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Fifty Shades of Green

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Fifty Shades of Envy: The movie Fifty Shades of Grey is out, eliciting criticism on the literary merits of the book. The Huffington Post’s Fifty Shades too Hot for Audiences had vitriol in the thread. Example:

“How nice. I write a novel with substance, but agents won’t touch it with a 100-foot pole. E.L. James puts out a trilogy about a woman who gets her posterior whupped for love, and she makes enough money that she never has to write another word in her life. ‘No justice’ doesn’t begin to describe it…” Jeffrey Baer

Fifty Shades of Cash: The commenters seasoned envy with an attack on the publishers:

“Plenty of mediocre or less than mediocre writers being published like EL James and Stephanie Meyers (sic). Publishers don’t care if its unaduletrated (sic) crap as long as it sells.” Fran Jaime

Envy: Sorry, writers, the reason you’re not published is probably because you’re not marketable AND you’re mediocre. There are a few decent published writers, many more decent unpublished writers, but for every decent unpublished writer there are hundreds of crappy writers. And when crappy writers (jocks, pop stars) get published, they have a platform and ghostwriter. When an E.L. James, J.K. Rowling, or Stephanie Meyer sells, do not think this:

” It’s time the writers took back control of the artform…Publishers only give a damn about making a buck. They do not care about putting out good books.” Jennifer Burnham

Money: Why get enraged when a crappy book makes money? I’ve written failures, and rather than curse the market, I try to recognize my faults. My point is not to defend E.L. James, but to defend publishers. “Taking control” of your future means paying vanity presses, whose only purpose is profit over quality. Read Create Space self-published book samples on Amazon. Most are horrible. Self-publishing more tripe is not the answer.

Publishers care: Consider these fine publishers: Grove/Atlantic, Soft Skull, Tin House, Hawthorne, Graywolf, Coffee House, Farrar Straus Giroux, or mine, Knopf, a division of Random House. Do you really think they only care about money? Of course they care, and that’s legitimate, they want to stay in business. But they also love literature.

When a Da Vinci Code/50 Shades/Girl with Dragon Tattoo/Harry Potter/Twilight genre book sells, writers should cheer. Never disrespect publishing houses because of their successes in other genres. Publishers take on books knowing up front the possibility of breaking even or losing money. The success of E.L. James’ trilogy helps Random House take chances on more books of literary quality, and that’s good for writers.

Related: What Fifty Shades of Grey Taught Us about Publishing

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Written by Caleb Powell

July 31, 2014 at 10:53 am

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