Pub Rants

Why 50 Shades of Grey Makes Agent Lives Harder

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STATUS: The appointment schedule is firming up! Get ready for some posts on what editors will be looking for in 2012.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THIS IS IT by Kenny Loggins

It’s pretty simple. We agents go to conferences and really drive home the fact that writers need to master their craft. Wow us with masterfully written opening pages. Stop butchering the English language.

Then a work comes along and blows that advice out of the water.

Readers have called 50 Shades of Grey any number of things: campy, fun, spirited, hilarious, worth the money, a fast read.

But well written has not been one of them.

So what do we say when a novel inexplicably becomes wildly popular, sells like crazy, and part of the cultural lexicon?

You got me. Maybe I can say this is a one-in-a-million happenstance of all stars aligning.

But I can say it does make our jobs harder. There will be any number of writers who will be convinced they can do same. Gosh I hope my query inbox doesn’t become inundated. No matter what 50 Shades is, I would not have been the agent to spot its “genius.”

Plain and simple.


96 Responses

  1. Carmen Webster Buxton said:

    Don’t you think one reason for that book’s success is that the average reader is not really that discriminating about things like style or even grammar? When a writer “hones his craft,” it’s at least partly because he has to get his work past an editor, and editors have more discerning taste than the average reader. That’s one reason they’re editors.

  2. R.S. Emeline said:

    And for this, I am happier than I can express while typing on a smart phone. I don’t care how campy, or whatever, a story is. If the writing is as bad as it is in that book, I can’t get past it. I want to take a red pen and mark the crap out of it, and I’m not even an editor.

    Glad to know there is still sanity in the publishing/ agent world. Thank you.

  3. LupLun said:

    I actually like that, in theory at least. It’s punk rock publishing: No skill, no talent, no ability, just three chords and a message that resonates with your audience. And that’s all you need, really: the ability to speak to your audience. Lack of musicianship is not only not a problem, but can be parlayed into a selling point: it’s proof of your authenticity.

    The thing to keep in mind is that this does not diminish the value of good craftsmanship. During the era of punk, we still had traditional rock and pop bands that succeeded in selling records. We also had people who could make themselves heard with less. One does not negate the value of the other. Is it for everyone? No. But it’s a way to get noticed.
    -LupLun
    Shooting for the Moon

  4. Anonymous said:

    I won’t lie, it’s an odd message for those of us wanting to go into the industry. It’s like, I obsess over style, grammar, pacing, prose, structure, but should I? I may be stylistically proud of a book in the end, but will it sell? Have I been wasting my time obsessing over something that might become ‘old fashioned’? Should I put the grammar books down and crack open some Twilight or pull a Cassandra Claire and run a fanfiction piece through search and replace and call it a day? This is a very odd time for writing, a very odd time indeed. Agents, editors, books and history all tell us one thing, but the bestseller list goes out of its way to tell us the exact opposite. It’s not discouraging, it’s more confusing.

  5. Eddie Louise said:

    There is one thing that can explain it:

    Twinkies

    For some people junk is what they want all the time. For others, junk is an occasional guilty indulgence. For still others, they only try the junk once. Add all those people together and that is a lot of Twinkies.

    Thing is – the market won’t withstand 100s of types of Twinkies. And it is difficult to pin down exactly WHAT makes a Twinkie appealing anyway – except its vague resemblance to cake which you already love.

    Editors who are looking for the ‘next’ 50 Shades are looking for the ‘next’ Twinkie.

    Good luck.

  6. Anonymous said:

    It’s not that hard to explain if you know why the book took off in the first place. Fans of the fanfiction the writer wrote for Twilight pushed the book to their friends. If not for the established fanbase and the idea that the main characters were actually Bella and Edward (shh… don’t tell, it’s a dirty little secret, wink, wink) it never would have been a success at all.

    People who first bought 50 Shades, weren’t buying 50 Shades at all. They were buying Twilight porn. They passed the book around to others, creating hype, and then others bought the book because of the hype.

  7. Scott Eagan said:

    Kristin,

    I am glad someone else is in agreement with this one. I posted on this one and was suddenly bombarded by people thinking this was a piece of great writing. Personally it scares me, if they think this was good writing, what do you think their writing will be. I, like you would not have been an agent to have seen what the “genius” was in that book.

  8. Ebony McKenna. said:

    I haven’t read it, but the success of well-written novels makes me want to be a better writer.

    And as much as this might make me sound bitter, the success of “not well written” novels makes me bang my head into my keyboard.

    BUT

    I’m wondering if this is part of the deal. People like it for the reason that it’s bad. That they feel they could do better, if they had the time and could be bothered? It’s not so well written that people feel threatened?

    I don’t know.

    What the heck, I’ll bang my head on the keyboard and see if I feel better.

  9. Anonymous said:

    It’s not consistently good writing (though it isn’t consistently bad either) — but it is good storytelling.

  10. Anonymous said:

    It’s accessible literature that doesn’t speak down to the reader. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has read the stories either as fanfic or as “original” fiction agree that it’s not mentally engaging but it grabs them emotionally, the characters grab you by the left nipple clamp and drag you along for the ride.

    Just like with the people in our lives, if you love something enough you can see beyond the scars, scabs and other imperfections.

  11. Eva said:

    The twinkie post is spot on, as was the post about the Twilight fan base. The trilogy is an anomoly, and I don’t think it’s because the average reader can’t tell good writing from bad. As much as I cringe while reading (and I am reading it), there are other parts I enjoy. The author has managed to make me care about these characters.

  12. Debra Lynn Lazar said:

    I have no interest in reading this “hot” book, so I totally can relate to how you feel. I prefer women’s fiction with intelligence. If I want a 50 Shades… vibe I’ll read Penthouse Letters. 😉

  13. Anonymous said:

    50 Shades of Grey is not my cup of tea. I can’t get past the horrific prose to enjoy the story.

    But worse than the author’s repetitive descriptions, cardboard characters, and use of the term “inner goddess”, are the people who say, “If this can become a bestseller, I should write a book”. Or worse, “If this is a bestseller, why can’t you even get an agent?” (I’ve heard that second one twice. Makes me want to beat my head against a wall).

    I don’t know why this book has been successful. I’m going to agree with the previous poster who talked about the Twilight fanbase and hype.

    With the rise of the Kindle, there was always going to be a break out “mommy porn” bestseller. In my opinion, this was the wrong book being hyped up at the right time.

  14. Neurotic Workaholic said:

    That’s interesting. I haven’t really paid much attention to the reviews, because I haven’t paid the book. But I just assumed that it was well-written because it was a best-seller. On the other hand, I’ve read plenty of popular books that I didn’t like very much.

  15. T.L. Bodine said:

    Dittoing “twinkies” and “Twilight porn” and “breakout mommy porn bestseller” comments above. Those are all spot-on.

    FWIW, as a real book, it’s pretty bad. As a sexy fanfic, it’s pretty good. And a lot of people read sexy fanfics that are a whole lot (a WHOLE LOT) worse and enjoy them.

