What we can learn from Fifty Shades of Grey. By now, you’d have to be living under a rock or in a remote cave to have not heard about the phenomenal success of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey (and the other books in the trilogy). Personally, it’s not my cup of tea. But it’s struck a chord with a lot of readers, both good and bad. I’m sure many of you indie authors groan (or laugh hysterically like I did) when you read some of the (creative) negative reviews. But what exactly can we indie authors learn from Fifty Shades of Grey (besides *ahem* sex stuff)?
Indie Authors – Sex Sells
When Nephilim Genesis of Evil was first released, a coworker commented that he’d read the book and enjoyed it a lot, but he also said, if you really want to sell a lot of books, put some boobs on the cover and write some sex scenes. We had a good laugh, but he was also right. Romance is currently the hottest-selling genre, and readers (especially women) are buying up erotica. Why? One theory is that women are living out their fantasy lives and they can do so easily with ebooks (no one can see a cover to tell what they are reading). Personally, I’m not very good at writing romantic scenes and I have no interest in writing erotica, but if you do, there is a market for it.
Indie Authors – Write a Series
Long before the ebook revolution, publishers wanted series books, and the same is true today. As an indie author, writing a series (or in Fifty Shade of Grey, a trilogy) is good business sense. Readers get hooked on characters and if you have a series, this means a reader will likely get hooked on your first book (if you’ve written it well) and they’ll go buy the rest in the series. E.L. James has a gold mine with her series.
Indie Authors – You Don’t Have To Write Well…
Apparently, if you fill up a novel with steamy sex scenes, you don’t have to even write well to have a bestseller. Write about heaving breasts, repetitive climaxing, and blushing fifty different ways, and you’ve got it. Actually, I’m sure there are plenty of romance and erotica novelists who write stellar novels and they aren’t discovered. Why did Fifty Shades of Grey get discovered? From what I’ve heard it was…
Indie Authors – Word of Mouth
I heard on a news story that Fifty Shades of Grey built its following through women’s book clubs. It’s the old word-of-mouth syndrome. If you want to be a successful writer (indie author or mainstream published author), you have to build word of mouth. I’ve had a couple of book clubs read my books and it’s amazing when you hear I told my friend about your book, or I recommended this to my next-door neighbor. Word of mouth is huge in selling books.
Indie Authors – Analyzing The Reviews
You knew I was going to get to the writing itself, didn’t you? If you look at your reviews and you have 100 5-star reviews and 50 1-star reviews, I think this might be a signal that there’s some need of improvement. To me, this is not a good good-to-bad review ratio. In the case of Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s (at the time of this writing) 2,580 5-star to 1,769 1-star. Wow!
Another thing to look at: if a lot of the 1-star reviews are pointing out the same thing (poor characterization, bad dialogue, etc.), your readers are trying to tell you something. Here’s a common theme in Fifty Shades of Grey:
Ana says “Jeez” 81 times and “oh my” 72 times. She “blushes” or “flushes” 125 times, including 13 that are “scarlet,” 6 that are “crimson,” and one that is “stars and stripes red.”
I spared you the rest. One thing I do (and my editors look for this too) is repetitive phrases. As an author, it’s easy to miss things. Your editor shouldn’t. And, in my humble opinion, what lives as writing in Fifty Shades of Grey is atrocious. Figure out a better way of saying it, for pity’s sake :). I honestly don’t know how readers can think the writing is good…but that’s just me.
Indie Authors – What’s Left For Me?
I look at this author and equate her to John Locke or Amanda Hocking, not the writing, but the phenomena. Because that’s what it is. There was a spark, a breeze to fan the fire, a viola, a bestseller. I’m sure we’d all like that to happen with our books. My advice? Keep persevering, write great books, and that fire just might find you. One final thought, from another review:
Like some other reviewers, what I find terribly depressing is that this is a runaway bestseller and the movie rights are expected to sell for up to $5 million. There are so many highly talented writers in the genre… and erotica is so much more erotic when the author has a command of the language and can make you care about the characters.
Think readers don’t care about good writing? Think again :). What are your thoughts?