E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey has become the latest mainstream publishing phenomenon by an author plucked out of nowhere. And now even her husband author Niall James has a book deal. Meanwhile, veteran erotica authors are still slaving away (excuse the expression) to sell hundreds or dozens of books. The best I can figure is the James’s Twilight fan-fiction connection and a bit of random luck helped her. She was just in the right interweb place at the right time.
My only complaint about 50 Shades of Grey is the barren, clunky prose. Some authors may choose to dismiss back-story and characterization and are only concerned with plot. I understand that. Some people think lots of dialogue and vivid imagery detract from the sex scenes. That’s not my personal taste. I believe fully-rounded storytelling can heighten a story’s erotic appeal . But I don’t really have a problem with authors who go the other route.
Longtime erotica readers are not the target market for 50 Shades of Grey. Even ardent general fiction readers and regular visitors to bookstores and libraries aren’t necessarily drawn to a book like 50 Shades of Grey. Nowadays, the book fan contingent is quite small, so to rake in the bucks, you’ve got to entice folks who read little more than coupons and TMZ.com to buy a copy. They’re the kind of people who are looking for a quick to read airport book, with a minimum of words and a maximum of titillation and plot twists. The chapters might as well read “Boy meets girl, boy ties up girl, girl is intrigued, boy shoves inanimate object up girl’s bum, girl escapes. The End.”
You know James wasn’t fumbling with a thesaurus or plotting software to create her story. Maybe the rest of us are working too hard! My Tumblr loop features a few teen girls who write excellent fan fiction, much of it erotic. Of course, technically, some of them shouldn’t be reading erotica yet, much less writing it. They're not big fans of the publishing industry's flavor of the month, posting comments like “I’m a virgin and I write better erotica than that” and “Mom! That (Shades of Grey) is poorly- written pornography. Get over it!” The girls have got a point. Witness the following “50 Shades of Grey” prose -
I had no idea giving pleasure could be such a turn on ... My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves,"
Now, quite frankly, if I’d written that, my editor would have chucked the manuscript into the recycle bin.
I also know that some people are grossed by the tampon scene, HA!! They are literary lightweights. Try reading the scene in Scott Spencer’s Endless Love where the obsessed hero has sex with heroine while she’s having a VERY bloody period. (Brooke Shields starred n the movie version. Thankfully, said scene was not included in the onscreen adaptation.)
For those who prefer more evolved characters in their BDSM, there’s Secretary, a story from Mary Gaitskill’s 1988 book Bad Behavior. The dominance and submission in it exists more in the mind than in the handcuffs. The movie version starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader is one of the most realistic depictions of a real-life D/S relationship I’ve ever seen.
For well-written erotic fiction, character development, back-story and BDSM, with a better vocabulary than 50 Shades, try The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by Anne Rice, just reissued by Plume. It's a lot hotter and imaginative than Grey in a medieval kinda way. Also check out Belinda, Rice’s version of Lolita and her Exit to Eden (the book, not the movie version, por favor.)
You can also explore erotic fiction by visiting any of the e-book sites touting erotica ,erotic romance for women and LBGT erotica. Each publisher may put out hundreds of books a year, so the quality certainly varies. You can read a short sample of most books before buying.
A few erotica E-Book Publishers: Total Bound e-Books
Shameless plug - Read Geneva’s Story, a short piece I originally wrote it in 1994. I first placed it on a site called Literotica and got a lot of nice emails about it, including one from a sub who said it reminded her of her master!