As noted previously, sometimes the Kindle best-seller list is a bit wacky. Some out-of-left-field book, often erotica, zooms to the top of Kindle's list, and other lists don't even blink. Usually, it boils down to: Cheap e-books, even weird, self-published e-books, seem to have an advantage on Kindle's list.
So when I noticed three e-books of erotica in the top 10 of Kindle's best-seller list a week or so ago--Fifty Shades of Grey and its two sequels--I figured that was the story. They appeared to be self-published (not true, as it turned out--they were published by some small outfit in Australia) and were definitely kinky. Then I looked a little closer, and noticed they all sold for around $10, not the 99 cents I was expecting. Hmmm. Mysterious.
All was cleared up this weekend in a story in The New York Times, headlined Discreetly Digital, Erotic Novel Sets American Women Abuzz:
“Fifty Shades of Grey,” an erotic novel by an obscure author that has been described as “Mommy porn” and “Twilight” for grown-ups, has electrified women across the country, who have spread the word like gospel on Facebook pages, at school functions and in spin classes.
In fact, the books have become so popular that last week, Vintage came out on top in a bidding war for the U.S. rights, and will pay "a seven-figure sum" for the trilogy. And the first volume is No. 1 on the Times e-book best-seller list.
The books seem to have had quite an effect on some readers:
“It’s relighting a fire under a lot of marriages,” said Lyss Stern, the founder of DivaMoms.com and one of the early fans of the series. “I think it makes you feel sexy again, reading the books.”
To break through like this, you'd expect the books to be groundbreaking in some way, right? Well, not quite:
The trilogy has its detractors. Commentators have shredded the books for their explicit violence and antiquated treatment of women, made especially clear in the character of Anastasia, an awkward naif who consents to being stalked, slapped and whipped with a leather riding crop.
Seriously, I do NOT want to know what's going on in the bedrooms of my suburban neighbors.
And yes, the subject line of this post is a quotation from the book.
Perhaps I should just retire my "wacky high-jinks ensue" posts. I think I might be a little out of step with the book-buying public.
UPDATE ON 3/26: Now the movie rights have been sold for a reported $4 million.