Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Fifty Shades of Profit . . .

In the current business world profit doesn’t have 50 shades—it’s quite black and white.

The legacy publishers in the U. S. are attempting to rape libraries to obtain profit for the e-edition of Fifty Shades of Grey (along with other e-books):

From the article 50 Shades of Red: Losing Our Shirts To E-Books:

[Here’s] “…a chart we worked up in July for the current bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James (ebook available from OverDrive):

Format Copies Circ Holds Circ/Copy Weeks Wait Retail Price Our Price
Print 149 675 822 4.53 16.55 $15.95 $9.41
Ebook 20 117 362 5.85 54.30 $9.99 $47.85

Yet, consider the origin of the word “profit” (from the Oxford Dictionary): “Middle English (in the sense ‘advantage, benefit’): from Old French, from Latin profectus ‘progress, profit’, from proficere ‘to advance’, from pro- ‘on behalf of’ + facere ‘do’. The verb is from Old French profiter.”

To profit is to Do On Behalf Of

O.K., the publishers are raping the libraries over the cost of e-books on behalf of their shareholders?

Seems like very sick poetic “justice” for a book like Fifty Shades of Grey yet it’s happening across the board for all e-books

I’ve held off talking about this particular book, about which Alan Petersen (Infopreneur and Affiliate Marketer) has said:

“According to Amazon, E.L. James has sold more copies of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ than the entire ‘Harry Potter’ series combined—making her their best-selling author ever.”

One reason I’ve declined to mention E. L. James’ book on this blog is that I consider its landmark sales figures to be a sign of social and business failure

Another reason I’ve avoided talking about the book was the plethora of bad reviews it was getting—reviews which ignored the business marketing successes and the avidity of the purchasers but focused on the writing quality

Now, in an article from Fuel Your Writing, “Why ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Is Exposure Therapy For Writers”, we have a positive reason to consider the book—“…it’s so widely-read, and so universally recognised as atrocious, that as a result, millions of people have at once been exposed to ‘bad writing’ in what can best be described as a mass cultural inoculation against poor taste.”

Robert Smedley, the author of the article, also says:

“I think Fifty Shades of Grey is appalling. It is a wound in the world of the printed word: a great and greedy black hole swallowing up attention from anything that is unfortunate enough to gravitate near it.”

“It has become a cultural in-joke, a bestselling gag gift, that we all – whether writer or reader, celebrity or layman, rich or poor – can collectively point and laugh at, like someone who forgot to take the right clothes to the gym and ended up working out on the cross-trainer in assless chaps and a ball-gag.”

Fifty Shades of Grey has indirectly sparked an interest in writing among some of the more proactive portions of its readership, both in erotic and non-erotic fiction. Not because it has inspired them, but because so many of the people who have picked it up have thought: ‘I can write better than this.’ And they’ve stuck to their words and tried.”

“What’s better than people being disgusted by how bad something is? People actually being motivated to do something about it.”

Personally, I find Mr. Smedley’s reasoning profound

I, personally, have committed some profound screw-ups in my life

I spent a large part of my life weighing myself down with the guilt generated by the screw-ups

Yet, finally, I’ve reached just a bit of Radiant Acquiescence about my screw-ups which has led to a refreshing ability to Learn from them—learn how not to screw-up

So, can you conceive of Fifty Shades of Grey as a business and literary screw-up?

Sure, this post will probably help sell a few more copies of the book

If you buy one of them, I hope you, too, can say, “I can write better than this.”
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13 responses to “Fifty Shades of Profit . . .

  1. Silver Moon Unicorn August 22, 2012 at 11:55 am

    I seriously wonder if the big publishers are afraid of selling ebooks to libraries. Yes, the technology is changing, but as a small publisher, I wouldn’t want to leave the libraries out of the loop. I suppose if the big publishers aren’t willing to work with the libraries, then the smaller publishers need to step forward and take their place.


  2. Barbara Blackcinder August 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I love that this book is being used as a stimulus for new writers, that the greedy efforts of the legacy publishers is blatantly obvious and recognized, but not so thrilled that it may become the best selling book of all times (unless it points out the greed of the publishers with every mention).


  3. Alexander M Zoltai August 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Well, Barb, if this book remains the world’s all-time bestseller but also lets the world know how broken traditional publishing is and how troubled and clueless so many readers are, then I suppose it could be called a “win/win”


  4. Camie Rembrandt August 22, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    I’ve been thinking about your question, Alex: «So, can you conceive of Fifty Shades of Grey as a business and literary screw-up?»
    A business screw-up? Hardly, right? Apparently, it’s the best-selling work of the new millennium… On the other hand, considering the literary quality so many people tell it has, I’d be tempted to quote a dead Portuguese poet and say that Fifty Shades of Grey is not a best-seller, it’s a ‘beast-seller’. ;)


    • Alexander M Zoltai August 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      Marvelous, Camie—it is, in fact, a bestseller, which usually qualifies as a business success; but, you have come to the answer I must give to the question—it’s a business screw-up—because it’s really a BeastSeller :-)


  5. John Paul Mahofski August 23, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I can’t remember the pricetag but I seem to remember the ebook contract at the University of Pittsburgh being one that was full service. It was no different then the databases we subscribed too. We paid a fee and they got the titles and set it up as far as checkouts cataloging etc. Libraries will need to pay to have ebooks but it wont be a negotiable conversation between libr,ary and author it will instead be a corporate go between. I do:n’t like it but I see authors getting their money the corporate technology provider getting theirs and librarians having the books.


  6. janedarntonwatson August 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    The director of a women’s refuge has organised a public burning of this book to highlight the fact that the book: “normalises abuse, degrades women and encourages sexual violence”. She goes on to ask: “Do millions and millions of women suffer from secret self-loathing? Do they all want to be treated this badly?” Read about her stance on this link:


    • Alexander M Zoltai August 29, 2012 at 8:28 am

      I do believe that “…millions and millions of women suffer from secret self-loathing”.

      Our “civilization” is very sick

      The article you linked for us, Jane, shows the reality of 50 shades of perversion.


  7. Elizabeth Nicole September 3, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    I don’t understand the politics or statistics…but I can say this much…
    I read the first book and was completely disturbed. I felt so sorry for Ana…I felt like she was this sheltered little girl who was being abused and taken advantage of by a perverted psycho. Lol!
    After taking a break and coming back to it later, though, I really did enjoy the series and not because it was “erotic”. I enjoyed the series because it took my mind new places and got me thinking about things I am usually too closed minded to even consider. Lots of people really are “50 Shades of fucked up”…everything in life isn’t always pretty.
    In the grander scheme of things, he liked playing games she didn’t. He never FORCED her to do anything. She decided she liked some of the things he liked. They compromised.
    I found the series was about MUCH more than kinky sex. Well-written or not, it was entertaining, moving and unsettling enough to stir up something beyond the surface which isn’t always easy with me.
    I respect the author + her work and I’m very happy for her. :)
    As far as the whole –unimpressed—–> do better— bit goes, I agree 100%.
    I’ve always felt that if you think you can do better, you SHOULD. :D


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