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Do you hate E. L. James ? #fiftyshades

By 09/07/2015June 10th, 2016Fiction, thoughts, writing
Writing Fiction for Money like EL James Merchandise

Fifty shades of Grey Merchandise!

James is worth nearly 60 million pounds. She’s sold more than 125 million copies of her book worldwide, one of them to me. Writing fiction for money? I don’t know about that, but she certainly has made money out of writing fiction.

I didn’t have the stomach to finish her book, because the language quickly got in the way of the images in my head, which, I have to admit, were none too pleasant in the first place. I’m nobody’s prude, but I like my erotica well-written.

Erika Leonard James got taken out on Twitter recently, according to this article on Guardian:

But alongside the serious queries came a deluge of questions that made fun of James’s much-criticised prose style, including jibes such as “Do you get paid per adjective?”, “Have you ever held a dictionary?” and “Did you ever consider using a thesaurus, or did that sound too much like hard work?”

As well as her writing style hashtag users also referenced the similarities between her work and that of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer with questions such as: “What’s the minimum distance you have to stay away from Stephenie Meyer at all times?” and “Did you see the abusive relationship of Bella and Edward and think ‘hmm needs more abuse’.”

While others were more creative in their criticism, with queries such as: “How many roads must a man walk down before he devotes an entire room in his apartment to the abuse of young women?”, “50 Shades takes place in 2011 but Anastasia, a journalism student, is mystified by the concept of BASIC EMAIL?”

A whole lot of readers, and let’s face it, a ton of writers, are not pleased with her. I read some of the tweets, and was sorely tempted to retweet them. I held back though.

Yes, her books are badly written. A simple edit could make them so much better. And while I can’t accuse her of inspiring abuse, as some have done, I do cringe at the dumbing down of English writing.

But people (presumably, mostly women) all the way from US and UK to Brazil and China are reading her– so there’s a gap she fills. I don’t think I, or anyone, has the right to look down on folks for their reading tastes– people will read what they want to read.

And if you give James credit for nothing else, she’s a good businesswoman. The empire of merchandise she’s building, based on her novels, is proof positive.

She is a real person, according to Daily Mail:

Her husband no longer writes out of the garden shed and she has graduated from a table in the sitting room: instead, both have their own studies. She moved her sons from their state school to a private sixth form and was the first person in the UK to buy a £60,000 red Tesla Model S electric sports car when it was launched last year. Pictures this week also showed her driving a blue ‘Chelsea tractor’ complete with a number plate ending ‘SXY’.

But, despite the Hermes and Tiffany bracelets she has bought herself, Leonard in many ways remains resolutely down to earth, slipping seamlessly between her new life in LA, where she can sometimes be seen sipping wine in the garden of the £1,500-a-night Chateau Marmont hotel, and her old life in West London. She continues to frequent her favourite pub in Ealing, where she goes to play Scrabble or take part in the weekly quiz night or simply for Sunday lunch with her family.

And while she has become a fan of regular manicures and pedicures, she still has her hair blow-dried in Acton, does her own supermarket shopping and walks her two Westies, Max and Mini. She even taught her youngest son to drive recently. Quietly, she has also made vast donations to charity — according to her company records, in the region of £1.2 million to date.

And it is this part, the part of E.L. James being a human like any of us, (despite her freakish success, her deplorable writing skills and Everything Else : I’m not posting excerpts because this is a PG 13 blog, and the internet is so awash that a simple google search would tell you more than I ever can)— this is the part that holds me back.

What has she done, after all, other than produce some bad fiction and make money out of it? Does being on the internet give people the right to bring anyone down? Yes, she’s a public figure, and as such, ‘fair game,’ but must we put her on trial for making money out of incompetently-written smut? She’s a wife, a mother, and isn’t robbing anyone, or misappropriating funds (unlike most corporates and politicians). I might change my mind, but this is what I think right now.

What about you? Do you think E. L. James deserves the flaying she gets? Have you read any of the Fifty Shades books? Do you have opinions on her writing, and its effect on the publishing world? Do you consider writing fiction for money alone? Have at it in the comments (keep it PG13).

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Aparna Mudi says:

    I tried reading it but boy is it boring. I have read better erotica on random online sites. that being said, her book’s success is nothing but good PR. The problem I have with that is that the industry has become that way. good books often do not succeed because of other crappy authors taking the limelight through better money being spent on advertisements. Somehow the book was so misogynistic and they obviously made it worse with the movie. It is of course people who ultimately paid for it – but the book is just bad reading. The grammar was just a part of that ‘badness’

  • Just like you, I feel that erotica should be well written. 50 shades just seemed childish. And we humans usually have the tendency to over hype things. 50 shades is one of those things.

