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50 Shades of This Is Not Cool, Guys

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By now, every single author with a summer release knows that their book is doomed to fall into the black hole that is Grey, E.L. James’s regurgitation of her blockbuster novel 50 Shades of Grey. A title like Grey is like an event horizon. It will suck everything into its gravity with no chance of escape. All other books will come to a standstill, approaching, but never reaching, the sales success they would have had if Grey hadn’t come crashing into the market. And it doesn’t just happen to small books. Big, splashy titles will be affected, and you’ll see regular NYT #1-ers failing to reach the spot.

In other words, fiction sales this summer are “fifty shades of fucked up.”

So, if Grey is expected to sell out its unheard of print run (1.25 million copies in its first printing), why does it need to be prominently advertised on other titles? Oh, for example…

50 Shades of Total Bullshit

If you can’t see the graphic, it’s a screen shot of the Amazon page for my book, The Boss (which is free and, from what I understand, pretty fantastic, so check it out if you want). Before the reader browsing through the page can even reach the book’s description, there’s an add imploring the consumer to visit the Kindle store page for Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian, and providing links to “More ‘Fifty Shades’ titles.”

In other words, “Before you have a chance to read about this book you were interested in a minute ago, might we redirect you to this other one, instead?”

Besides the fact that this creepily implies a similarity between the two titles (or the author’s tacit approval of the franchise), it’s a low blow to authors who just want to break even. My books are fairly successful, and share something of a crossover audience with the Fifty series. But tons of other authors have seen this ad pop up on their pages, too. The titles don’t even need to have anything in common with Grey; while my book is seemingly a shoe-in for readers who like BDSM billionaire soap operas, one author reported seeing it on her “very, very, very gay” all-male menage book. One saw it on her erotic thriller’s page. If your book is erotic romance or erotica of any flavor, it appears to wear the Grey badge of awful.

So, what gives, Amazon? Grey is already #1 in both the Kindle store and among regular books. It is a part of the bestselling fiction series of all time. It has a first print run of 1.25 million copies. Does it really, truly need sales so bad as to potentially drive them away from authors who sell less? One author who found her product page bearing the advertisement reported that she “barely broke” a thousand dollars in profit last year, a far cry from the $95 million James made in 2013. The ad showed up on the product page for one author who reports selling approximately 120 ebooks per year. 120. What compels the logic that E.L. James desperately needs those 120 readers to see her title and potentially drive readers from that 120 copy selling author to Grey? And that author has no hope of seeing her book placed prominently on the Grey product page.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, Vintage Press, James’s publisher, doesn’t feel the book needs any advertisement at all:

When asked why Vintage announced the book just two weeks before its on sale date, Bogaards said, it’s what E.L. James, nee Erika Mitchell, wanted. “Erika wanted this to be a surprise for her readers, and the only amplification that was necessary on our end was to point press to her tweet [about the publication], which we did.”

So, if a simple tweet will suffice to drive the sales of this book (and it absolutely will and has), I have to ask…why would anyone go the extra mile to potentially squash the sales of other authors? Maybe I’m just not retail savvy enough to understand it. Either Amazon is behind the campaign (possible) or Vintage Press has sprung for the placement (more possible). Either way, the retail behemoth has to understand that Grey is guaranteed money in their pockets with or without this advertisment, so it doesn’t make sense to undercut sales of other titles.

 

I guess the lesson we can all learn from this is that there is no coattail so small that E.L. James’s masterwork cannot ride it.

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Here for the first time because you’re in quarantine and someone on Reddit recommended my Fifty Shades of Grey recaps? Welcome! Consider checking out my own take on the Billionaire BDSM genre, The Boss. Find it on AmazonB&NSmashwords, iBooks, and Radish!

40 Comments

  1. This happened with two of my self-published titles, both M/M, neither in any way BDSM stories. Lord knows why; I’m a virtual unknown in the erotic romance world, so EL James hardly needs a boost from my meagre sales!

    It was 50 Shades of Grey that showed up on my book pages (now gone). Maybe something to do with the movie release infecting every other author with its promo?

    I was proper cheesed off; didn’t like the thought of anyone thinking this was cross-promo or — horrors! — endorsement of ELJ’s product.

    June 3, 2015
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  2. WHY THE EVERLOVING HELL DO WE NEED THE VERY SAME STORY, TOLD BY A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE???? Seriously, the same events, same dialogue, same everything, right? WHY ARE PEOPLE BUYING THIS GARBAGE?!?

    But yes “The Boss” is indeed fantastic.

    June 3, 2015
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    • Laina
      Laina

      Because Midnight Sun?

