50 Shades or Midlist Purgatory

I’ll make one thing clear first. Getting published at all would be one huge item off of the ol’ bucket list. From that perspective, I really don’t care whether whatever I get published is a smashing commercial success or a critically-acclaimed piece of literature. Ideally, you’d want to have both, but that’s not what’s being asked here.

“You can become either an obscure novelist whose work will be admired and studied by a select few for decades, or a popular paperback author whose books give pleasure to millions.”

I’m going to qualify the situation given by The Daily Prompt. If I choose the latter, it means that the book is a literary lightweight. For this purpose, I’ll use the current darling of the shooting gallery, 50 Shades of Grey. I don’t know E.L. James, nor have I read the book. I’m going off the reviews, which are polarizing. (I could have gone with the Twilight series, but with the 50 Shades movie coming out it’s top of mind.)

The alternative is to be a midlist author. Write well-received books that aren’t commercial failures, but you’re not raking in J.K. Rowling money either.

Honestly I’d take the money and write the next sparkly teen angsty monster novel. I’ll even expect that the movie that’s made off it will get butchered like Eragon (which wasn’t amazing for a YA novel to begin with). Sure, I’d love to be L’Engle and write A Wrinkle in Time, but I’ve never really cared that much about public opinion anyway. Write for yourself. If your work finds an audience, then hooray. If it finds a huge audience, then congratulations. Who cares what the critics say? They’re all just jealous that they didn’t figure out that blood-sucking sex would make millions.

No, I have no idea why I’m stuck on YA stuff. I could have gone with Dan Brown vs. Umberto Eco. Oh well.


7 thoughts on “50 Shades or Midlist Purgatory

  1. I went for the opposite. Fame and popularity doesn’t really catch my attention. 🙂
    As for 50 Shades, its fame doesn’t lie in the writing style or skills; it’s not related to the power of descriptive writing or characters. Still, I read all three of them…

    ‘Who cares what the critics say? They’re all just jealous that they didn’t figure out that blood-sucking sex would make millions.’

    You’ve summarised it all there.

    1. Haven’t there been tonnes of romantic-erotic novels before? What is it about it then??? The SMS? Or good marketing? I haven’t read it yet but going to now, please no spoilers… 🙂

      1. To be truly honest, I wasn’t that curious about 50 Shades. A family member started reading them earlier this year and she kept telling me how amazing it was. She could not put the books down. Since I had never given the books a chance before and simply turned my nose up, I decided to at least try and read them. I cannot say they are my top 10 books. I remained with mixed feelings about it.

        1. I’ll defend anyone’s reading choices. I’ve read my share of clunkers over the years. I gave in to curiosity and pressure and ready The Da Vinci Code. I saw the movie too. Both were underwhelming. I suppose it’s kind of like the guilty pleasure of a Michael Bay film – you expect explosions, and are happy when you get explosions. People hear 50 Shades has sex, they read it and get a gazillion ways to describe genitalia and copulation plus the bonus of BDSM, and are satisfied. I’m already predicting a successful movie, unless it’s slapped with an NC-17 rating. I know, it’s a paradox because a 50 Shades movie that’s anything tamer than NC-17 wouldn’t be much of a 50 Shades movie…

      2. Sure, there have been lots of ero novels. How many of them were #1 on the NYT bestsellers list? I guess that’s the dilemma. How many aspiring writers would be ok with having a bestseller that’s the first result when you google “mommy porn bad writing”? For the record, I wouldn’t mind. 🙂

    2. Personally, it’s the “popularity” (which I read as “a lot of people have read my stuff”) more than the fame (which in my example means “famous for laughably bad writing”). I’ll take your word for it on the descriptive text and characters – I have no desire to read 50 Shades. I will wager though that having a quality of being “taboo porn” is a significant driver for its sales. It’s still surprising that in 2014, we have a book that’s essentially what Lady Chatterly’s Lover was in the 1920s.

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