The Horrible Success of Fifty Shades of Grey : Does it Show the Dangers of the Self Publishing System?

Fifty shades of grey is an overnight success. It’s the book version of the Friday Rebecca Black YouTube sensation. Even though most people think it’s horrible, it’s selling one book per second.Most people who have any literary sensibility will argue that it is a horrendous bit of writing based on a slightly less mediocre piece of writing in twilight. There are some staunch defenders, but it seems to me that these are the same people who might defend a trashy reality show. Let’s face it even the author herself admits it to being , well, mediocre.
According to countless Amazon reviews : There are countless mistakes splattered around the series, and even a series of TYpos. ( Get it? 🙂 )It lacks a plot, glorifies an arguably abusive relationship,lacks authenticity , and is filled with countless Britishisms’ despite all characters being American. Yet it has garnered success worldwide, as well as guaranteeing a million dollar movie deal . What went wrong here?
It seems to me that this success story is a cautionary tale on Self publishing. Much like YouTube, having absolute freedom to publish anything you want without any sort of limits on quality that publishing houses offer can be dangerous. This does not mean people should not publish what they want because everyone has this right. However, the quality might be compromised. Should pedophiles be allowed to publish on taboo topics? Should it be allowed to be promoted on websites? Yes, they can write about it but should it be readily available to everyone ?
Why was it successful? Essentially, the book has all the characteristics of a literary meme. She was writing within a group or community that already had a built in fan base. She posted this to discussion boards within the fan base. Thus, she had access to thousands of readers already. She then revamped her novel and self published within a small Australian self publishing community. The book took on a life of it’s own. In the world of sharing , liking, pinning, digging, and our absolute glee over doing this without any sort of restraint this was a bomb ready to explode. The problem with technology is that many times we share things without thinking that if we do, we are contributing to it’s subsequent popularity even if we think it isn’t that good. There were no editors, framework or barriers to restrain the floodgates of popularity of this horrible piece of writing. This will only get subsequently worse now that Hollywood has it’s jaws on it. Writers all over the world might take this as an interesting business model, but it is unlikely that most writers would ever achieve this level of success….
Furthermore, despite the argument that parents should not allow kids to read this how can they prevent it? There are no parent controls to prevent kids from purchasing this off amazon, there is no clear warning that it is only for a certain age and up. It is the number one hit on amazon and you are telling me that kids won’t be morbidly curious?
To sum up : Self Publishing is currently lacking any clear limits of what can be published, zero editorial review and no way to make sure some level of quality control is given might present a big problem. Perhaps it is unfair to blame this on self publishing-publishing houses can create miserable garbage it was responsible for twilight after all and this book is not the norm. In light of this here are some questions for you: is it as bad as this self publishing disaster? Is there a happy medium between the elitist and limited publishing house system and the free-for-all self publishing system? Is self publishing eliminating meritocracy? Do we have any right to stop horrible writing with characters who show signs of an abusive relationship? Where do we draw the line between freedom of expression and it’s overall effect on society? Does this book open the door for even darker things to be published and accepted? How do we contain or protect our children from harmful self publishing literature in the advent of IPads and Kindles? Is Self publishing getting an unfair bad wrap over this? What can be done to prevent this from happening?

Advertisements