    I’m still “wtf”ing that a fanfic is a NYT best-seller, but then again, it’s not like it’s the first time a really terrible book has hit it big. Da Vinci Code, anyone? I have a book called Killer Crabs that was apparently a best-seller in the 70s. I’ve never read it all the way through, but when I feel down on myself I crack open a few pages and it makes me smile.

    I’m kind of hoping the slush pile floods with 50 Shades clones. Then it’ll be that much easier to discard them and see the really good queries 😉

  16. Anonymous said:

    The thing is, as a fanfic reader, knowing this story was originally fanfic, I find it a little hilarious. Because there are at least hundreds, probably thousands or more, stories of similar content, quality, and length across various fandoms–all available for free, written and read for the pure enjoyment of it. There’s absolutely no need to pay money for this kind of story.

    Honestly, I bet a lot of the reason it’s popular is because it started as fanfic. Posted first as fanfic for Twilight, rode Twilight’s coattails to gain an audience, then published with an already established fanbase who’s internet-savvy and likely posted early rave reviews. I imagine that had a lot to do with it, because it certainly doesn’t seem like it would have been successful if it had come out of the gate as an original novel.

  17. Daniel Donovich said:

    People may notice and get excited about shooting stars, but those burn out and are completely forgotten. People may not pay much attention to the stars, but they’ve been burning for billions of years.

    I’d rather be the star…

  18. Aurora said:

    I work in a library, and I have no interest in reading 50 Shades (yet), but I will occasionally flip to a random page if a copy passes through my hands as I put it up on the hold shelf. It may actually be the first book I’ve ever encountered that falls into the “so bad it’s good” category. It’s the Birdemic of books.

    The page I remember that made me snort ran something along the lines of, “I knew Dr. Greene was curious about my relationship with Mr. Grey, but I doubted she could possibly imagine his RED ROOM OF PAIN, or what went on between us there.” (Emphasis mine.)

    I bet she could if you tried her. She is a doctor, after all.

  19. Yvonne Osborne said:

    I haven’t read it but it makes me cringe to hear libraries are pulling it off shelves. If I choose to read it, the library is where I’d go because I wouldn’t want to drop a dime. And libraries are not supposed to censure, even in Florida and Georgia.

  20. Anonymous said:

    I read 50 Shades when it was a fan fic at the urging of my sister, who is, and I’m loathe to admit this, addicted to the Twilight saga and reads a huge amount of fan fiction. I’m a writer and after I read the first few pages of Ms. James story, I commented that the writing was horrific. My sister begged me to keep reading, saying that the writing got better. Um, no, it really didn’t, but here’s why I think it’s such a success-the author took the Edward and Bella characters to a whole new level. What Stephenie Meyer wouldn’t do with the characters, E.L. James did, and for those women who became obsessed with Edward, this was just the perfect thing for them. Yes, the writing is awful, and yes, as a writer who is trying to be published and doing everything ‘right’ to make that happen, the fact that this author got a seven figure deal for these books is just plain disheartening.

  21. Linda Fausnet said:

    I agree wholeheartedly. If you are a real writer, you are SUPPOSED to care about things like grammar and punctuation. Unless you are doing it on purpose like e.e. cummings, there is no excuse for shoddy grammar. I agree that telling a good story is more important than grammar overall, but I think being lazy about grammar just makes you a hack. I’m curious to read the book but I don’t want to support it by buying it. People may be able to overlook the problems as they get into the story, but why should they have to? Get an editor and show some respect for the craft!

    Like a lot of writers, I can’t help but be impressed when a self-published book takes off because it just shows that nobody really knows what will sell. Right now I’m being told that my gay-themed book won’t sell because the audience is too small (as if only gay people would read it…I’m not gay and I wrote it!) I will probably self-publish it eventually because I am really passionate about the story. If it sells 10 copies, that’s better than nothing. But I’m going to learn how to self-publish, hire an editor, and do it RIGHT because I care about my craft.

  22. Anonymous said:

    What exactly has changed since time immemorial? Isn’t The Davinci Code the best selling novel of all-time? there have always been, and always will be, literary geniuses and mass-market bestsellers. there is a story well-written and a story well-told. Sometimes they converge, sometimes they don’t.

  23. Miss Sharp said:

    It’s all a matter of taste and unfortunately, the public’s taste is growing crasser every day.

    As far as the cultural acceptance of poor literature, I personally blame the American education system.

    But it comes right back to what people want and it’s really not so surprising that what they want is publically displayed sex.

    I guess that makes the second culprit in the case Hollywood.

    And who has been in charge of the American educational system and of Hollywood for DECADES?

    Liberals.

  24. Mags said:

    Don’t overthink it. As others have said–the initial success was from the Twilight fans and now it’s expanded via word of mouth into the mommy porn group (which has some crossover with Twilight).

    But I think Kristin’s real concern is that she’s now going to see 50 shades of imitators (and I fully expect publishers to publish imitators). I feel sorry for the slush pile readers!

  25. Anonymous said:

    I wonder, in 50 years will our grandchildren be singing its praises? The Great Gatsby is a classic now, but it’s riddled with pages and pages of dialog that honestly is very difficult to follow. Yet, my rather intelligent professor in college explained that the vague-ness and all of the things left out of the story were part of what made it great and is an extension of the period.

    IMO, 50 shades is a product of our time – good or bad.

  26. M.Ziegler said:

    The story, like several other best sellers, isn’t written well but if you get past the writing sometimes the story can suck you in. Although with this one the first two books were easier to get through then the third. The third jumped a lot in the start, I think it broke several more literary rules then the first two.

    All the same a story is all most people need. It does make a writer cringe to know that we pour our hearts out to make our stories look their best and then something else gets published that is …subpar. Maybe it’s jealousy who knows. All I know is that I want my work to looks it’s best because that is what people will know me by. So yes she got published but she will forever be tainted as the writer with a good story that was poorly written. That does taint any further writing she might do.

    That being said i know people are crazed that it was fan fiction. Well maybe it was but it is original enough that if you didn’t know it was fan lit you probably wouldn’t have made an Edward Bella connection.

  27. MegS said:

    I’m not sure this a one-in-a-million instance. Did we all read “Twilight?” I don’t know if any one used the moniker “well-written” for that either.

    As an aspiring writer it is frustrating that these blockbuster titles are so sub-par from a craft standpoint. Of course, “The Hunger Games” has been an exception to that trend.

  28. Courtney said:

    I agree with MegS-Twilight was very popular, but well-written it was not. I think some authors are good story tellers, not necessarily good writers and vice versa. If it makes things harder for agents, it certainly has to make things harder for writers who actually come up with original stories. I’m less troubled by the fact that the writing is so poor (which I think universally acknowledged) than the fact that this was FAN FICTION originally.

  29. Anonymous said:

    Obviously the story resonated with many, many folks, or they wouldn’t haven’t bought it, told their friends about it, blogged about it, etc, etc.