  • I could not finish Fifty Shades, which is rare for me as generally when I start a book I _must_ finish it (isn’t OCD wonderful). The prose I can deal with, the graphic sex – meh, seen and read both, better and kinkier sex. What I could not stand, was how this girl-child (sorry in my mind she was obviously, despite her chronological years, not mature) could be such a whiny twit. I got very tired of the character’s constant whining, her spineless manner and ignorant actions. How a child of this era could be so sexually ignorant is beyond me. How does one make it through college and be so sexually ignorant? The character’s total ignorance I could not stand. When the character lost credibility in my mind – the book was over, I had not more interest it reading it. To a lesser degree, I also disliked how the BDSM lifestyle was portrayed. I have friends in the “life” and have even dabbled a little myself, only to discover that I am extremely vanilla. There are many aspects of the BDSM lifestyle and some of the more subtle nuances that either escaped the author, or she did not bother to do any research. The book was not to my liking (nor my wife’s who also could not stand the character’s whining), but I will not knock others who enjoyed the book. One thing that I do admire about the author – you have to have a thick skin and be prepared for all kinds of criticism, justified or not. She has done an admirable job remaining calm despite the constant flaming.

  • bwhite21 says:

    Never read any of them nor can imagine why there was any expectation that the books would qualify as literary fiction. Lots of pulp fiction that is not well written but sells.

    I was surprised by the response to the books. Reminded me of President Carter’s statement about committing adultery in his heart many times. Clearly the author tapped into a nerve in women, even if it is a form of fantasy rather than reality for most.

  • I read the whole series, in an attempt to see what the hype was about I have no clear answers after finishing it. I find it frustrating that it remains a best seller, simply because I feel other books are out there waiting to be discovered and instead they end up overlooked because people are drawn to the taboo nature of the series. Even more confusing is the way this book has spurred other authors to mimic the series. I think that is the true issue. When an author sacrifices their voices and originality we all lose something. We all struggle to develop our own original voice as writers and when someone is able to con the general population to disregard that as a qualifier for being a successful writer it is a shame, and I think her book seemed to have started a trend of substandard writing being published. I don’t hate James but I do think she had done a disservice to readers everywhere.

  • tartanrose88 says:

    I have to admit, I read the whole trilogy :/ though it was clear by the bottom of the first page that it was not written to the good standard that we have rightly come to expect from published books. But the woman had the presence of thought to write about a taboo – something everyone has heard of in whispered conversations in dark places but never really understood. While some mock her for it or suggest she is encouraging abusive relationships (Rubbish in my opinion!) very few people mention the fact that she spotted a hole in the ‘market’ and took advantage of it. Now in spite of her far from top notch writing skills, that has sold her an awful lot of books!

    As to the grade of the writing itself; in the beginning I think she was writing on the internet, much the same as many of us have done. And while that doesn’t mean we should lower our standards – it’s a fantastic platform on which to learn the trade so to speak – with other writers leaving helpful critique and constructive criticism in the comment box. When it came to being a properly published piece of fiction – I’m assuming James had the help of editors, proof-readers, copy-editors and such – surely these people too have to take some responsibility for the shoddy writing? They are after all paid to fix inconsistencies and grammatical errors.

    Lastly, as a writer who is finding all sorts of online writing communities, starting at and later finding forums and blogs just like this one, I have found that there is an awful lot of support. Other writer’s will tell you if you are doing a good job as well as pointing out any holes in your plot by asking all the right questions, usually in a kind way. The thing that I don’t understand is, what makes E L James any different? Why, when she puts herself out there is she being ridiculed and abused? Whatever happened to supporting other writers or offering the constructive criticism we have all found so useful at times? Sure – she’s rich, sold millions of books and has a nice car but when you break it down she is still just a writer, learning all the time like the rest of us.


  • Opher says:

    I have not read any of E L James’ work, nor do I intend to. It does not appeal to me in the least. What amazes me is the way sado-masochistic attitudes have become mainstream. Seemingly a lot of people equate sex with pain, domination and abuse instead of love and mutual pleasure. There seems to be a lot of misogyny in it and I cannot see why such a book would appeal so much to women. I think it was just the hype. E L James has done a lot to put back women’s rights and to undermine a healthy attitude to sex. Cheers Opher

  • ejdelosreyes says:

    I am not defending her but it is not her fault that Fifty Shades of Grey has garnered so much attention. There is power in our words and I believe that nobody deserves to be brought down with harsh statements. Whatever happened to constructive criticism? Nowadays, people abuse their freedom of speech. But my pastor always says that not all free acts lead to freedom.

  • Miss Marcia says:

    Oh boy, so much has been said about Fifty Shades… You know what, when it first came out, a lot of my girlfriends were reading the book. They said they couldn’t put it down. I, however, read so many bad reviews about the writing that I didn’t want to waste my time, and money. I was very hesitant and I judged without reading, like most people. Then, a year or two later, I gave it a chance. Critics were right; it was as though the whole thing had been written by a high school kid. Just…bad. BUT, it got my attention.

    As turned off as I was by her writing style — and by how Christian Grey, a 27-year-old “American,” speaks like a 50-year-old Englishman, just to name one thing — I really couldn’t put it down. And I have a really bad case of short attention span. (I’ve never read erotica, though, so not sure what’s normally good.) So, I say, call her whatever you want to call her, but the woman knows how to captivate the reader.

