whose sexual appetites and views on persona initially seem at odds with each other. Above all, James is able to blend the day-and-night lives of her characters with the utmost in tastefulness, something that is incredibly hard to achieve when writing about sex in what might be its most uncovered form. While the illicit depictions can be overtly graphic at times, the reader is never allowed to forget that these characters are in the midst of a living storyline as well.