The Daily Beast
Just days ago, an agent, editor, book critic, and literary blogger sat around a table at a private downtown club, discussing the book no one had heard of. “And I told my cousin, there is no bestselling book I don’t know,” said the agent, laughing, who is celebrated for getting her stable of literary authors big advances with all the best imprints. “But I was wrong.”
Every so often a manuscript, like an impudent toddler, rises on unsteady feet and toddles onto the bestseller list without so much as a by-your-leave to that ignorant publishing foursome. Such a work is E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey, which, out of a teeny e-publishing community in Australia, managed the neat trick of vaulting to the top of the New York Times e-book and print bestseller lists, garnering a seven-figure deal from Vintage, and leaving readers clamoring for the as-yet-unpublished rest of the trilogy, all without ever being in print in the United States at all.
From Twilight to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to The Lost Carolina Finger Club (I made that last one up), we’ve come to expect our bestsellers to rise from obscure circumstances. Only The New Yorker’s nonfiction scribes are allowed to churn out blockbusters from a known address. But readers who found the popularity of those Swedish sext-hack-repeat sagas somewhat mystifying may have an even harder time with Shades of Grey. ...
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