This past weekend marked the release of the film adaptation of the titillating best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Full disclosure: I did not read the trilogy, other than a sample of book one on my Kindle, so I refuse to comment on the quality of writing other than to say the opening was fairly unremarkable. It's been a while and I can't recall anything noteworthy about it. So there's that.
|Mr. Grey will read to you now!|
Flickr image by Mark Hillary
But, when you sell greater than 100 million copies of your books, no one can deny that you've done something right. From what I've read, James wrote a piece of fan fiction based on her adoration of the Twilight series and fans responded so encouragingly, she gave them more; first self-publishing her book before landing a publishing contract.
I've never met James nor read her interviews, but I can't help but wonder if she's at all bothered by the criticism her works have received. Does the phrase 'laughing all the way to the bank' fit her take on her publishing journey? Or does it sting a little to be so widely panned as a writing hack that parodies and mock readings abound online?
We've all read books that make us wonder why publishing gatekeepers felt moved to offer a book deal to the author, and how many readers prior to publication kept their collective pie-holes closed regarding the content. But like any viable industry, publishing houses are in business to turn a profit and if the readership seems poised to purchase, they print.
As writers, we have options for how we respond when we see authors achieve greatness we perceive to be based more on luck than talent. We can virtually flog them with our criticism. We can join in with praise we say but don't feel. We can leave our 'helpful' reviews on sites such as Amazon or GoodReads. We can keep our own pie-holes shut and say nothing at all.
Or we can see their success as motivation to keep plugging away at our own manuscripts. Because, to me, 100 million copies in sales means people are reading, and as long as we haven't lost that, we've all won.