    Complain all you want about the grammar and other such issues with the books. E L James is now very rich because of her books. Doesn’t matter how it started. Fanfic, or whatever. She’s enjoying her day in the spotlight. As writers, we should all be congratulating our fellow writers on their success — not browbeating them because you thought their work was sub-par.

    Her work isn’t going to affect your work. Her books are not going to affect the future of printed works. Not even the saleability of your work. Don’t worry about it.

    Let’s not all forget one specific point: books are not a zero-sum game. Just because consumers are buying up her books doesn’t mean that they won’t buy yours!

    Don’t trash her fans. You might loose a fan because of it.

  30. Anonymous said:

    I saw this at Barnes and Noble and skimmed through a few pages and immediately put it down. Erotica isn’t remotely my taste to begin with, and the writing sealed the deal. Then I was at Costco with my mom, turned the corner around the book table and BOOM: 50 Shades of Grey. At Costco?! That’s when you know something’s blowing up. I’ll echo what some others have said: Twilight. Twinkies. Good storytelling does not = good writing. If you look at all of the juggernaut books of the last 15 years you’ll find a common theme: good storytelling. Harry Potter, Twilight, Da Vinci Code, Hunger Games, The Help – all written with varying degrees of skill but also with a compelling story and characters people connect to. I think what the success of this book proves is that the public is willing to ignore bad writing if the story is something they’re invested in. I know if I were published, though, I’d want to be known for my writing skill AND my storytelling. It’s the authors who land in that sweetspot whose books live on the longest.

  31. Nicole Mc said:

    I think these things just happen. As an aspiring author, this in no way gives me any ideas about not going about things the right way! People should chalk this up to being a fluke. I would never want to have a bestseller that people refer to as “not well written”. (Well, I might appreciate the money…but I digress.) If I get published I want to be darn proud of what I put into the world. I think the person that would want to try their hand at this kind of luck would be the same people to write poorly anyway. Maybe not, just my thoughts! 🙂 It makes me think of this quote.

    “I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Thomas Jefferson

  32. Anonymous said:

    There is nothing at all surprising about the success of this. You may love creme brulee or Godiva chocolates, but every once in awhile (and MUCH of the time for the more crass ppl out there), you just want–you guessed it: a twinkie. –though I never much liked twinkies myself. A Hershey bar will do just fine.

  33. Anonymous said:

    This post (okay, mostly the comments) makes me feel sad and tired as both a reader and a writer. The writing in 50 Shades won’t win any prizes, sure, but it was not unreadable despite all the verbal shuddering going on in this thread. In fact, I’d say it was comparable to many, many, many other genre books out there. Yes, the prose is merely serviceable (and that is more than okay for millions of readers, you must realize), but it isn’t some garbled, unreadable mess like people are making it out to be. As to the book’s success…most people read the book for the story, and the story is pretty gripping. Ms. James spins a good yarn. There was a spark there.

    For the record, I’m not some 50 Shades fangirl. I’m not even 100% sure the author’s last name is James, haha! Erotic lit is not really my cup of tea. I read the first book, but not the subsequent ones, etc. And when I picked it up, I had no idea it originated as Twilight fanfic. I just thought–hey, this looks like a fun and fluffy and slightly kinky read, I’ve seen a lot of people raving about it, and I feel like taking a break from heavy literature right now. And you know what, I enjoyed it. It was fluff, some of it was cheesy, some of it was repetitive. Okay. But when everyone starts wailing that THIS IS THE END OF GOOD LITERATURE FOREVA OMG WE ARE DOOMED, or worse, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE UNWASHED MASSES WHO LIKE THIS DRIVEL??, that’s when I start to roll my eyes. Are we so out of touch with the world? People enjoy interesting stories. People like something that grabs them, even if it isn’t a breathtaking masterpiece of literary genius. Let’s not be hipster snobs here and pretend we can’t comprehend this. I get a little confused/frustrated sometimes when people DON’T like a breathtaking masterpiece of literary genius, but not when people like the lighter fare. And yes, you can like both.

    I’m sure Ms. James aspires to improve her craft. She’s admitted the writing isn’t brilliant. She knows she has room for improvement. And hey, not everybody gets to be (or wants to be) Jonathan Franzen or Jeffrey Eugenides. I hope she continues to grow as a writer without losing the spark and passion that brought her so many fans in the first place. But I wish writers didn’t feel the need to hate on each other so much, especially when someone they deem unworthy achieves success. I’ve observed the same phenomenon with Stephenie Meyer (from fellow writers, mind you), and it just baffles me. I understand that she isn’t going to win the next Pulitzer for fiction, but she’s still a author telling stories people love, and I think that deserves at least some respect from her community of fellow writers. But no, she’s treated with a lot of scorn and derision. It just makes me sad.

    FWIW, I’m not against discernment when it comes to writing. In fact, I think that’s extremely important, and I’m studying the work of authors like Flannery O’Connor and Joyce Carol Oates (and not the work of Ms. Meyer or Ms. James) when I want to learn something about excellent writing, sure. But I am against all the fellow author-bashing. It isn’t very classy.

  34. Steven J. Wangsness said:

    What can I say? I’ve never heard of this book. Which puts it in company with my book, Tainted Souls, which most people have never heard of. So I’m good company, I guess?

    Twilight wasn’t so well written, either, and that didn’t seem to hurt sales.

  35. Magan said:

    Because for some reason women like to read about a poor girl getting beat all in the means of sex?

    No thank you. I’d rather read Twilight again then suffer through the series.

  36. Anonymous said:

    I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey and I won’t either. The story doesn’t interest me in the least. So I went to Amazon and read the first two pages.

    James’s prose has the same quality that Stephanie Meyers, Dan Brown, Nora Roberts, Clive Cussler, WEB Griffin, Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, Stephen King, John Grisham, Julie Garwood, Jayne Anne Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Robert Ludlum, Ken Follet, Anne MCCaffrey, et al all have. It is compelling to read. It is so compelling that the reader loses themselves in the story and doesn’t notice mistakes in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. That is talent. That can’t be taught. And quite frankly, I would rather write like one of these authors, than some literary genius no one but the literati have ever heard of or will ever hear of.

    Unfortunately if you’re the type of person who notices spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes when you read, then you will not be able to recognize compelling prose even when it sits up and slaps you in the face.

    And I feel sorry for you because when I read a book and get lost in story, it’s like riding on Space Mountain. If I’m noticing the spelling and the grammar and the punctuation, then I feel like I’ve been dragged into The Hall of Presidents. If I get to choose between the two, then it’s Space Mountain every time.

    What tees me off about this discussion is that there is a lot of mudslinging about the book, but no in depth analysis of why it is bad.

    I’ve read an analysis of Da Vinci Code written by an Ivy League literature professor. His analysis was so stupid, it wasn’t funny. What’s really scary is that he has a PhD in literature and he is teaching creative writing.

  37. Anonymous said:

    I’ve read books that were perfectly lousy and still kept me reading. 50 SHADES wasn’t one of them. Fortunately, the Amazon “look inside this book” feature saved me. What put me off so much I couldn’t get into the story of a modern young woman in college with NO COMPUTER and no e-mail address who was also a virgin? This deathless simile about the hero’s voice, which is “warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel…or something.”

