The 50 Shades of Grey Phenomenon

It seems that everyone is talking about 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Libraries are debating stocking it, more than 10 million copies have been sold, it is putting feminism in the hot seat, but most importantly it gets people talking about publishing. According to The Atlantic, “The erotic novel became a New York Times bestseller without a traditional publisher, thanks to word of mouth.” 

More than anything, I think 50 Shades of Grey highlights the attractiveness and ease of e-books (which is where it got its’ early notoriety) and the power of word-of-mouth, whether spoken, emailed or sent via text. The fact that it started as an e-book meant women could buy it and read it without anyone knowing. And the more women who bought it, the more they talked about it. It became a secret club, it was the definition of a Buzz Book.

It also has a David and Goliath edge to the story. According to Sarah Fay in The Atlantic, “Self-published authors are the literary equivalent of self-made men and women.” E.L. James had no traditional distribution channels and therefore had to go through other methods to get her book read…and read widely. She tapped into a genre that has a huge fan base and it became the scandalous book everyone was itching to read out of pure curiosity. The more people talk, the more books sell.

Whether or not you agree with the fanfare, you can’t deny it has become the publishing story of 2012.

Why do you think 50 Shades of Grey has taken on a life of its own? Have you read it? Do you plan to read it? Do you agree with the attention?

One thought on “The 50 Shades of Grey Phenomenon

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