Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Author Copies; Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey; When Bad Reviews Help

I just got my author copies of "Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey," and getting author copies of a print book is still as exciting now as it was twenty years ago when I saw my first story in a print book...even in a world where e-books are starting to take over completely.

I'll be honest about e-books. That's all I read now. For the most part, that's all I write now, too. And I can't even imagine going back to print books...reading or writing them. But that doesn't make it any less exciting to get an author copy of a print book in the mail. Especially a book like FWoFSoG, where forty-nine other authors I admire wrote about their thoughts on what has become one of the biggest books of the year, "Fifty Shades of Grey." And, more than that, FWoFSoG is also available as an e-book for those who don't want print anymore. I offered my own mom a copy of the print book and she declined because she only reads on her iPad now. Never thought I'd see that day.

In any event, I wanted to post a few afterthoughts about FWoFSoG. This book is more than interesting to me because I didn't plan to be part of it. When the editor of the book, Lori Perkins, mentioned it to me, I jumped at the chance to be in it. I also respect and admire Lori as an editor and I like working with her. She has ways of challenging writers that don't happen often. I also I had a few mixed, unresolved emotions about E.L. James's novel, "Fifty Shades of Grey." I've posted a little about this before. But I'd like to get into more detail now. I read FSoG the novel before it went mainstream...about a month before it really turned into a big book. And the reason I read it had more to do with a vicious, scathing, nail-spitting book review I'd read on a web site that's now being accused of bullying in some circles.

I stay out of bully issues and all the drama that's going on right now with various authors, readers, and web sites. I really am neutral and I'm going to remain that way. I've had my fair share of bad reviews I've thought were questionable and I've never addressed them, not once. I've also had bad reviews that helped me learn and grow as an author. I've never "behaved badly" and I never get involved in reader discussions about my books on goodreads, Amazon, or anywhere else. I've been around long enough to know that I can't please everyone and bad reviews are part of the game. I've also been around long enough to know that there are, indeed, fake reviews written by sockpuppets that are designed to hurt authors, publishers, and books. I think most people know this, readers and authors. We know how to spot the fakes and we know there's no point in addressing them.

What prompted me to read "Fifty Shades of Grey," was a scathing review on this web site that has been accused of bullying. I posted about it here, without mentioning the title way back in February before the firestorm happened this summer. That review of FSoG was so bad, and so carefully designed to hurt the author, I had to go over and buy the book just to see what it was all about. Sometimes the worst reviews help sell books, too. In my case I wouldn't have bought FSoG at the time because it's not a book I would typically be drawn to. But when I read the bad review, knowing the awful taste this particular web site has in books, I figured I'd give FSoG a chance. I'm not joking around about this either. This particular web site has such bad taste in books, films, and all content, I'm amazed they actually have a readership. But then their readership could be based on freak show entertainment...everyone loves a good sideshow at the circus. In the same respect, I also have to thank them for pointing me toward FSoG. If it hadn't been for their vitriol, I wouldn't have been able to say I read FSoG right before it went mainstream.

And I liked FSoG. I could see how the elite in publishing wouldn't. It took a while, but I could see how those who are into BDSM wouldn't. But I'm not an elitist and I'm not into BDSM, and I read FSoG from the POV of a reader who just wanted to be entertained with a nice story. And that's exactly what I got. No complaints then, and none now. And I'm thrilled to see that an author like E. L. James found that kind of success with a book that's considered erotic romance, and also a book that took so many hits from vicious bloggers in the beginning. I think this proves a few things to both readers and authors. One, there is a market for erotic romance with mainstream readers. Two, these vicious snarky web sites where "mean girls" hang out and books and authors are ripped to shreds are not as relevant as they once were. In fact, they are starting to look a little lame now...dull, bland, and lifeless as a pencil skirt.

So I wound up buying the novel, FSoG, out of curiosity, and I will admit out of pity for the author. As I said, the scathing review was so vicious and so hurtful, I actually felt compelled to buy it and read it in support of the author. This isn't the first time that's happened. Thanks to bad reviews from that one particular web site, I've found some of the best books I've read in years. And they were books I normally wouldn't have FSoG. I also know I'd never like a book they reviewed well, so they help me decide which books I don't want to purchase. I know that sounds a little convoluted, but try it sometime. It's a great way to vet books when you're reading for entertainment.

I think those who've read FSoG, whether they liked it or not, might find this book FWoFSoG interesting because it's not filled with glowing reviews. It's not filled with short erotic stories either. I figured I'd mention this, too, because I saw one bad review on Amazon left by someone who thought he/she was getting a short story anthology. This is a book of essays and opinions. Not a book of short fiction. It seems clear enough from the book description, but I've learned never to assume anything and I figured I'd mention that again in detail. Product description is so important.

I know there are a lot of people out there who didn't like FSoG. And I respect their opinions. I also think that this book written about FSoG helps readers and writers understand why the book resonated with people in so many different ways. But there's no ignoring one huge fact about FSoG. It's a book that came from fanfic, was never expected to do anything special, and now millions of copies have been sold and there are non-fiction books being written about it. So love it or hate it, the author must have done something right to spark that kind of controversy. And the most entertaining thing E. L. James did was to prove that one particular web site where books are reviewed really sucks big time. You don't see THAT happen very often. But when you do you enjoy it for all it's worth. Don't screw around with karma. It'll always come back and bite you in the pencil skirt.

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