    At that point I decided that it wasn’t worth reading even for free (from the library). Of course, your mileage may vary….

  38. Chelle818 said:

    LOL. I love the comment that compares it to twinkies. Too true. Fifty Shades is a bandwagon everyone can’t wait to jump on. Enjoy the ride. It’s short.

  39. Beth said:

    I seem to be in the minority here, but I’m going to say this anyhow, and I won’t even post it anonymously.

    As a reader and a writer, it makes me sad that there is a fanfic on the bestseller’s list. As a reader, because I want to read fresh stories, not pay for something I already own. As a writer because I don’t want someone borrowing my characters, and it’s not something I ever would do. I DO think there is a place for fanfic. I think it’s supposed to be just for fun not a cash cow. I think there is more artistic integrity in creating your own world, and your own characters.

  40. Diana said:

    Kristin,

    Thanks for the link. I am the anonymous at 2:10 AM (sorry I was too lazy to log into blogger)

    That analysis is of the story, not the prose. And I absolutely agree with that analysis. It is not a story that I want to read, and it is troubling that it is popular. But I can also see that her prose is compelling to read.

    Whether one likes a story or not, doesn’t indicate the quality of the prose. I don’t like Stephen King’s stories, that doesn’t make him a bad writer or his stories poorly written.

    So when we say that something is poorly written, what are we talking about? Is it the prose, the plot, the characterization, or what? In terms of plot and characterization and all the other elements of fiction, yes it is poorly written. In terms of the prose styling, the actual stringing together of words to tell the story, it is compelling to read.

    And yes, I do feel empathy for you, your inbox will soon be filled with Fifty Shades of Grey clones. That’s human nature. We see someone becoming hugely successful for something and then everyone rushes in trying to mimic that person’s success instead of finding it on their own.

  41. Anonymous said:

    We don’t need no, education, we don’t need no, grammar skills..

    ..Hey, editors! Leave those kids alone!

    It’s like a DADAist approach to writing: Why should you have to be intelligent to write a story? Why should you have to study the english language to write a story? After all, Daniel, you said so yourself: The ability to write so well you don’t *need grammar* comes from talent and can’t be taught. Much like how affluent artists are simply born with a pencil in their hand and can render a beautifully drawn human body without even having to look at one. There’s no learning involved in writing, it’s just a talent.

    I don’t fear agent Nelson’s inbox being flooded with 50 Shade Clones as much as I fear the fact that due to a rise in people making a conscious choice to be intellectually lazy, there will be hundreds of people like Daniel thinking you don’t need to study or work hard to become a writer, all you need is ~imagination~. Grammar, structure, plot and progression are just the product of people who, what was it? Ah yes, “the literati have ever heard of or will ever hear of.” Stephen King, Nora Roberts and James Patterson were just born knowing how to write.

    Now, since you’ve made it quite clear reading isn’t exactly your thing, I imagine you didn’t actually read the article Nelson posted, what with all those multi-syllabic words in there and all. To address your point of James’ prose. This:

    “My subconscious is frantically fanning herself, and my inner goddess is swaying and writing to some primal carnal rhythm. She’s so ready.”

    “white Pinot Grigio.”

    “Ana says or thinks, “Jeez,” more times than I can count. There are so many repetitive tics, this trilogy would be ideal for a drinking game where the aim is to destroy someone’s liver. Drink every time Ana thinks, “Jeez.” Drink every time Ana bites her lower lip, which, by the way, makes Christian want to ravish her. Drink every time the palm of Christian’s hand twitches because he wants to spank Ana. Drink every time Ana thinks of Christian as enigmatic or mercurial. Drink every time Ana reflects on his extraordinary good looks. Drink every time Ana gets possessive of Christian because every single human woman in the world eyes him lustily and becomes instantly tongue-tied. Drink every time the narrative continuity goes wildly off track. The game goes on and on.”

    As well as this,

    “I want you to become well acquainted, on first name terms if you will, with my favorite and most cherished part of my body. I’m very attached to this.”

    “My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.” “My inner goddess sits in the lotus position looking serene except for the sly, self-congratulatory smile on her face.” “My inner goddess jumps up and down with cheer-leading pom-poms shouting yes at me.” “My inner goddess looks like someone snatched her ice cream.”

    Is at the level of a twelve year old writing fanfiction porn. That is not good enough. You may base writing success on sales numbers, but Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian also can outsell many things far better than them, that doesn’t make them good. The books you dismiss as elitist and forgotten because they haven’t had a Lifetime TV movie made about them are still read to this day because things that are good are enduring, and to be good, things have to have quality. If you cannot understand why The Great Gatsby is better than The Da Vinci Code, or what quality in writing is, for the love of god, see if your community college offers a basic class in English Comprehension.

  42. chimbleysweep said:

    Thank you for saying this. 50 Shades is insulting. There’s better written and less offensive erotica out there that ISN’T find-and-replace-name fanfic. And bottom-of-the-barrel fanfic, at that. (I say this as someone who wrote Harry Potter fic for years.)

    I mean, awkward prose aside, there are TYPOS and MISSPELLINGS (not just British to American English misspellings). Nothing should go for seven figures and make this much buzz with DOZENS AND DOZENS AND DOZENS OF SPELLING ERRORS at the very, very least.

    If none of this silly grammar stuff matters, why should we have to have classes in our own language during school? Because it DOES MATTER.

    I feel like the publishing industry owes millions of authors, already published, seven more figures. Because if 50 Shades is worth that much…

  43. Anonymous said:

    @anonymous 3:55 PM

    Wow, can you be any more arrogant, condescending, rude, and insulting?

    It is posts like yours that stifle constructive discussion of books such as these.

    Clearly the one in need of a class in reading comprehension at the local community college is yourself as you didn’t understand a word that she said (You didn’t even get her name or gender right when you went on your tirade.)

    And while you are there see if they teach a class in manners as your are sorely lacking.

  44. Lucy said:

    Kristin, thanks for posting the link. That really was a pretty comprehensive analysis, and I agree with the writer–it’s the wrong message, wrong kind of fairy tale.

    Glad you shared it.

  45. Anonymous said:

    I was bottle-fed on the three-act structure, so my heart breaks every time I see another book, film or television show clearly missing those Campbellion (and many other) beats.

    Still, I make it a point to never berate other writers. This industry is hard. If another writer figured out how to tune into our cultural zeitgeist, and make a mint in the process, God bless.

    We live in an age where books are the underdog. In my mind, every time a book succeeds, we all (writers, agents and publishers) win. It’s good for all of us. No need to worry. 🙂

    And your blog is fabulous.

  46. Bonnee Crawford said:

    If it is not well written, I can completely understand why you wouldn’t be the agent to go for it. At the very least, any agent who does should at least have had it edited so that it would be well written by the time it hit shelves. Thanks for sharing.

