Monday, 30 July 2012

Fifty Shades lessons

I learned some stuff last night.
Channel 4 (in the UK) aired a documentary about Fifty Shades of Grey. As far as I can see, if you missed it, you missed it - it doesn't seem to appear on the 4OD catchup website, or at least not yet.
Among the posturing from some commentators and the slightly jokey treatment of bdsm, some interesting stuff emerged about the whole erotica ‘industry’ and how writers can get noticed.

I won't try to summarise the whole thing. But here’s a range of key points for those of us who write erotica. I shall be trying to act on them sometime soon...

- Put at least some material out for free. But put it in a place where lots of people will read it. That often doesn’t mean your own blog, but a forum.
- Self-pubbing is no bad thing. Up until a year or two ago mainstream publishers maintained the fiction that self-publishing was beneath contempt, and those who self-pubbed wouldn’t get looked at by publishing houses. Now they’re trawling self-pubbed material to see what they can license and republish.
- A boundary has been pushed through. ‘Transgressive’ material, certainly bdsm and probably now other topics, are fine for the mainstream. Big publishers have caught up with the idea that people’s fantasies are not censored and often not politically correct. In the UK, allegedly, some 37% of the population admit to having tried bondage sex (I don’t know the source of this figure but it doesn’t surprise me; I’d suspect, though, it’s mainly a younger demographic). And incidentally, since FSOG came out, publishers have seen a massive increase in submissions of bdsm-themed work.
- Unfortunately for the rest of us, one blockbuster novel tends to sweep the board on Amazon Kindle and leave everyone else selling hardly anything for a couple of months.

And finally - it’s not a lesson for authors, particularly, but Ann Summers had to get a Fifty Shades management team together to find ways to meet the demand for sex toys that resulted from the book’s publication. Overall sales are up hugely (I think they said 'doubled'), some branches have experienced larger sales increases than that, and some items (nipple clamps for example) have had huge increases in demand. So the publication of the book has, actually, grabbed people’s attention to the point that they’re trying out the ideas and buying stuff in order to do so. And maybe that means there's an increased demand for books on how to do bdsm?


  1. Thank you for this, really interesting.

  2. Thanks for your comment! I've been picking over sites such as Literotica to see whether they offer opportunities for publicity but concluded, reluctantly, they don't; they're quite militant about material published there not referring or linking to anything offsite. Helps them with their revenue stream but means readers need to work very hard to find other published stuff by that author. It's only useful if you're planning on never making money from your writing. But I'm sure other opportunities are out there...