    Also, I can’t quite see what everyone else sees. They say it’s an abusive relationship, and they’re right IF they’re referring to the emotional state of Grey and the freakish things he wants to do. He’s a stalker with serious issues. When it comes to the sex, however, it is ultimately consensual. I finished the three books — no regrets, not ashamed at all — and my conclusion is that it is a love story; an F-ed up one at first, but it is what I see.

    As of EL James, I think she got pulled out of a pile by the “right” readers. I’m not a Twilight fan, so I didn’t even know the backstory of this all. She just got very lucky. I wouldn’t hate the woman, her fantasies, or her success. It’s a fictional story, people need to relax. Every writer has a story. Every story has a reader.

    • Damyanti says:

      “Also, I can’t quite see what everyone else sees. They say it’s an abusive relationship, and they’re right IF they’re referring to the emotional state of Grey and the freakish things he wants to do. He’s a stalker with serious issues. When it comes to the sex, however, it is ultimately consensual. I finished the three books — no regrets, not ashamed at all — and my conclusion is that it is a love story; an F-ed up one at first, but it is what I see.”

      I haven’t read enough to comment on this part: most people I know online say this is abusive.

      On the rest of it, I just found it too unreadable– texts that make me laugh when that’s not the author’s intention don’t get very far with me. I told myself it might take me 4 hours at the very least to get through the first book— do I want to give it 4 hours? Nah.

      I love what you end your comment with: Every writer has a story. Every story has a reader.


  • I haven’t read her books, but her first is on my “to-read” list just because I feel I should see what the fuss is about. However this post hasn’t moved it from the bottom of the list!

  • sarahlearichards says:

    The beauty of capitalism. You don’t have to have talent, you don’t have to be smart (well, just a different kind of smart). I’m not even mildly curious about this book–too many negative reviews from trusted friends.

  • I generally read nonfiction but after seeing the hype about the book and the movie, I started reading the book Fifty shades of Grey. I couldn’t complete that book, though. I couldn’t digest the abusive relationship and I wonder how this book got so popular. As if the current atrocities against the women are not enough, this book takes that violence to a next level where the lady willingly surrenders herself to the man. Is that what the future is? Personally, I feel that we shouldn’t encourage such books.

  • helenlouisechandler says:

    Really thoughtful and thought-provoking post. Fifty Shades is definitely not what I would choose to read myself, and I find it somewhat disturbing that so many women worldwide DO want to read about an abusive relationship. However, I also hate intellectual snobbery, and whatever our personal opinion, a writer who is read and enjoyed by millions is doing their job right!

  • I would say that I’ve noted her successes and been mindful of the comments from writing peers whom I respect, like you, Damyanti, who have read James. Otherwise, honestly, I don’t spend any time thinking about her or her writing, and I have zero plans to read her book(s). I’ve read much better erotica in my time (having been a copyeditor for a small romance/erotica press once upon a time). In any case, I’ll do my own thing with writing, not worry about E.L. James. 🙂

  • dotcamomblog says:

    Neil Gaiman writes much better than the author of Fifty Shades of Grey 😛 .

    I also don’t bother to ever read Fifty Shades. I won’t read the novel even as a book from the library 😛 .

    I observe that Fifty Shades is NOT as popular as Harry Potter. The Harry Potter series had become an English literature classic. Meanwhile Fifty Shades has been a one hit wonder.

    Anyone who disagrees with me should also be willing to bet money on if Fifty Shades would be perennial 😛 . I know it would remain as a fad book that’s popular for a few years, which would be dropped for another fad book.

    I also emphasize that Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling has staying power because its theme and story is about Good versus Evil, Coming of Age, Childhood being touched by bad events and tragedies. So bondage porn doesn’t compete with the true staying power of literature that has a story about children coming to terms with Evil and how they navigate the bad situations that are done by bad people.

    • Damyanti says:

      Anyone who disagrees with me should also be willing to bet money on if Fifty Shades would be perennial 😛 .

      Oh God, Please No. I don’t think I can imagine James becoming one of the Classics.

  • D.G.Kaye says:

    There has been much controversy about this series no doubt. Although I too agree that it wasn’t the greatest book(s) ever written, I just don’t think I could jump on the bandwagon of publicly humiliating a fellow author. I surmise that she got her book out at a prime time for ebooks,and in the early stages when books on erotica were on the rise of popularity. Everyone knows ‘sex sells’ and I think that was the initial selling point, and as you know, word spreads like fire, so many others like you and I just had to buy the book to see what all the hype was about. What surprises me most is that after such a rise to popularity, the publishers still didn’t want to do re-edits.

    • Damyanti says:

      Publishers don’t want re-edits because they know their audience for James: anyone who needs good grammar and writing in their books, wouldn’t be reading her.