  47. Anonymous said:

    I never knew that writers and wanna be writers were so bitter and elitist . If all of you are so talented, why are you writing comments instead of bestsellers?

  48. Cate Masters said:

    I bought it to see what all the hype was about. I had to stop reading somewhere in chapter two because the plot was so implausible, the writing was on an eighth-grade level (that’s being generous), and there are so many other books actually worth my time.

    Anonymous, I’m not bitter and elitist (unless by your definition, it means I have standards). As applied to this book, better terms would be confused, perhaps mystified. I just don’t get *why* this book is a bestseller unless it’s some sort of mass hysteria leftover from Twilight. I bear the author no ill will. Good luck to her. I wish all of us could be hit by the same lightning.

  49. Colin Smith said:

    Here’s my take. Frankly, I’m not really surprised this book has done well, because the subject matter sells. I neither read nor write this kind of fiction, so I can’t rely upon the subject matter *alone* selling my work to anyone (naturally, I hope the subjects I write about will be of interest to people). I simply want to write stories I care about, and write them as well as I can. I want to be proud of my work, and be able to hold my head up and say “this is a good example of my writing skills.” Personal integrity is very important to me.

    From the interviews I’ve read/heard (and correct me if I’m mistaken), Ms. James doesn’t consider herself a good writer, and doesn’t think her book is really all that good. If I had that attitude about something I’d written, I would never have allowed it to be published.

    Just my 2c.

  50. Anonymous said:

    This elitist attitude is WHY publishing is in such trouble. THIS book got people to read. THIS book made money. And THIS book made the so-called gatekeepers stop and wonder.

  51. J.W. Dumas said:

    It’s very sad and disheartening that works like ‘Shades of Grey’ get published with very little effort, while many TALENTED writers’ works are left to stew in the slush pile.
    Many writers are now going the ‘Self-Publishing’ route, taking the traditional Agent and Publisher out of the equation. If publishers and agents don’t pull their collective heads out of their …holes in the sand, they may soon find themselves as archaic as typewriter repairmen. Wise up, people. Don’t let ‘Trendy’ overcome ‘Talent.’

  52. Michael G-G said:

    An interesting discussion, slowly morphing into anonymouses taking potshots at one another.

    As an out-and-proud elitist, I am not going to read it. But she got one thing right. 50 Shades of Grey is a pretty good title. (Unless it’s some Twilight fanfic in-joke that went completely over my head.)

  53. Anonymous said:

    This book deserved to be published because millions of people are reading it and enjoying it. That’s the only criteria.

    Any agent or editor who represents books in the romance genre and passed on this book doesn’t know her field. Period. Stop making excuses. And whining. A key rule of business is to know your target audience. If you want to make your job easier, stop representing dull books only a few thousand people want to read.

    And to all those writers struggling to “perfect their craft,” wake up and learn what really makes a marketable book.

  54. Anonymous said:

    I’m with [email protected]:00 AM.

    But then is the capacity to objective there? In other words, the norm has been for agents and editors to choose books for publication based on their *subjective* taste…for the most part. And if that subjective taste is not geared toward marketable books that people want to buy and read, are agents and editors capable of looking at their businesses objectively?

    Frankly, I’m not sure they are. Fifty Shades of Grey would have been turned down by most agents just like The Help was turned down by most agents. Two very different books with two very different subjects. And yet both became bestsellers.

    Something is broken. Plain and simple.

  55. Anonymous said:

    I’m the anon above. I wanted to add one more thing so no one thinks I’m attacking agents.

    Publishing and authors are going to need agents more than ever as things change. But a little less gatekeeping and subjectivity and a lot more objective representation is what they need.

  56. Melissa said:

    I enjoy erotic romance novels. I made a valiant attempt to read “Fifty Shades …” and couldn’t get past the first four chapters. There was something disturbingly familiar about the dynamic between Ana and Christian (Read: Bella and Edward)that I found off-putting. It was just *so* 1970s Harlequin Romance. But, this simply suggests that I don’t find this type of male-female relationship compelling enough to read about, and that perhaps I prefer a more modern tale of courtship between a man and woman who treat each other as peers.

    Quality of writing aside, the most important question to ask is why such a large number of female readers *are* riveted by the naive, quivering 21-year-old virgin and the older man equipped with looks, power and extreme wealth when clearly a lot of us writers have been told that this plot device is outdated. I suggest that “Fifty Shades …” isn’t wildly popular just because it introduces a little bit of vanilla kink into the plot; it’s popular because women relate to/want to be Bella/Ana.

  57. J.S. Schley said:

    FIFTY SHADES OF GREY was picked up after it had sold over a quarter of a million copies. That alone justified the advance.

    It was picked up by its original publisher, The Writer’s[sic] Coffee Shop after it had amassed an audience of somewhere in the neighborhood of two million readers on fanfiction.net.

    It was not picked up because of the quality of its writing, and any writer who thinks that writing that way will get them a million dollars is frankly, nuts. It wasn’t even picked up because Vintage thought it would sell. It was picked up because it was already selling.

    That’s a huge difference.

    It was a one-in-a-million shot that is likely never going to be repeated. A book with characters so archytepal and flat that they could be exploited by a fanwriter in a way that created an AU far enough to avoid a copyright suit. A fandom around that book so willing to pour its energy into works which had little to do with its source. A history of works within that fan community that had already laid the groundwork for desire for more of Edward Cullen as a human dominant rather than a domineering vampire. The surge in the epublishing industry and in tiny e-publishing mircropresses that allowed some fans to create their own press to publish name-changed fanfiction that most publishing professionals would never lay their hands on.

    That’s what led to the original sales. And that’s what led to the deal.

    It was a perfect storm. And a writer who understands the industry and understands the provenance of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY will understand that…how large that number is, however, I couldn’t tell you.

    I don’t think any agent or publisher who would have passed this book up if it had been presented without that original fanbase is in any way misguided. It would not have done as well had it not come from where it did, at the time that it did, and with the huge groundswell of support moving beneath it.

  58. Anonymous said:

    “And to all those writers struggling to “perfect their craft,” wake up and learn what really makes a marketable book.”

    *Wow*

    Guys. Game over. You just. You can’t get better than this?

    I can only hope that if I ever pitch something, that’s the kind of writer I’m competing against. Anonymous, could you send us your email, maybe post a date around when you’d like to talk to an agent or an editor? Just. You know. For reference?

    Hey, all other writers in this thread, all of you who are passionate and dedicated and working hard? Could you listen to that anonymous? Yeah, all that hard work stuff. Totally unimportant. Yep. Agents and editors are just looking for stuff that’s marketable. I hear there’s a Battleship movie coming out, maybe you can do something in that vein? Like, a Candyland saga? Avengers sold out, maybe you can write a young adult novel about the adventures of Sargeant United States and his buddy Steel Guy. I think this is the way to go. Yep. Totally.

  59. Anonymous said:

    If I’m noticing the spelling and the grammar and the punctuation, then I feel like I’ve been dragged into The Hall of Presidents.