      June 3, 2015
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      • IFYouEverComeBack
        IFYouEverComeBack

        Basically! She is really riding the Twilight Train hard isn’t she?

        June 6, 2015
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      LOL, my next book is split into two parts with one POV in one book and one POV in the other. I think that kind of thing is interesting…if it’s not a direct rip off of Midnight Sun.

      June 3, 2015
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      • unamadridista
        unamadridista

        I think split points of view are a great way to structure a novel. I’ve done my first fictional novel that way, only from third person, not first. I generally have no problem with authors telling a story from a different character’s POV as long as it’s not the story we’ve already been presented with. I think that sort of thing works better as a sequel and not a retelling of what we’ve already seen. Like Maitri asks, why is that needed? To show us that he has an Inner God or some other resident in his head that compels him to break all kinds of norms of social behavior?

        I’m really confused why Amazon is endorsing it this way. I haven’t even seen them do it with original trilogy like this. Wouldn’t it be enough to stick a giant ad on the homepage? They don’t need to work it this hard since 50 Shades already has a large fan base and easy publicity (I mean, I still see the film ads for the DVD) so I don’t get it.

        June 3, 2015
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        • Amanda
          Amanda

          I can’t help but wonder if she feels like she is going to address some of the criticism that he’s abusive and horrible by giving us some kind of sob-story perspective to show us it’s all out of love, or something. I can see this going VERY well!

          June 3, 2015
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          • ViolettaD
            ViolettaD

            Hey, doesn’t everyone whack people on the clit with a riding crop when they’re in love?

            June 3, 2015
          • I suspect that’s part of her motive. She has to defend a fictional character’s honor to the rood and meen masses

            June 4, 2015
          • IFYouEverComeBack
            IFYouEverComeBack

            WEll Stephanie Meyers had planned to write a book of the first Twilight story from EDward’s POV called Midnight Sun. It got leaked, so she published the first couple chapters on her web page and scrapped the project. Since E.L James works is basically twilight Fanfiction I guess she decided to just continue her Twilight ripoff ways.

            June 6, 2015
        • Rosa H
          Rosa H

          I think a retelling of the same story is a great idea if the two characters have very different storylines or their perspectives are restricted in different ways when it comes to the actual plot. Like, I used to think that, instead of Midnight Sun, it would have been interesting to get Edward’s perspective on the events in New Moon where Edward and Bella are apart for most of the novel.

          With this garbage, however, what new info can Christian have to offer? There was already a lot of time devoted to figuring out what this oh-so-enigmatic man is thinking in the original book. Since the story is pretty much all about the relationship, how can this work? I can’t believe James would delve into the business mogul side of Christian because, seeing as the business calls and whatnot are so incredibly stupid in the other books, it obviously does not interest James at all outside of the supposed hotness factor. This book is going to be so completely and utterly lame.

          June 4, 2015
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          • Honey
            Honey

            I think you’re right about the story-telling from 2 different people – IF there are two different angles and stories to tell. One of the (many) problems with 50SoG is that Ana and Christian spend almost all of their time together. He is ALWAYS there. What is this going to meaningfully contribute to the narrative?

            Answer (Spoiler): Absolutely nothing.

            June 4, 2015
          • ViolettaD
            ViolettaD

            Again, multiple perspective was used with great success in both “Clarissa” and “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” but Richardson and Laclos were skilled writers who saw the irony of virtuous people misreading the actions of destructive people. Both have scenes in which their sexual predators deliberately stage charitable acts, knowing that their intended victims will hear about them and think they can’t be as bad as their reputations say. More recently, Sinclair Lewis often had well-meaning people being utterly misunderstood by small-town gossips who put the worst interpretation on their every effort to do what is right. I’ll be extremely surprised if James has the chops to pull off this sort of thing.

            June 4, 2015
          • unamadridista
            unamadridista

            Rosa, you’re absolutely right. When there’s a new angle to be see from another character’s perspective, the same story could be retold that way. It would be interesting for fans to read something like that and offers something new. I was just solely thinking in terms of 50 Shades. For fans, a sequel from Grey’s perspective would offer something new (I hope I’m not giving James any ideas on this, just the route I assumed she’d eventually go) but original trilogy from his POV wouldn’t because, as you and Honey both rightly point out, they’re rarely apart so there’s nothing new to see. Sounds like this book will just follow the same old arguments and plot, but with Grey’s inner thoughts. Wasn’t there an exert from his POV at the end of the third book? It goes back to when they first meet at for the interview and when he goes to her store to buy murder supplies, where he thinks she doesn’t have an assertive bone in her body or some misogynistic crap like that. From that alone, I understood she would be retelling the same crap just with readers being privy to his private thoughts and feelings, which from that little exert don’t do him any favors; he actually sounds worse.

