It’s the fastest-selling novel for adults of all time. It’s mommy porn. It sold 4 million copies in the UK and 15 million in the U.S. In just four months. Wow. It’s saucier, rompier and dirtier than almost anything before. But you don’t need a Bard and Muse review of 50 Shades of Grey. What you need is to know the important sub-plots that’s the book’s meteoric rise to stardom has revealed about the publishing industry.
Two Important Shades Indeed
So, this is what women want! 50 Shades’ popularity has sent shockwaves down a publishing industry’s much-buffeted sonar system. They presumed that sexual and fantasy fiction must be suggestive to work. The sex is all in the mind, publishers like to state, so make it just juicy enough to get the imagination running wild. But that premise has been turned upside down with 50 Shades’ graphic descriptions of sexual activities. For this reason 50 Shades must be seen as a hugely important book. Readers don’t want sharp inhalations of breath in the voyeuristic age of Facebook and Youtube, they want triple penetration with double fisting for good measure.
A second shade of importance might be in the explanation of 50 Shades’ E-Book success. Instead of reading Lady Chatterley in full view of train companions, the commuter can now get their smut in the cover-less black vortex of the Kindle. No one knows what your reading after all. But this is perhaps a minor point compared to the great news that 50 Shades started its life as an E-book and then a print-on-demand paperback. This does add a hidden depth to the 50 Shades explosion and provides a reassuring example of how the hidden gem in the digital library can enjoy global acclaim every bit as much as those found in the 3 for 2 section of Waterstone’s (apostrophe included.)
But perhaps the most intriguing shade in the 50 Shades explosion is in the power of the accompanying parody.Almost instantly, two separate 50 Shades of Grey parody books have, somewhat surprisingly, hit the charts in their own right.50 Shades of Black & Blue by I B Naughtie has risen to #38 on the Amazon Kindle Store’s UK Bestseller list even though most critics agree it’s a commercial hi-jack with no literary merit. Similarly, 50 Shades of Red, White & Blue by Maggie Muff has also enjoyed success in the direct aftermath of the 50 Shades ‘motherbook’. What’s important about this? Well, for a start such parodies could only arrive in time in E-book form which is another example of the versatility of the digital book world compared to the more protracted paperback counterpart but also that when a ‘silly’ book comes along the e-book can always test just how far the silliness can fly. E-books probe; paperbacks wait. With that in mind, my new novel The Book That Made Even Cartman Spew will be out soon. Parodies welcome.