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Category: Romance

'50 Shades of Grey' series hitting the 20 million mark in sales

"Fifty Shades of Grey"Who would have guessed that an erotica series would becoming the biggest book juggernaut since "Harry Potter"?

That's what things are looking like. This week, E.L. James'  "50 Shades of Grey" and its sequels, "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" are poised to cross the 20 million mark in U.S. sales. As of July 2, publisher Vintage had tallied sales of the series at 19.4 million. Vintage brought the series to shelves in April; originally published by a small press in Australia, the book had already become an underground hit. The Wall Street Journal reports on the book's massive popularity:

By comparison, Stieg Larsson's best-selling "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy took more than three years to reach the 20-million sales mark in the U.S. Those three books were released in the U.S. in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

In the U.S., sales have been split nearly evenly between physical and digital versions, with 9.8 million paperbacks sold through July 2, compared with 9.6 million e-books during the same period, Vintage says.

"50 Shades of Grey" tells the story of virginal college student Anastasia and Christian Grey, the billionaire entrepreneur who takes an interest in her. They soon develop a sexual relationship that gets kinky -- the bondage-y content is part of what has been keeping sales hot. Vintage says the series has brought in $145 million in revenue.

Nielsen's BookScan numbers show that in the spring, the "50 Shades of Grey" series accounted for 20% of adult fiction sold (that's print books, not e-books). BookScan tracks about 75% of the retail American book market, and it misses a lot of independent bookstores -- where, presumably, people may be reading headier stuff than the sexually explicit series. However, the "50 Shades" series has been at the No. 1, 2, and 3 spots on our paperback bestsellers list, which includes local independents, since its publication in April.

Film rights were sold to Universal and Focus Features, which will have to figure out how to make the explicit text -- which some have called "mommy porn" -- suitable for American viewing audiences.


The origins of '50 Shades of Grey' go missing

Bestselling "mommy porn": "50 Shades of Grey"

On Goodreads, '50 Shades of Grey' is a regional hit

-- Carolyn Kellogg



Mr. '50 Shades of Grey' to publish his own book

Niallleonard_crusherE.L. James' husband, Niall Leonard, has written a book; it will be published this fall by Doubleday in England. But while James' "50 Shades of Grey" is getting readers hot and bothered with its sexually explicit "mommy porn," don't expect Leonard to pen a dirty book for gents. He's done something else entirely: written a book for young adults.

Leonard's young adult novel "Crusher" is, England's the Bookseller reports, "a 'gritty' London-set thriller about a 17-year-old school dropout who finds his stepfather murdered and becomes prime suspect for the crime."

James is a former television executive; her husband is a professional screenwriter who's written for TV.

The book, however, was a different kind of project for him. He wrote "Crusher" in November 2011 during NaNoWriMo, the do-it-yourself novel writing challenge. "My friends and family will attest that I have been loudly promising a novel for a very long time," he wrote on his blog. "But something would always come up -- a TV episode to write, or a series bible to develop -- or I’d decide the novel’s idea wasn’t quite focused in my mind, or there were too many narrative problems that needed to be solved before I could begin.  What amazed and appalled me when I actually started writing was that none of these problems actually existed." [via]

He originally intended to self-publish the book, but drew publishers' interest. In addition to "Crusher," his agent sold two other books.

Maybe they're hoping his books will take off they way his wife's have. James has emerged as a powerhouse bestseller; her novels "50 Shades of Grey," "50 Shades Darker" and "50 Shades Freed" are at No. 1, 2 and 3, respectively, on the L.A. Times' paperback bestseller list.

A U.S. publisher for "Crusher" has not yet been announced.


The origins of '50 Shades of Grey' go missing

12 reasons to ignore the naysayers: Do NaNoWriMo

On Goodreads, '50 Shades of Grey' is a regional hit

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Amazon Publishing buys Avalon, gets 3,000 squeaky-clean titles

On Monday, Amazon Publishing announced that it had purchased Avalon Books, a 62-year-old publisher. The acquisition means that Amazon Publishing has just added 3,000 titles to its list.

Avalon is an independent publisher that has focused on specific genres. In the past, that included science fiction. Now it primarily publishes mysteries, westerns and romance. While romance is hot right now -- hot and heavy, like "50 Shades of Grey" -- these novels are anything but. The books Avalon has published are, it writes, "good stories and wholesome entertainment."

How good and how wholesome? Very good. Very wholesome. "There is no explicit sexual content or profanity in any of our novels," Avalon states in its writers guidelines. "It is the author’s responsibility to heighten the romantic atmosphere by developing love scenes with tenderness, emotion, and perception."