    And this is exactly why good spelling etc. is critical in a story, so that mistakes with those things don’t drag the reader out of the story. Also, so that the writer’s meaning is clearly understood, which is the entire reason we have punctuation.

  60. Luvelle Raevan said:

    Kristin, it’s so obvious to me why Fifty Shades went viral and is a bestseller. I’m sorry but you book agents are working too hard…and I mean it in a way that’s helpful. You advise how to write the perfect query and you point out flaws in writers’ submissions. What agents are doing is actually sawing off the tree limbs they’re sitting on. They’re factory farming the submissions, all homogeneous like the rows of battery caged white hens where eggs roll onto a conveyor belt. Oh look! That egg looks a slightly different shape…it must mean something! That egg is the common way of publishing books now…it looks just slightly different. But no one wants to take a chance on walking outside the factory barn. No one wants to take a chance on honesty and something from the heart, something completely off the wall…like Fifty Shades. I got a twitter message from Erika…I mean E L James and she said fame is weird when it happens. Be careful what I wish for.
    Well I wish the publishing industry follows the lead of E L James and let the fans decide what they want to read. It’s the wave of the future. We don’t want the perfect query…I’ll never write one to sell my book because it’s just not me…I’m not a salesperson and it comes through loud and clear when an agent reads my pitch. I am honest, my book will be published, it is different and I’ve had hundreds of hits on the chapters I’ve put on my blog. I believe in the Beat generation, the new Kerouacs, and the people who challenge the status quo. If you want a go at my book, Kristin, I know you work hard and have tons of respect, just ask!

  61. AJ said:

    Different people want different things from books. If you want to be entertained and like this type of erotic subject matter, you buy and read all three. But no matter how quickly you gulp these down, you’re unlikely to mistake them for great literature or a realistic portrayal of men, women, life, sex or anything else. So be it.

    If you read to deepen your understanding of men/women/life/sex, etc. and want good writing, you read classic literature or current literary fiction. It’s easy to find. In fact there is so much great stuff out there, that there are not enough hours in the day for me to spend any of them on 50 shades of anything.

    The first type of reader is more numerous than the second. This has always been and will always be true. Bemoaning a fact of life is a waste of time. Like spending time trying to persuade a rabid American Idol fan to watch Live at Lincoln Center.

  62. Cynthia Ivers said:

    Fifty Shades (and Twilight for that matter) are like Pet Rock I had as a kid. It sold like wildfire because it was a novelty item that rode a wave of publicity, etc. The concept was so simple that anyone could have thought of it, but didn’t. I haven’t read Fifty Shades, and don’t intend to, but it’s a fad literature – that’s all. It takes all kinds in this world.

  63. Chris R. said:

    I read, I write (having even submitted to the Nelson Agency once upon a time – and don’t worry, Kristen and co., will again!) and I own a business. The latter is how I understand this phenomenon. The masses are very busy dealing with iPhones, Twitter, Facebook, Scramble w/friends, DVR, Whole Foods take-out, e-cards, Xbox, and YouTube. In a world where we are constantly limited to writing exercises that allow for no more than 140 words, it should be expected that as a culture we are not looking for Steinbeckian prose in our literature. I can’t get potential customers to read my website for the services THEY IN FACT WANT. Instead I have to create a pattern of large clickable buttons on each web page that will provide them in large, bold text of 10 words or less, the answers they seek. It’s not great. It’s not pathetic. It just is what it is. I don’t envy publishers these days. When it comes to such a volatile industry, the moral quandary of ” Do I sell this because it will sell – even though it sucks,” must be difficult. I think I now understand why agents get so excited when great writing sells!

  64. Ami Hendrickson said:

    I, too, have not been able to spot the “genius” of sloppily-written pseudo-porn. At best, even “50 Shades” fans describe the read as a guilty pleasure. It’s the literary equivalent of pork rinds.

    Last year it was Snooki’s book. This year it’s James’. There will always be titles that pander to the baser instincts of an undiscriminating readership. Mine, however, does not have to be one of them.

    I write what I want to read. Though I’m not a fan of “50 Shades,” by any stretch of the imagination, I do applaud James for writing what *she* wanted to read. Evidently, there is a whole planet of readers who share her taste of material.

  65. Anonymous said:

    For goodness sake, just because it’s a trashy book, it doesn’t have to be a shitty one.

    Writers spend years polishing their craft, not to be the next Hemingway or Austen, but to write good, fun books that people want to read.

    I read trashy books all the time, and I hated Fifty Shades of Grey. The books I read don’t have to teach me a lesson or explain women/men/sex/life — they do have to be well crafted. That’s hardly an extravagent prerequisite.

    You can say my opinion is a case of sour grapes as much as you want, and you’ll probably be right. I am jealous of E.L James. But I’d never begrudge the success of a genuinely talented author, no matter how jealous I was.

    /endrant.

  66. Scheherazade said:

    As a reader, I was initially intrigued by Fifty Shades of Grey. There was something different about it and I decided to be patient, but half way through I was bored. The author succeeded in making sex utterly boring. It read like a gynecological report. And Monsieur Grey, no matter how good-looking or rich, is a totally unappealing character. I slogged through to the end, but I felt like I had been ripped off. Once burned, twice shy.

  67. Anonymous said:

    This is 8:00 a.m anonymous.

    My point was that newbie writers focus too much on perfecting the mechanical aspects of their craft when they should be focusing on storytelling and understanding the taste and preferences of their intended audience.

    Many, many bestsellers are not perfectly crafted. They have tons of exposition, overuse of adverbs, passive writing, too many dialogue tags, etc. And they sell millions.

    Wannabe writers need to see what these authors do right and spend less time adding yet another layer of polish to their works in progress. “Twilight,” “Girl With a Dragon Tattoo,” and “Fifty Shades” are all mediocre in their execution. The average reader can’t tell the difference between something really well written and adequate prose. That’s reality. Too many agents and workshops keep pushing outdated standards. You can work hard or work smart.

  68. Laura Moe said:

    I felt the same way when A Child Called It came out. So many of my students were reading it I gave it a try but could not get past page two.

  69. Stroppy Author said:

    I’m going to post on Fifty Shades myself this week, so won’t say anything about E.L.James specifically – but I can’t understand why it wasn’t properly edited. HarperCollins is a real publisher, FFS. They employ proper editors. Why let the book out in such a poor state? A lot of the stylistic infelicities are things and editor could have fixed easily, so why not do it?

  70. Out Here in My World said:

    My daughter belongs to a book club mainly composed of her sorority sisters from Frostburg University. Age range is between 24 – 30. This past month the book selected for the meeting was Fifty Shades of Grey.

    I chuckled when I awoke to her email after her first night of reading.

    “Another sign our society is declining. Hype over poor grammar and porn. Boy am I thankful I borrowed the book, I would really be upset if I spent money on this. Thank God I get to pick next month’s read.”

    On her way home from the meeting she called to tell me only one member loved the book, and she was a Twilight fan. So who knows maybe there is hope for our literary future. At least certain groups can tell the difference between hype and quality.