            June 4, 2015
  3. Kate
    Kate

    Obviously, bad all round, but God, to have that on your book is like a slap in the face! Is there anything you can do to get rid of it?

    June 3, 2015
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  4. BlueSimplicity
    BlueSimplicity

    Isn’t all of Amazon’s book recommendations based on algorithms? I ask because I honestly don’t know. I don’t know where they get their data from, but in terms of m/m, and Jenny’s work having BDSM, maybe there’s some “kinky/alternative sex” algorithm? Again, I have no idea, but all I can say is that Amazon’s recommendations are totally whacked. I can look at 60 m/m titles (which I am a HUGE fan of – and hi Scarlett, I’ve enjoyed your work), and get no m/m recs. Meanwhile, I look at one m/f romance, and I’m bombarded with those types of titles endlessly, until I clear out my viewing history. Versus Audible (which I know is owned by Amazon) which does a much better job of recommending items based on past purchases.

    June 3, 2015
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      The thing is, this isn’t in the recommended buys section, so it’s not like the algorithm accidentally slapped this popular book in the proper section. It’s a special addition to the page.

      June 3, 2015
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  5. Alias Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
    Alias Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

    Well, Jenny, you didn’t sign your soul over to the devil, now did you?!? The fault is yours!

    June 3, 2015
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  6. Katsuro Ricksand
    Katsuro Ricksand

    Gotta say, this seems like a bad move even form a pragmatic point of view. Anybody who’ll buy the book because it was recommended on Amazon would have bought it anyway eventually. It’s not the kind of thing you can miss.

    So if Amazon hadn’t advertised Grey to people checking out The Boss, those people would have just went ahead and bought The Boss, and then they would have ended up buying Grey anyway (assuming that they like EL James, that is). It seems that the only possible effect these ads might have is to lose sales for other books without gaining new buyers for Grey.

    June 3, 2015
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  7. The company I work for (Partly a bookstore) has issued a message to all staff to try and push pre-orders with every fiction book sale. If people pre-order they can get it for £4, which I think is about £20 more than it’s worth.
    But despite my company trying to force us to foist it on people, I’m refusing. If people want to waste their time, money and brain cells reading it, fine, but I’m not going to pretend to want people to buy it.

    June 3, 2015
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    • Rhiannon
      Rhiannon

      Oh wow, that is just so shit. Like I said below, it totally doesn’t even need any promotion at all, there are enough misguided fans out there. I would refuse to promote it too.

      June 4, 2015
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  8. Alison
    Alison

    Ugh. I am so sorry this is happening to you, and other authors.

    June 3, 2015
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  9. Petra Newman
    Petra Newman

    And so it begins. Honestly I thought we all might get a break from the ever present 50 juggernaut because of the derailing of the movie schedule but, alas it was not to be. This is just another layer of awfulness; particularly because it gives the impression that the writers whose pages this ad appears on (especially given its prominence and separate bar) in some way endorse the new release. If ever there was a book that didn’t need advertising off the back of other writers (don’t get me started on the irony of this given how much James owes S. Meyer) it’s this one.

    FYI this is the link to the FF of Christian’s POV that Jen linked to in her original recaps
    http://christiangrey50shades.blogspot.co.uk/?zx=c6a005586445bbd9
    (I hope it works I’m absolutely useless at this stuff). It maybe worth putting a pin in this to see how similar they are when the new book comes out.

    June 3, 2015
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  10. Victoriana
    Victoriana

    Ugh, that sucks, I’m sorry. If it makes you feel any better though (which it may not since I’m sure everyone is different), I never almost never look at the advertisements. When I click on a book, my eyes glance at the cover and price, then automatically skip right down to the description, and then skip again to the reviews. That’s all I’m interested in. I like and sometimes click on the “Customers who bought this item also bought” recommends, but not the ads. I don’t mind looking up what books readers with similar tastes are purchasing (I’ve found lots of great books and authors this way), but I have no interest in clicking on what Amazon or another publisher thinks I should buy. In over 8 years and many hundreds of ebook purchases on Amazon, that’s how it’s been for me.

