Thursday, March 22, 2012

Will "Fifty Shades of Grey" Change the Internet in Some Ways?

I've already explained how I discovered "Fifty Shades of Grey," here in this post. I've discovered many books I love by doing this...reading a bad review on what's considered a professional online review site and checking the book out for myself. With this particular web site where books are reviewed, nine times out of ten I wind up loving the book and wondering why the reviewer hated it. If it happened once I'd think it was me. But when it happens dozens and dozens of times I start to think that maybe the review site I'm checking out is catering to a smaller more elite crowd of readers. Or, maybe I DO have horseshit taste (smile).

I think it's important to state first that I do respect ALL reviewers, and I believe everyone has the right to an opinion, especially when it comes to books. I've also found some of the most wonderful books I've ever read by going to review sites and reading the good reviews. The theme of this post is not to bash ANY reviewers or even question them. It's to examine the disconnect I've been seeing lately between what's discussed online and what's discussed in the mainstream. For example, when "Bridges of Madison County," was released it was a huge mainstream success, and yet there are still people bashing the book online to this day. The same thing happened with "Twilight." We all know how some so-called online "experts" feel about Amanda Hocking. And now I'm seeing the same with with "Fifty Shades of Grey."

I read FSoG and loved it (thanks to that scathing review on that one particular web site where books are reviewed). I also read BoMC and "Twilight" and loved them, too. I haven't read Amanda Hocking yet, but the odds are I'll like her work at the very least. I don't think anyone would have guessed that FSoG would every become as big a book as it is right now. When I bought it I would never have guessed this. But now I read something about it everywhere I go. And here's the interesting thing. If you go to any mall in any suburban town in the USA and you ask people at random if they've ever heard of the review site where I read the review that slammed FSoG before it went mainstream, I'd bet money no one in the mall would know who you were talking about. But go to the same mall and ask them if they've heard of FSoG. I'll bet at least half would know the book you are talking about. This proves one thing: the Internet has come a long way, but still has a long way to go. Most people, in the real world, don't know half of what's going on in online publishing communities. And they don't care either.

The most interesting thing is that FSoG started out as an online book and did the impossible by crossing into the mainstream. I've read allegations about it being fanfic and I don't think that's even significant at this point. FSoG has sparked interest and people are reading it and liking it. If you don't believe me, check out Amazon reviews where 580 people have reviewed and rated the first book and it has a four star average. If a fanfic author managed to get a big book and cross into the mainstream, I couldn't be more thrilled for her. That's all I care about. And though I can't say the book's worst online critics have been proven wrong because reviewing books is subjective (no one can be wrong when they review a book and that's important to state), I can say that the book's most serious critics have proven that their personal taste in books can now be questioned in a very big way. At the very least their taste can be questioned with regard to what the mainstream public wants to read.

As more people in the mainstream discover more about the Interwebs, through iPads and tablets and devices that connect them to online information, I can't help but wonder whether or not the credibility of web sites like the one where I read the scathing review of FSoG will diminish in time. In the past they've attracted an elite set of readers that tend to think the same way they do (or they are terrified to disagree with them). In their small online world they've been very popular. But will the mainstream find web sites like this too elite, and will the content they've been putting out in the last decade begin to look less trustworthy because their taste is so off with regard to the mainstream. I don't mean to say they aren't telling the truth. I believe they are passionate and they believe in what they are doing. I'm only wondering about whether or not their own personal truth is something the mainstream public will take seriously...or even care about. And will they remain relevant? Evidently, FSoG is a good example of how strongly the mainstream disagrees with what's considered credible online.


AJ said...

Hey Ryan
You've mentioned some very good points here. I read Fifty Shades of Grey after hearing it's the hot new book but it's no better - or worse - than some of the better erotic novels my friends have been reading for years.
In fact I think its very success will spill over to our community of erotic romance authors and make some new sales for writers of the BDSM genre which is great.
The BDSM stuff in FSOG makes it different probably for the mainstream reader but I am not surprised it's getting a bad review here or there.
Literary classics have been getting them for years and as somebody pointed out to me recently, The Great Gatsby has thousands of 1 star reviews on Goodreads.
Does this affect sales? Clearly not. F. Scott Fitzgerald STILL SELLS!
That's one thing I've learned.
I have a book published that I am proud of and got scathing reviews on Goodreads. One reader even thanked one of her pals in the review section for "saving her from it" which hurt...and yet it remains one of my best-telling books.
As a friend of mine recently said, "people might type that they hate a book with one hand as they purchase the author's next one or the one before with the other."

ryan field said...

I think FSoG will expand the genre. And if you notice, compared to actual sales, the amazon reviews are small. Which brings me back to my own experience, where this is a discreet genre and people tend to not leave reviews. This is why I always make sure I leave a review for a book I love in the genre. A lot of people don't...or won't. I do that with YA and Middle Grade books I read, too. Kids don't leave