How Easy Is It To Climb Aboard The Fifty Shades Gravy Train?
A month or so ago, a journalist friend who has never written a word of fiction confided that he'd read Fifty Shades of Grey and was going to try to write something along those lines because it "seemed like a pretty easy way to make 50 million bucks." I scoffed at him, warned him it was a fluke, explained that the trend would be gone before he had time to pick up a pen. I'm starting to wonder if I was wrong.
Publishers' thirst for the next Fifty Shades-esque success seems unquenchable. A mysterious Twilight fan fiction author who goes by the pen name Sylvain Reynard is the latest to cash in. He (or she?) has just signed a "substantial seven-figure deal" for two books, Gabriel's Inferno and Gabriel's Rapture. Penguin's Berkley imprint plans a first run of half a million trade paperbacks. Originally titled The University Of Edward Masen, the stories were posted on fan fiction sites before being reworked and published by indie romance publisher Omnific Publishing in April 2011. The books have been sitting in Amazon's top 100 ever since.
You can't blame Penguin. Publishers would stop buying trashy, poorly written Twilight fan fiction if consumers stopped buying it, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen any time soon either. The thing that seems to bother writers and bibliophiles most (as evidenced by your comments on Meredith Borders' recent LitReactor column) about Fifty Shades is not the books' success but their utter lack of quality—flat characters, un-sexy sex scenes, insultingly dull plot. Will people buy any book that seems trendy and sexy, regardless of its literary merit?
Two comedians decided to find out, and the results are disappointing but not surprising. The hosts of The NSFW Show crowd-sourced a fake erotica book called The Diamond Club, asking random dolts from the internet to write chapters that "had little cohesion" and "just delivered on bangin!" They gave it a Fifty Shades-style cover, a make-believe author (Patricia Harkins-Bradley), and an intriguing fake description then sent it out into the world. They asked their show's viewers to buy it and leave five-star reviews for the first day or so in order to get it into the top ten on the iTunes book store.
"This is a test," they explain in the video below. "Once we crack into the top ten, is it possible that a terribly written book that makes no sense and just has a lot of banging might just win the hearts of lonely housewives everywhere?" Yes. Yes, it is. As of Thursday morning, the "terribly written book" is still sitting at number four on iTunes bestseller list. What's above it? The Fifty Shades trilogy, of course.
What is this world coming to? I'm seriously asking here. How long is this going to last? Do you think that a book with literary merit will ever make as much money as Fifty Shades?
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