It goes without saying that the record-breaking sales of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" series are the publishing industry's success story of the year. In addition to the millions upon millions of books sold, E L James' racy and buzzworthy novels sparked a studio bidding war for movie rights and growing interest from various actors and actresses interested in taking on the roles of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.
But what is perhaps most intriguing about the "Fifty Shades" phenomenon is how the sexually explicit, borderline X-rated BDSM (a blanket term for erotic activities that include bondage, dominance/submission and sadomasochism) material in the books crossed over into the mainstream. MTV News spoke with several publishing experts about the "Fifty Shades" effect and why it's such a positive thing for fans and authors of erotic fiction.
"We've been [publishing] erotica since 2006, so you can imagine our kind of shock, but we're really excited about it," said Michelle Renaud, senior manager of public relations at Harlequin books. "It's bringing more readers into the genre and more women are getting excited about it and kind of returning to reading and using reading as an escape. It's been very, very positive for us."
"It's a sign that we are actually getting new readers to the industry," added Cindy Hwang, executive editor of Berkley Books, a subsidiary of Penguin Books that publishes a variety of romance and erotic fiction. "That is always gratifying, because there's been a lot of concern that there haven't been new readers coming in for a while. I think the 'Fifty Shades' trilogy has been a great entry point for people who may not have been more than casual readers before but [are] intrigued enough by the experience of reading 'Fifty Shades' to go back to reading."
With James' books flying off the shelves, mainstream retailers have started trying to fill readers' needs with storefront displays of other titles in erotic fiction, something that used to be reserved for the back of bookstores or specific "romance" sections.
"Once the media picked up on it and then people were talking about it in daily casual conversations, merchants were like, 'Wow, there's really a demographic that would like to get this and we should probably be serving them.' And they made room on their shelves where they didn't before," noted bestselling author Sylvia Day, whose latest novel "Bared to You" has received "Fifty Shades"-esque buzz. "Previously you're writing erotic fiction, you're in trade paperback, and the covers usually, you know, left very little to the imagination and they were only stocked in traditional bookstores or you had to buy it online at the e-tailers. That really limits impulse buys. It limits recognition among the populace that it's out there, so now the books are in the grocery stores, they're in Target, they're in Walmart. All of those places would not stalk erotic fiction before and now they do, and that's huge." ...
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