In other words, none of that "50 Shades of Grey"-style hanky-panky.

From the FAQ regarding manuscript submissions:

A. Sexual tension is fine but not more than a kiss or embrace is allowed.

A. No cursing throughout all of our books. Nothing heavier than a “hell,” “damn” in Westerns and Mysteries. We don’t like cursing at all in our romances. We do not accept racial epithets, no harsh language, and no sexy talk.

A. In our Romances keep it minimal, if any. In our Westerns and Mysteries it is okay within reason.

The writers guidelines go further in describing what kinds of characters and content are appropriate for Avalon.

AVALON ROMANCES / HEROINES: Every Avalon heroine should be an independent young woman with an interesting profession or career. She is equal to the stresses of today’s world and can take care of herself. She should be smart, capable, and likable.

AVALON ROMANCES / HEROES: Avalon heroes should be warm, likable, realistic, sympathetic, understanding men who treat the heroine as an equal, with respect for her intelligence and individuality, and with courtesy. The hero should be a fully-realized character, someone the reader can warm up to and be happy to see with the heroine.

AVALON MYSTERIES / HEROES: The hero can be male or female or a team of people with sound values. The hero must be someone for whom the truth is paramount.

AVALON WESTERNS / HEROES: The hero must be a strong individual with sound values. He’s excellent with his fists and his gun, but not overeager to use either.

There are no guidelines for heroines of Avalon Mysteries or Avalon Westerns; I assume there are none.

"Avalon has a long tradition in publishing wonderful stories that affirm a positive way of life," said Amazon Publishing's Philip Patrick, director of business development, rights and licensing. "We are thrilled to have these talented writers join our publishing program."

Other than squeaky-clean content, Avalon had something else going for it: None of its books has been published in e-book form. Yet.


Amazon awarded patent for electronic gift-giving

On Goodreads, '50 Shades of Grey' is a regional hit

Amazon exposed: The book behemoth is scrutinized

-- Carolyn Kellogg

The origins of '50 Shades of Grey' go missing

"Fifty Shades of Grey"People who know about "50 Shades of Grey" have probably heard that author E.L. James began the story as post-"Twilight" fan fiction. But now the Internet evidence of its start has been deleted, so its origins have been erased.

That's what the website Galleycat discovered when it went to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine allows anyone to look at websites as they appeared on days past, when the Internet Archive's computer systems took a snapshot of the site.

Galleycat had previously visited the site to look at the history of James' website 50Shades.com, where she began posting writing in earnest after a beginning on Fanfiction.net. It found lots there to demonstrate that James' early writings were meant to be a continuation, or detour, of the characters in Twilight, including images of actors Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. That was in James' online serial "Masters of the Universe," which begat "50 Shades of Grey." Now only Galleycat's screenshots of the site remain online -- the Internet Archive no longer has them.

“The Internet Archive honors requests from domain and site owners to exclude pages from the Wayback Machine at their request,” the site told Galleycat.

Why take down those pages? Could it be that fan fiction is in the crosshairs?

So far, fan fiction -- in which devoted readers revivify characters from their favorite works in their own writing -- has been left largely to flourish unimpeded. Vibrant online communities have sprung up around some books -- think the "Harry Potter" series -- in which people write and share their own versions of the characters in different places, time periods, and relationships. Sometimes, as in the case of "50 Shades of Grey," those relationships get sexual. But the sex isn't the problem -- it's the copyright.

"Copyright issues are at the core of fan fiction because using the characters and fictional worlds of commercial authors to create fan works is arguably a violation of the law from the outset," explains Steven Hechter in the British magazine Times Higher Education.

James' agent told Deadline, "This did start as 'Twilight' fan fiction, inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s wonderful series of books. Originally it was written as fan fiction, then Erika [E.L. James] decided to take it down after there were some comments about the racy nature of the material. She took it down and thought, I’d always wanted to write. I’ve got a couple unpublished novels here. I will rewrite this thing, and create these iconic characters, Christian and Anna. If you read the books, they are nothing like 'Twilight' now." Her American publisher told the Associated Press that James' "Masters of the Universe" (which was fan fiction) and "50 Shades of Grey" are "two distinctly separate pieces of work."

That point was countered by romance-focused site Dear Author, which compared the two works side by side. In one test, using the plagiarism-checker TurnItIn, the texts had 89% similarity.

I'm not a lawyer, so I certainly can't sort any of that out. It is interesting that the early version has now disappeared.

Or maybe the disappearance has nothing to do with the old connection between "50 Shades of Grey" and "Twilight" -- maybe the reason someone requested those pages be taken down is simply so "50 Shades of Grey" can stand -- firmly on the top of bestseller lists -- on its own.