  71. Anonymous said:

    Punctuation isn’t important, you say?

    Let’s eat grandma.
    Let’s eat, grandma.

    Punctuation saves lives.

    To all you 50 Shades Defenders: Gig’s up. The emperor has no clothes. Go ahead, I’ll give you a moment to work up some more outrage. This “book” is like The Three Stooges…mildly engaging to a clueless lad of eleven.

    Reason for popularity? I think it’s simple–Twilight and 50 Shades authors borrowed from OLD sub-genres of romance. Paranormal romance and erotica have been done and done. Old news. (Actually, I think calling 50 Shades “erotica” is insulting to writers who put forth a little effort and specialize in that area.)

    I know crap when I see it. Don’t try to talk me out of it. Crap is crap is crap. If you are willing to write and sell and market crap, go for it.

  72. Chrisy said:

    I’m reading Fifty Shades right now (embarrassing to admit! but wanted to see/read what people are devouring), and find it’s success…interesting. I read recently that too many literary academics write to “appear smart” in front of their peers, but miss the mark with mainstream readers–assuming conventional success is a goal.

    I’m not a literary genius, nor do I write soft porn, but I’m desirous of a larger audience. The erotic scenes in the book are certainly titillating, but I think it’s success also lies in the pacing. And the fact that’s it’s chic lit (goofy chick lit, but still).

    Nice to find your blog…and your agency. 🙂

  73. Paul said:

    This reminds me of an old story.

    A father is telling his boy to be a good student, because it will help him get into a good college, get a good job, and so on. The boy looks at him and says, “Albert Einstein did all right and he got kicked out of the Gymnasium” (German High School). The Father turns to his son and says, “That’s true, but you’re no Albert Einstein.”

    Success in life isn’t a formula. There is a lot of randomness involved, and no, life isn’t fair. But for most of us, doing things right increases the odds. You get the grammar right so that no one will notice the grammar. You get the POV right so that no one will notice it. You find the mistakes, the obstacles that stand between your reader and a good story, and you remove them.

    If you ever have a chance to increase your odds, do it.

  74. Laters Baby said:

    Well as editors and publishers I would expect them to want to read well written works – in regards to grammar and style. And it certainly makes their jobs easier when someone has to go through and edit all that stuff.

    But, as readers, I don’t think most people need great grammar. If the story holds your attention then you’ll read. In the day and age of the internet there are more ways for writers to get noticed, whether it’s a blog or an ebook. It means anyone can write a best seller, even if 99% of writers won’t become one. But the opportunity is there with some hard work.

  75. Anonymous said:

    Frankly, given the “outing” of this as fanfiction, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a lawsuit.

    Poor writing/good story-telling (see Dan Brown … though the poorness of his writing is not spelling or grammar but higher level issues) may sell, but I am concerned that a bigger (legal) storm could be brewing.

  76. Anonymous said:

    Classic case of entertainment versus enlightenment. It isn’t going to change. While it’s a beautiful thing when they come together, it often doesn’t happen. Someone who picks up Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t thinking ‘ooooohhhh here’s my next Anna Karenina’ (which, by the way, is on a bookshelf along with *gasp* Twilight chez moi). They’re thinking ‘heck yes, I’m going to have a bubble bath, pour myself some wine and indulge in a little guilty pleasure’. Get over it. Sometimes a girl wants to read about a sexy vampire.

  77. Anonymous said:

    Let’s not forget that Dan Brown is an enormously wealthy writer without the ability to write a new story. All of his books retell a nearly-identical tale, and all are horribly written. Not only did he get an agent, but he got his bad writing of a bad story into print. It is painfully obvious that no editor worked late on his books — they just got them to market.
    Why does that happen? It isn’t good writing, or good storytelling, that made Dan Brown a bestselling author. It is conspiracy, intrigue, and action that draws the average reader to such books. Likewise, pornography in the form of art draws an audience. Porn sells, but porn disguised as literature sells more. After all, it satisfies the prurient interest of people who would be ashamed to read Penthouse Letters but don’t mind having the same thing on their coffee table if it has a nice dust jacket and a publisher’s imprint on the spine.
    Does it have to be bad to sell? Of course not. But it doesn’t have to languish at the bottom of the slush pile to be good either. Good writing is one thing, FUN is another. The two need not be mutually exclusive. Write well or write badly, but it will sell if the reader can’t stop reading it because they NEED to know what happens next.

  78. Anonymous said:

    I’m a stickler for good writing and a fiction writer myself, but 50 Shades kept me reading despite repetitive descriptions and a sluggish plot (toward the end). Why? Because of the character chemistry, the incremental revealing of the hero’s past, and because the author created characters I could relate to (the heroine) and root for (the hero). I found myself wanting them to stay together and make it work, even though I normally would have warned girls to stay away from a guy like that.

    Was it the best writing? No. Did I want to take a red pen to it? Goodness, yes! But did it keep me reading? You bet. I finished all three books in less than two weeks.

    I do agree with a 50 Shades reviewer that ‘Bared To You’ by Sylvia Day is basically 50 Shades with better writing. I can barely wait for the sequel of that!

  79. Maureen said:

    I don’t think it’s a book that’s supposed to be read by writers. Or rather, that is supposed to be enjoyed by writers who read it in their role as writers. It’s the same with Twilight. I mean, there are entire blogs dedicated to the punctuation and spelling errors and awkward sentence structure in that series. Yet people read it and enjoy it, or even admit that they realised there were errors but still liked the story. You need to be able to switch off the inner editor – which is something I can’t do.

    Basically, these books require you to switch off a part of your brain, and some people might, after a long day at work, enjoy switching part of their brain off and getting themselves lost in a mindless story.

    I’d be really interested in what sort of demographic reads these books… like what age group, and whether they’re all female, and from what area of education they come. My future sister-in-law goes to uni with me and is a very bright girl, but she devoured the Twilight books and really likes them. I’m more one of those red pen poised people…

  80. pamcl said:

    The reason the book has done so well is quite simple.

    Two main reasons,

    One, women are curious about what they don’t know and the majority of women are not familiar with BSDM practices. So, it’s a peek into a forbidden world.

    Secondly, and this is the most important thing is that this isn’t just a sexy, erotic book…..at it’s core, it’s a compelling love story.

    The only similarity to Twilight is the intensity and obsessive love of the main characters.

    That is why I raced through all three books in a few days. The first chapter is so badly written I almost didn’t continue, but I did and it got better after that.

    This is commercial fiction. It’s an easy read and an enjoyable and wildly entertaining one.

    It’s a guilty pleasure, pure escapist reading….and that’s why it’s doing so well.

    Story is everything.

  81. aerialla said:

    As a writer, with a Creative Writing Minor and English Major, I refuse to give into lazy writing and admit commas are the bane of my existence. My work is written, edited, then re-edited. To do anything less is showing that I don’t care enough about my readers to put forth all of my effort in turning out the best story possible.

    Since 2003, I have written and read fan fiction from every genre available. I am just as picky with my reading, and will close the browser on a story that has too many spelling and grammar mistakes.