  • firefly1958 says:

    No, I too got maybe one third of the way through the book and I found myself getting angry at the style of writing, tossing it off to the side, later returning it to the library. As writers and authors we all struggle w/editing issues. Staying on topic, flow, rhythm, plot, spelling, grammatical correctness and along comes this book with accolades, praise and adoration because it is nothing but a hyped up romance novel. It wasn’t even written well enough to draw me into it. And even I could have written that novel but would I have found somebody to publish it? Probably not. Am I jealous no. “Bridges of Madison County”, made me sweat. The book was a decent read and it had a flow to it. I guess I need some major character development to bring me to the climax(lol) of why they become passionately entwined & lovers. You build up to it. But I think a lovely little book we were required to read in school ruined it for me. ” Mrs. Mike”, a true love story, that stayed with me forever and it’s one of my all time favorites. I have a couple copies of it. Maybe I am a prude, but I don’t think so. I have heard that the human mind could rot out hell. But the books made some women happy, who knows maybe their significant others, their lovers, walked away happier too after trying a position or technique or two. Maybe it shook a little sensual spice onto their relationships. Called reaping the benefits of reading a smutty book. Voilà!

    • “But the books made some women happy, who knows maybe their significant others, their lovers, walked away happier too after trying a position or technique or two.”

      It also resulted in the arrest for sexual assault of a college kid who tied up and raped his girlfriend, acting out one of the scenes from the book.

      No, I can’t say that’s an equitable trade—thousands or millions of women made happy—if only one woman is scarred like that

      • firefly1958 says:

        Me either, Mr. Conrad, but I didn’t make the decision to publish that book series nor would I have, if I were in that position. I understand what you are implying for responsible writing/journalism too. What with the latest from the Bill Cosby situation, listening to a young man on a talk show, he pretty much himself had a difficult time with the definement of rape and then understanding the moment consent turns into NO. Looks like we need to start educating our younglings to be able to know the difference especially w/the drug culture changing as well. The young man had too many stars in his eyes for the comedian himself to see that Cosby was quite capable of committing those crimes on these drugged women. Acting out one of those scenarios between a couple, there had better be an understanding of consent and the moment someone says, “no, please stop, this is not what I want!” Yes, it should be respected. I did not read the books all the way through. That saddens me that somebody took the book that far and scarred another individual as the end result.

  • I haven’t read any of the James books so can’t comment on the content but this article was a nice reminder that she’s just a person too, who never set out to hurt anybody by writing a piece of fiction that a lot of people seem to have enjoyed. Her contributions to charity are certainly a redeemable feature, even if she’s not that great a writer! Thank you for the great post.

  • I, like you, wasn’t able to abide her prose, and I haven’t been impressed by the abusive nature of excerpts I’ve seen. A couple of articles I’ve read by psychologists have reinforced my impression that it’s not the healthiest of fare in relationship terms. However, that’s hardly new. Both erotica in general and of course the porn industry abounds with examples which degrade women and encourage the stereotype of the dominant male abusing the drooling, naive female. The fact that she’s made a mint from it and become famous probably rankles a lot of writers, who may be actually be better writers than she it. Tough luck. She wrote something a lot of people wanted. That doesn’t give other people a moral license to abuse her – it shows up how mean of spirit they are.

  • Wildfire8470 says:

    I haven’t read her books but that’s mostly because, initially, 50 SoG got panned. If the writing is so poorly done, then I want to know who funded her television promos for it, and I certainly want to know her agent. As a writer, I find it unspeakably sad that, perhaps, it really does come down to the almighty dollar.

  • Kalpanaa says:

    There are so many wonderful books to read and so little time to do it that I wouldn’t waste any of it on bad erotica that amounts to sexual abuse. I have no idea why James has become such a phenomenon. Glad you wrote about it Damyanti. I don’t know if it’s jealousy that makes people dislike her, more like horror that this is the taste of those who read. Or most of them.

  • dils says:

    Thank you for the like on my ‘rant’ on FSoG! 🙂 I have at least backed up my comments regarding her poor writing skills with various readability scores haha. Also, I fear much of the abuse is aimed at the subject of her writing. Despite the poor quality, the woman can write about what she wants, just don’t publish it! Store it away, forever.

  • Lucy says:

    I think with regards to feminism and how some young girls/women may be influenced by her work, and the way it makes stalking and abuse sexy is a concern, but success-wise, it’s something I don’t think we’ve had to deal with much before. There haven always been books of lower quality out there, especially some romance novels that are churned out almost weekly by some specialist houses, but they were at least well-edited, and no author was making quite that large amount of money or that quickly. This is something that would happen more in the music industry, a terrible song or few songs from an artist with novelty value, but then everyone knows it’s a gimmick, and it goes away. We expect more quality control with writing, we are constantly told our content must be something special and perfectly constructed to achieve success, but then nope, turn out, if there’s enough novelty and a buzz can be created, that will serve just as well.

  • freakinjane says:

    I loved the Fifty Shades series. It took until halfway through the first book to numb myself to the terrible writing (it’s not joke, it’s pretty bad) but what she has is an incredibly intriguing storyline. Far more in-depth than Twilight. I was pretty impressed with how deeply she was able to dive into the head of a sadist. She stayed true to the realities of a person like that while – over time – making him like able (admittedly, I pretty much hated him until a third of the way through the second book). She brings up incredibly important topics like consent and the importance of verbalizing it and listening when someone does. The book makes you ask where the line is between abuse and consenting adults participating in painful sex play. Can manipulative characters improve and become more humane? The Christian character is fanatical about consent. He’s also incredibly manipulative in the first book but Ana is a strong character. She knows when she wants to experiment and, for the most part, where her limits are.