On Goodreads, "50 Shades of Grey" is a regional hit

The deluxe mommy-porn apartment in the sky

Bestselling "mommy porn": "50 Shades of Grey"

-- Carolyn Kellogg

On Goodreads, '50 Shades of Grey' is a regional hit

According to data at Goodreads, Utah and Wyoming readers were the least likely to be checking out the underground erotic hit "Fifty Shades of Grey"
Mothers in Utah who might have found news of the popularity of the underground erotic hit "Fifty Shades of Grey" baffling can be forgiven, according to the data at Goodreads. Among the social reading website's 8.6 million users, Utah and Wyoming readers were the least likely to be reading E.L. James' novel.

The graphic above shows which states have most embraced the book, which the New York Times dubbed "mommy porn." The novel tells the story of a love affair between naive college student Anastasia and Christian, a billionaire with a taste for sexual dominance.

In the first six weeks the book has been available through new American publisher Vintage, "Fifty Shades of Grey" has sold 10 million copies. To put that in perspective, the president of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group explained that the book had captured 25% of the adult fiction market -- quite a lot. And there are even more books in circulation -- "Fifty Shades of Grey" was a word-of-mouth hit via a small Australian publisher before Vintage picked it up.

More than 11,000 Goodreads members have written capsule reviews of the book on the site. Though the three most popular only have one star, that hasn't stopped legions from being tempted by the book. A popular five-star review reads, "Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I still feel somewhat under the spell of this book. I'm so ... beguiled by it ;-) (book allusion). It was honestly an amazing read -- and one which I meant to just skim a few sample pages of, but ended up buying and then staying up the entire night to finish."

Among Goodreads members, "Fifty Shades of Grey" is most popular in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and New York. Except "most popular" isn't exactly it -- those are the states where the book is most likely to have been read. Yet those readers are not as enthusiastic about the book as their counterparts to the south and west -- readers in Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Nebraska gave the book its highest ratings.

That enthusiasm has carried over: Goodreads has a list of other erotica titles that are starting to take the site by storm.


The deluxe mommy-porn apartment in the sky

Bestselling "mommy porn": "50 Shades of Grey"

Porn-ish "50 Shades of Grey" grinds toward movie deal

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image credit: Goodreads

Porn-ish 'Fifty Shades of Grey' grinds toward movie deal

Hollywood is courting E.L. James for rights to adapt her book "Fifty Shades of Grey," which has been described as "mommy porn" E.L. James' titillating novel "Fifty Shades of Grey," described by the New York Times as "mommy porn," is close to a movie deal, according to industry reports.

The book, which has two sequels, was originally published by a small house in Australia and has found wide success as an e-book. Its new American publisher, Vintage, plans a broad paperback release April 17.

Hollywood isn't waiting that long. Deadline Hollywood reported Friday that nine studios were making offers to James.

"[T]he last time I've seen anything like this was when Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" was shopped," wrote Mike Fleming at Deadline Hollywood/NY.

That's one possible parallel. Or maybe Hollywood is thinking of another novel that was a word-of-mouth hit with female readers, one which had little traction with traditional review outlets but nevertheless went from hand to hand to the top of bestseller lists: Kathryn Stockett's "The Help." 

James, who wrote the book about a naive student and her older, more experienced, BDSM-inclined billionaire boyfriend as a kind of sexed-up post-"Twilight" story, says on her website that she is a British TV executive. She may be more well versed than your average fledgling writer when it comes to fielding Hollywood suitors: The Hollywood Reporter wrote that she and her agent are playing hardball.

E.L. James' "Fifty Shades of Grey" novels may be looking for a studio master, but in a shocking twist, the author is demanding to remain in the dominatrix role. ... Sources say the ask is very far-reaching and nearly unprecedented ...

The big difference between "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "The Help" -- or "The Da Vinci Code," for that matter -- is the sex. It's all about the sex, which is explicitly BDSM -- bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism. The sex is what has made "Fifty Shades of Grey" popular. Is erotica as safe a Hollywood bet as Brown's thrilling religious conspiracy, or Stockett's retro collision of the political and personal?

We may know what kind of bet movie executives are willing to make soon: March 23 was the reported deadline for final bids from producers and studios.

Who knows, the destiny of "Fifty Shades of Grey" could be surprising. The screen adaptation of "The Help," Stockett's debut novel that had been rejected by 45 agents, earned four Oscar nominations, with a best supporting actress win for Octavia Spencer.