    There is a reason that spell check was invented, to not take the time to use a simple program is asinine.

    Authors of books like Twilight, Fifty Shades, and countless others due an injustice to their readers. Their lack of time and patience in editing is lazy writing and proofreading. For shame on the professional editors that let these books through.

    In the case of Fifty Shades, fan fiction lives on a steep precipice balancing on the edge of a knife. Plagiarism vs Copyright Infringement these are the true Fifty Shades of Grey. Authors in the past such as Anne Rice, who wrote the original erotic porn fanfic, The Beauty Trilogy, has and will send cease and desist orders to anyone writing for her characters online.

    How long will it be before other writers, with their own creativity and plot, decide that they don’t want fanfic writers playing in their sandboxes anymore?

    It was only through fan fiction that I grew an attachment to the Twilight characters, as I abhorred the domineering Edward and dishrag subservient Bella. I read “Masters of the Universe” when it was first written and wasn’t impressed then. For all of those that think both authors are incredible, then I suggest you delve deeper into the realm of fan fiction and find truly gifted authors that very rarely ever get their due – let alone a book deal.

  82. Anonymous said:

    I feel like some of you are focusing too much on the punctuation and grammar. That’s the writer in you. I dislike Fifty Shades, yet I’m still reading book two because I want to get to the end and know what’s going to happen. James’ prose is off, yes, but her story telling? No, it’s not. It’s about the overall story telling. What good is well written writing if the story telling is boring? With some help James’ could be a major success.

    Readers don’t necessarily care for perfect grammar & punctuation, they want a good story, and that’s what FSG is, whether people like it or not. What doesn’t impress you may impress someone else. FSG is not a classic, but it’s a guilty pleasure that can and will be read over and over again for those who love it.

    James wrote a good story and is selling millions of copies. It’s sad, but she told a good story. As a Twilight fan I can say I like Twilight’s Edward & Bella better, due to the fact that I loathe Ana from Fifty Shades, but still, Fifty Shades pulls you in once you get passed the mistakes

  83. Anonymous said:

    People are free to think whatever they like and criticize all they want. The world is also full of haters and it seems so many are quick to put the author down. She can laugh all the way to the bank now! The average reader doesn’t care about perfect grammar and how well it is written. We aren’t editors and read for enjoyment. It is pure fantasy and a fun read. I for one am so happy for her and glad she has made such a success from these books to proove it can be done! I don’t understand why everyone takes this so seriously and just wishes to bring her down? Like I said the world is full of haters. I wish the author continued success and hope her movies break all records!

  84. Anonymous said:

    Oh, shoot, I found this blog just now (it’s mid-July 2012). Most all the comments posted here have merit. There were authors who sniffed at Jacqueline Susann books (“Valley of the Dolls”) and many others.

    An old art history teacher used to say, “Look at art in terms of its times, or its era.”

    Look at “50 Shades” in a post “Sex & The City” era, in a rather empty hooking-up culture. We live in a very cynical era.

    There’s a terrific book on “hooking up,” and how empty those encounters are, and I wonder if younger women aren’t “starved” for some form of romance, of some strong male to sweep them off their feet. Their male peers have started to fall behind them. On reality TV, young divas (Bridezilla types) shriek and dominate their boyfriends or spouses. I find it fascinating that retro romances are making a comeback, too. I wonder if there isn’t some secret craving for old-fashioned chivalry and sexual obsession. Not that Christian Grey was necessarily chivalrous, but he was darkly obsessed with Ana. He is also a “dangerous” character. Perhaps in some ways, his S&M aspects represent the villain or the antagonist of the novel.

    On a 2008 Oprah show, sex expert Laura Berman (sp) talked how women dominate their homes, decision-making, and some see their husbands as another child. About 60% of women have a dominance fantasy, not a rape fantasy, but to be overwhelmed, seduced. Hence, the fantasy of a romance novel, of the alpha male.

    Another bothersome trend is how literacy is deteriorating. I wonder if we’re not headed to novels of 200 or so pages, (because people won’t be able to handle a dense, challenging, meaty novel)… a modified screenplay with little setting detail, heavy on dialogue, not big on craftsmanship. Isn’t “50 Shades” sort of reflecting this? It isn’t a demanding read, it’s erotic and titillating. Maybe it’s like the successful blogs I read, which are often more controversial or inflammatory, rather than being well-written.

    People are reading in spurts on the Internet, (less than 500 word blogs) and they don’t care about punctuation, grammar, etc. They’re caring less and less, I think. The bar for literature will continue to lower, at least, that’s my fear. I worry that my grandchildren will be far less literate than I was… and it’s not like I’m Steinbeck or any literary great. I make errors like the next guy. But I know where to place a period, I can spell. As we continue to rely on spellcheckers, etc., we may lose the ability to recall those punctuation rules immediately.

  85. Anonymous said:

    i am on chapter 10 in the first book and i find that there is alot of this over and over in the book mr.grey tilts his head to the side and for a women being an auther of this book there is alot of bossyness and most women hate bossy men. there is a book called fifty shades of twilight i realy want to read so bad i just dont know if it is for kindle or if you can get in in book form too

  86. Anonymous said:

    This book annoyed me so much, the characters the most. I couldn’t get attached to them like I do with other books I’ve read. There turmoils, there emotional pasts. I didn’t care. I freaking bawled my eyes out when Severus Snape died ok! There “Love” relationship….if you want to call it that, was like a horror movie about Ted Bundy and Bella Swan…..And It’s being sold like crazy. The main character is Bella Swans long lost twin sister. The male character is abusive, controlling and narcissistic….and chicks dig that? Also, It’s going to be a movie. Seriously. O.O

    My aunts are reading it. Most my friends are reading it. All I hear about it is how romantic the love story is. That it’s better than Romeo and Juliet. When to me it’s like I’m being forced to read Twilight all over again without the gay Fairies in it. Just saying. To me this book is telling woman that it’s ok to be abused by men. That were just a piece of ass, with no brain, no character and no back bone. To be beaten and use your body to please him. As a woman it irritated me. My sister was thinking of getting it but when I told her what it was “really” about and had her watch video’s on youtube of peoples rants about it, she changed her mind. Funny, she’s team Edward.

    Women have fought for over one hundred years for the equality we deserve. We can over look the fact that this book was not edited if it was written without so many “unusual” grammer and spelling mistakes (don’t pick on mine I havn’t written a book) but for one woman to reduce those of us of the female gender to nothing more than a brainless, helpless piece of meat to be misused by some guy, galls me. I mean really ladies, are we as shallow as the guys to believe we only live to please a man in the most banal of ways. Ok, lets face it, sex is good. As a matter of fact, it’s great! But really! I don’t get it. I don’t know about you but I ain’t no brainless play toy. Where did this guy find her? Is she really just some blow up doll from the adult toy store?

    Helen Ready sang in the 1970’s “I am woman, hear me roar with numbers to big to ignore and I’ll never let you hold me down again”