    Though not brilliantly written, the concept is quite brilliant. I think she deserves her fame.

  • I haven’t read her books, so I can’t give any opinion. But, she must be doing something right. No ones twisting peoples arms to buy her books or see her movies. I say, hats off to her.
    Shine On

  • Thank you for liking “Strange Passage” and “Red Geraniums.” I do not know E. L. James well enough to like her or hate her. The subject matter of the 50 Shades of Grey book series does not appeal to me, so I do not plan to read these books now or in the future even to see if all of the negative criticism of her writing is justified. I feel the same way about the movie. I do not want to see it, even though some related news stories about unanswered questions raised by the movie made me laugh.

    While the quality of her work is questionable, I do not think that she should be criticized for making money from her stories. As far as I know, she did not force anyone to buy her work. As you have keenly pointed out, there is an audience for her books, and people willingly spent their money on them even though some of them might have regretted doing this afterward.

  • For me, personally, I don’t care to read her books. I’ve read excerpts and that’s more than enough. However, while there are many writers I’m not fond of and I refuse to read their work, I commend them for completing each book, for going through the hard work and red tape of traditional publishing, and actually am proud of their accomplishments. Better still, when they become New York Times best sellers, I am very happy for them, as we should be happy for the success of fellow writers. Whether they write exceptionally well or nothing but drivel may not be for us to say, or rather not for me to say, because it shows a lack of class (at least for me). I’m not dissing anyone else for having their say. It is freedom of speech, you know. Say what you want. I just say good for them for going the distance, doing the work, getting it published traditionally, getting to the NYT best seller list and a movie to top all that off — well, they do deserve to be celebrated. I think many who spit at these writers are merely jealous. And if we are, then it just shows we need to get off out lazy butts and get to work. Those books aren’t going to write themselves.

  • LAnthony says:

    Your article is quite balanced. In some ways James’ success may make it even harder for indie authors. It completely blurs the line between traditional publishing standards and access to the commercial marketplace. I will not blame her for these consequences, however they play out.

  • I haven’t read her books, but any writer deserves respect simply for completing a book, and she’s been successful and influential. Much of the concerns expressed about her books might be better addressed by exploring why they are popular than by attacking her.

  • mishaherwin says:

    Why do writers slate her? I think we’re jealous of her success. She doesn’t write well and the content of her books is dubious, but she’s has achieved fame and most important of all recognition. It is to be recognised for what we do which I think most writers want. The money would be good too but most writers don’t earn enough to give up the day job. What we do want is readers and this of course is what EL James has achieved by the million.

  • macjam47 says:

    I haven’t read the book, and so I don’t feel qualified to comment. It isn’t my type of book. This is a great article, and I’m sure this isn’t the first time the topic has surfaced.

  • TanGental says:

    Never read her, and the subject matter mean I never will but I agree she has a right to privacy. Sure if you’ve read her book and don’t like it you can say so but that can be done constructively too. Nice post

  • I haven’t read it and don’t intend to. I have read excerpts and reviews, and have participated in a number of forums where participants have read it and trashed it, while others support it. Not only is it poorly written fantasy, it also doesn’t do the BDSM lifestyle justice—and yes, I think it does give the message that “so long as he’s rich and handsome, it’s okay to let him abuse you.” In real life, Ana would end up in a hospital or morgue and Christian in prison. But it’s fantasy, and no one cares about the reality or about the quality.

    Frankly, I take greater issue with the 100,000,000 people worldwide who made her a success. Apparently the public is far less discerning than I thought. Fool me once, shame on you; but apparently the sequels are doing quite well

  • I haven’t read her book so am hesitant to comment. But the reason I haven’t is relevant: The buzz around it makes it sound like the type of book I wouldn’t enjoy. Foul language and overt sexual isn’t my sort of read.

  • KellyZ says:

    I think… and a scan through the comments reinforces this… that the majority of the ire against James comes from other writers. While others work so intensely to create “quality literature,” James wrote for fun. On a website for fan fiction. While her content was likely a large part of her outlier success, the lesson here appears to be: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Do what makes you happy.

    • mikemacdee says:

      Just because I do what makes me happy doesn’t mean I don’t work hard at it, nor that I can’t want to make a career out of it. I’m not even trying to write high literature: everything I write is basically pulp fiction, but I take the time to make it interesting and readable to the best of my ability. If you’re going to do something — even if it’s for fun — you should do it right. You don’t have to do it perfectly, but you should do it right. That means you edit and proofread and maybe even slightly care about what you’re doing beyond the part where you make lots and lots of money.

      That’s what annoys us other writers about E L James: we enjoy our work and put actual effort into it, but nobody gives us the time of day, so we can’t make careers out of it. James took a half-assed Twilight fan-fiction she scribbled out of boredom, changed a few names, and rode the elder Twilight fandom to instant success. It’s almost as annoying as people who tell us not to be annoyed by it. Ever hold a job where you were a dedicated employee with strong work ethics who worked really hard, but the boss promoted the half-wit slacker instead of you? Makes you mad, doesn’t it?