Stars line up for Stephen Elliott's film "Cherry"

Bestselling "mommy porn": "Fifty Shades of Grey"

Romancing the tome: Saturday's book fair for the bodice-ripper

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Bestselling 'mommy porn': '50 Shades of Grey'

FiftyshadesofgreyThe novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James has been propelled by its e-book sales to bestseller status. Published by a small Australian press, it has had a hard time making its way to bookstores, but readers are getting it however they can. Mostly, that's been digitally.

"Fifty Shades of Grey" is about a 22-year-old college literature student, Anastasia, a virgin who falls for a 28-year-old entrepreneur, Christian Grey, who gets a sexual charge out of being in charge. It's explicitly tie-me-up, tie-me-down; sometimes a necktie is not just for tying around necks.

The New York Times calls the book "mommy porn." Jezebel, which posts some not-safe-for-work excerpts, explains that "Fifty Shades of Grey" owes a great debt to the bestselling "Twilight" series.

British author E.L. James, a former television executive, first published the book on fan fiction site ff.net as a super lengthy tome (the first book is 1200 pages, but the original also included the following two sequels) that "reimagined the Bella and Edward love affair set in contemporary Seattle, Washington with Bella as the young college graduate virgin and Edward as the masterful billionaire with secret sexual predilections."

If that description makes you want to gag, you probably won't be into James' book, either — but if you're a diehard member of Team Edward who's sick of Stephanie Meyer's G-rated prose, you'll be all over the story of literature student Anastasia Steele, who first meets the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey when she interviews him for her campus magazine.

"So many readers have recommended this book to me," wrote Sarah Wendell at her well-known romance book website (adult language). "SO MANY." Wendell, an enthusiastic romance reader, didn't think much of "Fifty Shades of Grey" when she read it in November. "I found it to be melancholy and meandering, and the heroine narrator is so maudlin and wimpy I grew more and more irritated with her and with the story and had to stop," she wrote. She maintains her critical take, but adds this commentary on the book's popularity:

I have a few theories as to why this book is popular. It has a secrecy element, for example, similar to some paranormal romances and their avid fanbases. It's also not at all surprising that 50 Shades and Twilight share a few plot themes, specifically that secrecy and the temptation inherent in the world of both narratives, and the alpha male who is opulently, ridiculously wealthy, Volvos optional. Plus, Edward, as I wrote a few years ago, and in many similar ways (again, surprise surprise) Christian are both very much old-skool-style romance heroes. 50 Shades (and Twilight, obviously) are also told from the heroine's POV, a very deep, first person, detail-heavy point of view, and the narrative is also akin to reading a diary, adding to that sense of illicit secrecy ....

In Twilight, the secret world and the key to entry is the knowledge that Edward is a vampire, knowledge only Bella, and by extension the readers, initially share. In 50 Shades, the secret world focuses on sex, specifically Christian's secret room and his sexual expression through BDSM. Sex, in many senses, is the initial conflict of 50 Shades book, and is the obstacle between the characters initially as well, and thus becomes a focus. So the secrecy is layered and complex.

The secrecy of e-books may also have fed into the book's popularity. Nobody knows that you're reading a titillating BDSM book when it's on the screen of your Kindle; you could just as easily be reading about organizing closets. But when the cover is on display, everyone knows what you're up to.

Publisher Vintage Books is willing to risk the risque; last week it purchased American rights to "Fifty Shades of Grey" and its two sequels, "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed." Vintage's e-books are coming soon; paperbacks are expected to arrive in bookstores in April.


New Kindle million-sellers

Mom's bathroom reading, in the Owchar house

Romancing the tome: Saturday's book fair for the bodice-ripper

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Book news: Salman Rushdie, tattoos, and Thomas Mann on Hollywood

Salman Rushdie stayed away from the Jaipur Literature Festival because of death threats. A few authors read from his book "The Satanic Verses" in protest, and were swiftly encouraged to leave the country. Then it turned out that the threats were fake. If from afar, this begins to seem like much ado about nothing, up close the story is very different. "Debate over Rushdie's attendance at the festival even eclipsed an appearance by Oprah Winfrey, with its own minor controversy and major star power," Mark Magnier reports from Jaipur, India. "Some saw India's electoral politics as the real reason for the controversy over Rushdie's potential appearance at the festival. India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh is weeks away from holding closely watched state elections. Muslims there are swing voters, and the head of an influential Islamic seminary in that state had termed Rushdie's plans to appear at the festival as offensive to Muslims."

Under new ownership, Washington's landmark independent bookstore Politics and Prose is flourishing. Lissa Muscatine and Bradley Graham took it over after the 2010 death of co-founder Carla Cohen. "Most heartening," they tell The Atlantic, "is that the store continues to flourish even amid the uncertainties of the book industry."