    June 3, 2015
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  11. ViolettaD
    ViolettaD

    Jenny, do NOT take this personally. Vintage is one of Random House’s imprints. I temped for Random Violence (as we affectionately called it–Conde Nast was Condescending and Nasty) back in my NYC sporadically-employed actress days, and this is ALL about money. The editors may actually prefer your work, but they know whom they have to promote. One editor I worked for was promoting a supposedly true story of a family being haunted–by this time, I think they’ve made TWO movies out of it–and she used to make a face every time someone put a call through from the family. She was totally respectful to them, their agent, and all the talk show people she was dealing with, but as soon as she got off the phone, she’d start shaking her head, and turn to a classic reprint to get the taste out of her mouth. I saw a sample of the family’s “prose” when they suggested that maybe they didn’t need a ghost writer. It was what people might come up with if they didn’t realize that sounding “literary” would hurt their credibility, and they’d be better to sound as matter-of-fact as possible. Trust me, the editors HATE having to choke this stuff down.

    June 3, 2015
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  12. Ugh, this just sucks. I seriously hate E.L. James with such a passion. Not only is she a plagiarist, a shitty writer, and a reportedly all-around mean person, she’ll stop at nothing to make more $$ by trampling on other writers while basically saying that rapist abusers are sexy. UGH UGH UGH she makes me want to vom.

    June 3, 2015
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  13. I was afraid for a moment this post was about anti-fans of the books doing something shitty like trying to hack ELJ’s twitter or something, and I’m so glad it’s not. I was like “ugh don’t make me have to hold up a ‘get off my side’ sign and/or sympathize with this person/her team”

    That being said, I’m so tired of the endless saturation with this shitty series. It’s already enough of a sales juggernaut (ugh) does it really need the extra advertising? And this hack trying to pull a Beyoncé with her shitty Midnight Sun ripoff, ugh. UGH.

    June 4, 2015
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    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      Speaking of Beyonce, instead of “Crazy In Love ,” could the next film use this?

      June 4, 2015
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  14. Alix
    Alix

    Knowing zip about publishing, I was curious about Vintage, so I had to look….I was rather surprised to find in their genres: Bible Studies, Christian Life, Inspirational, Spiritual and Devotional….. and they’re publishing a “kinky sexromance”?????
    (I’m curious whether Zondervan’s would have gotten on board with this?)
    Curiouser and curiouser

    June 4, 2015
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  15. Alix
    Alix

    We have already been treated to snippets of Christian’s “voice” – his childhood memory in one book, and I believe the first chapter of “Grey” at the end of 50 Freed….. I honestly don’t seen James being able to write in more than one ‘voice’ – – her own. God help us!!!!!!

    June 4, 2015
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  16. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon

    If it’s any consolation, I just looked up your book on German Amazon, and that stupid ad is not there. Grey only appears as one of the ” customers who bought this also bought” suggestions.
    It’s so stupid, they know there are enough idiots who will order it even without advertising so why even have all that promotion? 🙁 Promote something that needs it, I say.

    June 4, 2015
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  17. Helen
    Helen

    Hi Jenny, long-time lurker here – before saying anything else – you’re great. Just wanted to point you to this parody of the Christian POV in today’s Daily Telegraph here in Britain
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/11648046/The-new-Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-book-an-exclusive-extract-maybe.html
    It’s pretty funny – but I’m sure you’ll do much, much better. I fear for your sanity in recapping a second time around – but am also very grateful. I can’t bear to read this crap myself – but you are doing us a huge service. Respect

    June 4, 2015
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    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      I’m going to TRY to read the book, if only so I can appreciate Jenny’s recraps better, but when I chekced the library, there was already a waitlist! Scary.

      June 4, 2015
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  18. Steve the Fan
    Steve the Fan

    Amazon UK seems to be free of this – just checked the pages for all of the Boss books, and Grey only shows up in the ‘Other people who bought this’ section – which is depressing enough.

    June 4, 2015
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  19. Anon123
    Anon123

    I kind of wish I didn’t know about this. I don’t normally check the front-end pages for my Kindle titles (beyond grabbing the URLs for my templates), so I could have remained in blissful ignorance for a long time. It’s not like there’s anything I can do about it anyway. Sigh.

    On the plus side, I didn’t realize you had The Boss listed free now, so I finally “bought” one of your books. 🙂 I’ve been meaning to do that for awhile, but I normally hate reading books on a screen and wasn’t willing to invest even like a buck in doing so. Free, though, I’ll take.

    June 4, 2015
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  20. Cat
    Cat

    Ugh! I can feel my vagina shrinking in horror at the thought of how EL James will justify abuse and twist Christian’s behavior into something sexy, all in the most soul-deadening prose I’ve ever read.

    June 4, 2015
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  21. Mary
    Mary

    Oh god it is even on the page for Pounded In The Butt By My Own Butt

    June 5, 2015
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  22. Lucy
    Lucy

    Is your book, the boss, available as audiobook on audible? I couldn’t find it.

    October 23, 2015
    |Reply

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