      If anything, the real moral is “write for 14-year-old girls.” Next thing you know, some airhead will get a six-figure deal for writing a One Direction fanfic. Ah, wait, that already happened.

  • KellyZ says:

    I think… and a scan through the comments reinforces this… that the majority of the ire against James comes from other writers. When so many are trying so earnestly and seriously to produce “quality literature,” what did James do? She wrote for fun. On a fan fiction website. Yes, her content likely had a large part to play in her success, but overall the lesson appears to be: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Do what makes you happy.

  • Peter Nena says:

    I bought the book and wished I could get my money back. Bad prose and an unpalatable concept (to me, anyway). I couldn’t go beyond Pg 10. I also made the connection with Stephanie Meyer. I tried Meyer, quit at Pg 13, and gave the book to my neighbour, who later told me she had fun with them. I love good prose but these books just didn’t care about prose.

  • Rhonda says:

    I haven’t read them and have no desire to for no other reason than it’s not the kind of thing I like to read.

  • Arlee Bird says:

    I haven’t read any of James’s work and am unlikely to do so, but I don’t begrudge her success. I am more disappointed in the reading public who has made her successful with her work. I have to admire the marketing machine behind her. I think most writers would like to have the same. I know I would.

    Tossing It Out

  • rigo1819 says:

    It seems to me that while there’s plenty of people out there hating on James for her writing, nobody is giving her enough credit. I’m not just talking about the void she fills by bringing bdsm type erotica to the mainstream or the business acumen she’s demonstrated. How about we acknowledge that she released a book series online not expecting a whole lot of people to get crazy about it because it was just meant to be fan fic? And duh, of course it’s closely relating to Twilight, it was Twilight fan fic. Sometimes I think we need to stop fueling any of the fire to the trolls who are going to hate on someone’s success. #GetYoMoney

  • Selah Janel says:

    I posted about this recently, myself, and I agree. I have no problem with critique and with discussing the issues of consent in the work – I don’t even have a problem with memes or making fun of it in general, but there’s a big problem when people show up to an event for the author just to tear into the author. I do think it would go a long way if Ms. James would address the topical issues, but admittedly that would take a hell of a lot of guts, and it brings up the discussion of whether it’s her responsibility to lead that sort of debate. What I’d love to see is this whole thing spawning a big discussion about art vs. the reality of society and plot elements in romance that may be women’s fantasy, but how they’re actually translated by people reading them. Things like that. I agree the books are also horribly written (I couldn’t get past the excerpts I’ve read) and there’s far better erotica out there…and far, far worse. I think that’s what people don’t realize, either. Her titles got into the mainstream, but they’re nothing new, topic-wise. Anne Rice was writing bdsm-centic titles long before this, and indie films have covered it, as well. And none of this holds a candle to some of the really niche guilty pleasure stories out there that I don’t know that I can even mention on a pg blog.

    What I think is fascinating is the idea that if other authors who DO write well could tap into whatever it is that made Ms. James titles hit a cord with so many people. Instead of knee-jerking (rightly or wrongly), I wish people would get beyond the guilty pleasure of beating up on her and move on to try to let this whole experience influence people to write some really incredible stories.

  • Jinzo_2400 says:

    There isn’t a SINGLE person who wouldn’t have grabbed the brass ring if a publishing house came a’knockin with a book deal. That said,I do agree she is a fan fiction writer first in my mind and her style shows this. It will be very interesting to see if she can evolve and grow as a writer.

  • caliope85 says:

    I haven’t read her books, just because it’s a glorified smutty fanfic of Twilight.
    I used to read fanfic, and most are clichéd in their ideas and use of words. We can’t blame James for poor editing (I think), just for terribly misrepresenting the BDSM community, which she has.
    As for the abusive relationship part, I am on that boat. But I think Twilight should receive more backlash on that point, than it did. I don’t think it was ever heavily criticised on that as much as 50 Shades was, and that’s a shame. At least 50 Shades is geared towards adults.

  • As a Domme in the BDSM lifestyle who also writes BDSM-centric romantic erotica, I will tell you that what she wrote is a disgrace to the BDSM community. She depicts BDSM (which is about boundaries and limits) as abusive.

    My source is being in The Lifestyle since I was 17. BDSM is about trust, boundaries and a release. If a submissive wants to leave, the Dom(me) should let them leave.

    Foe the people saying that they wouldn’t stay with someone who gets off on inflicting pain, it is a matter of fetishes and kinks.

    What Christian did in 50 Shades was abusive. Anyone in The Lifestyle will tell you that. But I also know people personally who Enjoy having no control. I know a female submissive who enjoys being told what to do in all aspects of her life. I know people who enjoy getting whipped/caned/cropped. But you should always discuss limits and boundaries.

    For example, one of my limits is drawing blood. While I use a crop on a submissive, I would never, ever draw blood. I am also big on Aftercare, which was lacking in 50 Shades.

    Aftercare is when the Dom(me) takes care of the submissive afterwards. They tell them how good they did, check the damage to make sure it isn’t too bad. They clean them up, cuddle them. A GOOD Dom(me) never just up and leaves Their submissive after a session.

