No, friends who keep asking, I have not read FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. Yes, I know I copy edit erotica for a living, and no, that doesn’t translate into “I really want to read this new erotica sensation.” What it actually means is that I’ve read (and gotten paid to read!) about a thousand better versions of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY.
Yes, contrary to popular belief, erotica did exist before this book came out and changed your life. Really, really good erotica, in fact. But you didn’t read it because it came from an erotica publisher, and isn’t that just so smutty? But FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is okay. It’s wonderful, even! Because it was published by Vintage, an imprint of Random House, and that makes it okay. Acceptable. Buyable. And now HarperCollins is coming out with an erotica digital imprint and maybe that’ll be acceptable and buyable too.
And maybe those books will even be good. But the sad thing is, they don’t have to be. I’ve yet to hear someone say that FIFTY SHADES OF GREY was well written. Hell, even their author, E.L. James is reported to have said that they’re not well written. And that’s fine–plenty of published books aren’t. But how many women will now venture into the lines that have been publishing this stuff forever to try to find similar, better-written books they may potentially enjoy even more? My inclination is that the answer is very, very few. Instead, they will wait for the “acceptable” versions, the ones sanctioned by the world of traditional publishing and major trade houses.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope the rousing success of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY has the effect of bolstering major sales at indie publishers like Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, and Loose Id. I hope readers who enjoyed FIFTY SHADES OF GREY realize that there’s a whole wide world of similar books out there, and it’s cool to buy any and all of them. And mostly, I hope I’ll never heard the question “Have you read FIFTY SHADES OF GREY?” ever again.