As a bookseller, I feel I need to comment on the incredible popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I haven’t read the books and probably won’t because those type of books aren’t my cup of tea. This blog post will discuss my observations on this incredibly popular book in a humorous light.
Remember guys, as a bookseller, I don’t judge. If I judged people who bought Fifty Shades of Grey, I may as well judge the men in suits buying Playboy and the teenage girls buying paranormal romance. It’s silly to judge from my standpoint. A book is a book is a book.
When my co-workers told me about this book, my expression was this:
Then, when I saw the sold out status of our first shipment of Fifty Shades of Grey, my expression was like this:
This expression remained after we sold out of our second and third shipment as well as when we nearly sold out of our fourth shipment. Each shipment contained over 250 copies.
Allow me to explain. I live in a Southern town. Most of the woman here aren’t your average uptight businesswomen or single ladies with the world at their feet. They are the stay-at-home soccer moms and socialites. They are old women whom you expect to bake you cookies if they were your grandmother or give you a hug when you see them at Church. They aren’t people whom you would expect to see all over these raunchy novels.
I don’t judge. I’ll leave the judging to you, dear reader. I just find it completely baffling how excited these women are when they get the sequel or the last book. I’m amused with how they will insist the book must be in an opaque bag while they glance from side to side to make sure no one’s watching. I feel awkward when an old lady asks me if the book is any good and I’m two seconds from grinning mischievously when a woman tells me that all her friends told her to read it, but won’t tell her what it is about.
That last part is what spawns Image 2. A lot of these woman whom I see at the register will buy the book blindly. They had no idea what it is about, yet they will buy the book anyway because their friends told them to. This book has become a product of herd mentality. If the herd is going to the realm BDSM fiction, then everyone in the herd must follow without question. If the book was $7.99, maybe I wouldn’t mind so much. However, with tax, the book is $17.07 (Yea, I memorized it. That shows how many copies we’ve sold). That would pay for a nice meal. What if they don’t like the book? Well that’s $17.07 wasted all because they did what their friends told them to do. Whether the book is well-written or not, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is if their friends are reading it.
What does that say about book culture today? Is the quality of writing no longer popular? Are we now a society that just goes after the novel with the biggest fan-base instead of the best quality? Depending on how you view Twilight, I guess that book can serve as a good answer to my questions. Anyone interested in taking this thought process further is welcome to write something in the comments. I’d love to see what you all think.
That’s not to say that I think E.L. James is a bad writer.
I want to give monster props to E.L. James. This book was, from what I hear, originally on a website, but so many people liked it that she turned her work into an e-book. Popularity continued and the e-book went to print. It’s really amazing that her book earned publication based on public opinion versus an editor in an office. Her fate was in her readers hands from beginning to end, not just the end result of a good decision made by a publishing house. I think that is something we should admire. Her success story gives hope to other aspiring writers who have enough rejection letters to go around the world. Her real world story tells us writers that our work really isn’t at the mercy of a big scary editor, but can be successful through other means like blogs.
Hey! That means A Fidgety Writer has a chance! 😀