    As I said before, a lot of Vanilla people (people not into BDSM or The Lifestyle) say that they would never let someone do that to them. That is fine. But Please do NOT judge everyone into that based off a book.

    As for what is happening to her, I think her books are horribly written and horribly researched. But I also think some of the bashing is a bit much.

    NOTE: Dom(me) is short for “Dom (male dominant) and/or Domme (female dominant).”

  • latawonders18 says:

    I haven’t read 50 shades and have no intention of reading a book that is bound to distress me. I can nevertheless say with compunction that no one deserves the flaying and trolling that happens on social media. You may not like what someone says or does but that gives you no right to try and publicly humiliate them or shower them with hate mail. You simply stay away like I have done by not reading 50 shades. By the way, if the book is so bad, how come it’s such a success? Maybe all she did was serve up what she knew would titillate and provoke controversy. That’s business sense even if served up in bad prose and poor grammar (unfair of me to say the last because I haven’t read the book – just picking up from what your post says people are criticising her for).

  • Elisabeth says:

    A friend of mine, who read all three books, pointed out that criticizing them is a bit like criticizing porn movies. No one expects such films to be well made or have decent stories, or be original, or tasteful, or really to have any merit at all. They offer a specific indulgence, and that’s it. For some reason because this is written people think it should be better somehow.

    She also pointed out that women tend to prefer written erotica while men prefer visual, and that holding the women’s form to a different standard is just one more way society shames and oppresses women.

    I won’t buy or read James’ books because I have no taste for erotica and no tolerance for bad writing. I also won’t judge anyone else who does. And for the writer herself, may the rest of us have one fraction of her luck.

  • Couldn’t get through the first book (but thankfully I never bought it). Nursery rhymes have more complex sentence structures. I know a good book when I read one and this wasn’t anywhere near.

    But look at the number of people she irks or makes money from. Look at the number of people commenting on this post. On any post with her name or the names of her books.

    Love her or hate her, mostly one just can’t ignore her!

  • Malla Duncan says:

    I haven’t read her books, so can’t really comment. But I think a lot of the flack she gets is the old Green Eye. Very few authors make much money, and we’d all like just a slice of that 60 million! It’s all about the readers really – after all they chose to go out and buy millions of copies – and good luck to any writer who can achieve that!

  • Reblogged this on CKBooks Publishing and commented:
    Kudos, Damyanti, for sticking up for common decency. If James’ writing is bad, then don’t buy her book or read her book. None of this shameless, personless online degrading. We aren’t in 5th grade people. Lets discuss poor writing in a better forum than in a bully tweet.
    p.s. I did not read or purchase her book for two reasons – not my kind of reading and I also heard the writing was poor. There are so many good books out there to read to waste time on poorly written one. And honestly, her editor and publisher need to be discussed as much as James. They printed the books, after all.

  • Indywrites says:

    I know she writes horribly but her erotica is so much better than many I have read, I am on the third book and already want to read Grey. 🙂
    I agree, she might write how she does but why trash her? Just because she is famous and rich writing trashy novels why be jealous. Don’t read, no one is forcing you to.
    I believe there is another lady who got famous writing erotica about animals and humans….I to get the name.
    Oh! And I loved twilight too 🙂 BIG fan of vampires.

  • I don’t like the bits of her writing I’ve read (since I just can’t bring myself to even be curious enough to read the whole thing), but I don’t hate her as a person.

    I’ve been noticing lately, though, that people often forget that public figures are people with feelings too. Look at the way people have been accusing John Green of being a pedophile SIMPLY because he writes stories about teenaged girls. And he’s a good writer.

    Maybe part of it is the fact that (whether we think they write well or not), EL James and John Green are both vastly more successful than most people could even dream to be, and that makes people bitter.

  • Angela Grant says:

    I have never heard of her but I am no fan of the English language yet it is the only one I speak. Tell the grammar nazis to go stuff it. Content should be king not grammar snobs.

  • E. L. James is not to my taste. I have made it a personal principle never to read any of her material. Her books are incomparable to the quality literature that I enjoy. No, thank you; not for me!

  • JC says:

    I don’t hate her–I have not read her books, and am not interested in reading them, so I can’t comment on the quality of them. What I find interesting is that men have been producing and selling pornographic pictures, books, and other materials, and everyone just lets that pass. Here she is doing something similar, and people give her a hard time. I wonder if people resent her success because she’s a woman?

  • Scott Nagele says:

    I haven’t and will not read her books. Not for any great moral or philosophical reasons; merely because I’m not interested in the subject matter. As someone who works hard at always improving as a writer and yet struggles to sell a book, it would be easy to be resentful of her success. (If her writing is as bad as it is reputed to be – I have no first hand knowledge of this.) But she has figured out how to win the game, and I have not. I’m hardly in a position to be critical.

  • Mmmmm. It’s interesting isn’t it? I am a great one for saying ‘well done’ to any business person who has been clever enough to have made it financially. I have immense praise for the marketing team, which sold so many books so quickly. However, after just a few pages I was groaning with the effort and moved on to better written books of which there are thousands! But of course, adverse publicity like your article creates yet another surge in readers!

