‘Mummy-porn’ extraordinaire E. L. James has sold millions of copies of her BDSM fantasy fiction trilogy all over the world. Her Fifty Shades fame has also reaped millions of pounds, with the book becoming the fastest-selling paperback of all time in 2012, beating J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter record.
How did this mum of two from a small village become so successful?
According to her online profile from 2010, while James was working for a small television company, she discovered fan fiction. As a huge fan of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight she began to write her own stories in 2009, which featured the sparkly vampire, Edward Cullen, and his moody mate, Bella Swan. Her work entitled Master of the Universe had to be moved from a fan fiction site to her own site FiftyShades.com however, due to concerns about its sexual content.
Still a fan-fiction piece in 2010 Mastes of the Universe was a forbearer of the Fifty Shades trilogy. According to one blogger, the similarity index between the two is 89%. Master of the Universe was later rewritten as an original piece with the title characters becoming Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele rather than the Twilight characters of her original fan fiction. A further instalment which would later become Fifty Shades Darker was also published on her site.
James' steps to success...
Well it all began with an Australian website called The Writer’s Coffee Shop, an independent e-book publisher which started out as a discussion platform for readers and writers of blogs, fiction, news etc. In 2011, James split her original works into three parts and published the first instalment 50 Shades of Grey as an e-book and print on demand paperback via The Writer’s Coffee Shop, and the second and third in the series soon followed. Whether James realised it or not at the time, this was a very clever move.
Before her book, she would have only been able to reach an audience through niche publishing agencies. Plus, it’s well-known that the idea of reading erotica in e-book form would be appealing to many who were too embarrassed to admit to reading a little smut, before Fifty Shades became hugely popular of course and everyone and their mother was talking about it. As interest in the book rose and rose the originally self-published work was picked up by publishing company Vintage Books and the rest is herstory.
So, self-publishing may just be the way forward if your masterpiece isn’t being picked up by the publishing houses. E. L. James’ story also shows how working with consumer habits and developing technology can lead to success. And if you fancy yourself a budding writer of erotic fiction, this site has a few tips.