Do you have a literary tattoo? Have you ever seen anyone else with it? It's kind of like wearing the same dress to a party. (It's happened to me; I know.) Publishers Weekly's blog PWxyz has a list of the five most popular books to inspire literary tattoos, complete with collages of the tattoos themselves. Check to see if yours is among them.

Los Angeles poet and Whiting Award winner Douglas Kearney will be reading Saturday at Machine Project, one of L.A.'s most daft and brilliant gallery-type places. The event/performance is called Shuffle Stagger Fail, and it celebrates the launch of his new chapbook, "SkinMag."

Her bestsellers included "Hollywood Wives," "Lucky," "Drop Dead Beautiful," "Sinners" and "Hollywood Divorces." Is that a cougar on author Jackie Collins' letterhead?

Thomas Mann, author of "Death in Venice" and "The Magic Mountain," left Fascist Germany and by 1940 had made his way to Los Angeles. "The climate has great advantages," he wrote, "as does the countryside, living expenses are relatively cheap, and, in particular, the opportunities for our young musician-children are promising." That's from KCET's website, which has a special section on L.A. history. Mann later wrote his son, "We were just at Princeton and it is very pretty. But I am a bit afraid of the scholarly atmosphere, and I basically prefer the movie rabble in Hollywood."


2010: Salman Rushdie comes to L.A.

Douglas Kearney says winning Whiting Writers Award is a fresh start

Jackie Collins: Nothing's shocking

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Indian writer Anni Zaidi, left, asks a visitor to the Jaipur Literature Festival on Monday to sign a petition calling for reconsideration of the nationwide ban on Salman Rushdie's book "The Satanic Verses." Credit: Manish Swarup / Associated Press

Not Just for Kids: Author Tahereh Mafi discusses 'Shatter Me'

Shatter MeIn Tahereh Mafi's young-adult debut, "Shatter Me," a young woman is jailed for something she has no ability to control. Whomever she touches, she kills. Whether that's a gift or a curse she discovers over time -- and with the help of an attractive cellmate. We caught up with the Orange County author to talk about the kickoff to her much-talked-about trilogy.

Jacket Copy: One of the more intriguing aspects about your book is your decision to strike out sections of text and let the reader see the words the main character is contemplating but ultimately rejects. Why did you use this technique?

Tahereh Mafi: I never made a conscious decision to use strikethroughs in the novel; they just became an organic way to express the chaos and turmoil in Juliette's mind. When we first meet her, she's been in isolation for 264 days; she hasn't spoken a single word in just as long. She's struggling with reality, too petrified to speak, not even trusting the things she writes down in her journal. But as her character develops -- and the story progresses -- the strikethroughs lessen as well.

JC: Some readers consider "Shatter Me" a dystopian fantasy because it takes place in an environmentally degraded landscape with an oppressive government, while others view it as a paranormal romance due to Juliette's "gift" and romantic liaisons. Do you think one is more accurate than the other?

TM: It’s more of a dystopian novel with paranormal elements even though the romance is a central theme in the story. Juliette has this lethal touch, so it’s considered paranormal in our world, but in her world it isn't.

Continue reading »

How to make a book trailer for $50,000


Oh, the book trailer. What's it for, really? Who watches it, exactly? Can it sell a book? Does it matter if book trailers are going Hollywood? Our On Location column visits book trailer producer the Other House, owned by Chris Roth and three partners, on set to see the lay of the movies-meet-publishing land.

The company already has produced more than 50 spots for publishing giants Random House and St. Martin's Press, most of them shot locally, Roth said. The 15-to-30-second spots air on cable channels such as Sci-Fi and MTV, Internet outlets including Google TV and Hulu, online gaming sites and at movie theaters.

"We're doing four or five of these a month, and there are no signs of this letting up," said Roth. "The budgets just keep growing."...

Roth's book trailers cost as much as $50,000 each, and involve a full complement of actors, computer-generated effects, costumes and set designs with the high production values of a movie trailer. The book trailers, which often appear on social media sites, help to spur book sales, in much the same way movie trailers help market Hollywood films, said Nancy Trypuc, senior director for creative services at St. Martin's Press.

"It's a way for us to try to excite people prior to the book's publication,'' said Trypuc. "We find, especially in the paranormal space, that fans are really attracted to things like this."

Among the book trailers that the Other House has made are two for bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon's urban fantasy novels. The trailer for "Retribution" has been seen 125,000 times on YouTube and the one for "The Guardian" 285,000 times. Those trailers are after the jump.

Continue reading »

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