If there’s one thing publishers love more than using the phrase “our in-house readers are raving about this book”, it’s a publishing phenomenon. And no doubt the zeitgeist of mid-2012 is the slap and/or tickle of E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. The book that started as a piece of Twilight fan-fiction called Master of the Universe written under the name Snowqueens Icedragon (no, really) before evolving into the erotic trilogy that has become arguably the most profitable self-published book of modern times. The book has gone into reprint several times in Australia, and many bookshops have reported selling hundreds of copies every day.
And luckily for lovers of what is cynically called Mommy Porn (a term whose offensive taxonomy ignores the fact that women buy the majority of any type of book), publishers have listened to what you’re telling them through the cash registers. They’ve got some exciting new releases for you! And by new releases, of course I mean books that have met sexy, brooding publishers who entered their lives like lightning in the darkness of a dark night, freeing them from the drudgery of everyday unpublished life until they craved the publisher’s presence like a drug, an addictive drug, the type of drug that you just had to have or you would get withdrawals because it was so addictive. The publishers and the books inexorably become part of each others’ lives, the dangerous partners in a sexy, explosive tango.
Much like a publisher, Christian Grey, the main character in Fifty Shades of Grey, requires his new protege Anastasia Steele to sign a contract allowing him complete control over his life, along with a non-disclosure agreement. At least that’s my experience with publishers. Here is the cover that you’ve no doubt seen everywhere, released through Random House in Australia in March this year:
Here is Destiny to Play (HarperCollins, July). “Forget Fifty Shades of Grey, this daring debut will leave you breathless for more …”
Here is The Secret Lives of Emma (Random House, July).”The first in a series of erotic novels that tap into our deepest, sexiest fantasies.”
And finally, Bared to You (Penguin, mid-July), whose tantalising blurb promises the reader: “This is not repackaged backlist erotica but a brand-new sizzling series.”
And maybe that’s my overly snarky point. There is, and always has been backlist erotica. You could do no better than to read Chris Flynn’s excellent piece on the Meanjin blog about the much better erotic novels that are already out there. I can’t fault people for doing well out of an opportunity, but we all know this is but the latest in a long series of publishing trends that quickly flood the market with a glut of copycat titles. But fair play to these writers, who are making hay while the mainstream sun shines on their a genre, one that is nearly always poo-pooed (but I think E L James holds the poo-poo until book three). That being said, the romance market nearly always turns a profit, but that is another blog post for another time.
Until then, it’s back to my BDSM cave for a severe caning from my publisher. My in-house whippers are raving about my next book.