  • I don’t like James. And I don’t like her books. I think it’s scandalous that someone who writes that badly can get taken on by a publisher and make so much money. But, I don’t believe she deserves some of the nasty comments she gets. People have bought the books and read them. I don’t understand why, but I would never judge anyone for their tastes. The thing that annoy me the most is that there she is earning so much money from no talent whatsoever, just by peddling smut, and meanwhile there are so many talented writers who can’t get a deal, or can’t sell their books. It’s a case of life isn’t fair, I think.

  • Frank says:

    Anyone can write bad fiction. What is demonstrates, however, is that publishers care more about revenue than quality of writing – which is no great shock, but considering how they are so often quick to complain about quality of writing and poor editing of anything they didn’t publish, it does seem very hypocritical.

  • oshrivastava says:

    Reblogged this on oshriradhekrishnabole.

  • Rinaya says:

    Having grown up watching writers like Chetan Bhagat & durjoy Dutta get famous, I can surely cut some slack for James..I however gave up reading the first book in the series after struggling through around 5-6 chapters. I agree, people have a right to choose what they want to read, but then this is like slandering the good name of English literature don’t you think?

  • cinderbear19 says:

    Mentioning no names, but there are other authors who’ve had big success with books I’ve considered badly written, and books published by reputable publishers which have typos of all sorts, so for me it’s not such a surprise. I haven’t read 50 Shades and am less likely to after reading this, but I would like to say surely it isn’t *only* her fault if the books aren’t written brilliantly? There must have been someone else reading it, someone editing and approving before it was published? Unless I’ve missed something about the process of publication?

    • cinderbear19 says:

      It mostly bugs me that I can never use the phrase ‘shades of grey’ without myself or someone else thinking of that series now!

  • There are so many poorly written, themed and plotted books its astounding. I suppose the writer must be meeting a need so it is a reflection on modern society. It can seem unfair when you think of writers who have really worked hard to produce excellent work but that life-and publishing for you! Its a good thing we write to please ourselves as much as others

  • Truth is, I did try reading 50 Shades (mainly cos of all the hype). But the writing style (style?) was so terrible that I couldn’t read more than a few pages. I never engaged in Twitter bashing, cos bashing someone on social media is just unnecessary and immature. I mean, I never attacked her personally – but on my blog you might find one or two jabs at the undeserved success that 50 Shades received. Also, in all honesty, when a woman comes and tells me 50 Shades is her favourite book, I almost always want to tell her to read better books. I don’t cos her fans, however misguided they seem to be, are very very loyal.

  • I have not read any of her books, nor do I have any intention of reading them, OR watching the movie(s). Just reading excerpts and being subjected to the horrible writing style (if you want to call it style); atrocious over usage of utterances that sound as if they were written by a hormone stricken adolescent were enough to make any writer worth their salt take offense. Granted she has been making a fortune from these books, and if that is what makes one proud, then so be it. As for serious writers, I think it is a bit of a slap in the face for those of us who work diligently to present well composed prose, with believable characters, and well thought out plots. Apparently, smut sells, but from reading the multitude of ‘reviews’ on such sites as Amazon . . . it is apparent that there are a very large number of reviewers that think very little of her writing/editing/storyline/characters/murderous usage of the English language, etc.

  • Maggie says:

    I haven’t read them nor have I had any desire to but I have read some extracts that were posted in articles. I think her English is terrible and the books could have made more sense especially the whole stupidity of the “heroine” as someone who is so naive and incompetent to not know anything about email in the day and age. Do I think that she deserves the flack she got on twitter? I don’t think so in some ways and in other ways I think she does. The thing is, she is still only human and humans make mistakes and dumb decisions. I think the internet is too easy a place to give people flack and those giving the flack can sometimes be way too cruel. However, I think her book are stupid on so many levels and the fact that they got published when there are millions of other struggling authors who actually write decent stuff that can’t get a fingertip into a publishing house never mind an entire book is what frustrates me the most about her exposure and the “popularity” of these ” incompetently-written smut”.

  • elvagreen123 says:

    Twenty-five years ago she probably would have had my money, also. I have to say that today my brain requires serious study (history, philosophy) in order to be stimulated. But, I say, to each his (or her) own.

  • Bindu says:

    I haven’t read any of her books. I don’t think I will ever read her. A writer has a responsibility and she can be criticized for her writing style, content, language, etc. Her personal life should be out of all this.

  • You mentioned she was a businesswoman. Smut sells these days and unfortunately the rank and file human relishes smut. So regardless of the bad tweets she gets she will continue to go on laughing to the bank because she’s serving up to the general public what a large segment wants to read.

  • jburns58 says:

    That was a great article, I have never read any of James books. So I can’t say anything one way or another.

  • Gwen says:

    I read a book and a half. The fact she kept me interested that long despite the bad prose is a testament to…something. Some sort of tension, or whatever that spiked my curiosity until I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes.

    I don’t hate anyone for success. Her success is a reflection of what readers will read, and all it says to me is that if you write smut at a 6th grade level, you’re going to get the lion’s share of the market (basically, people are getting less intelligent and more illiterate, and sex always sells). Was she filling a hole in the market? I don’t think so. There is plenty of well-written BDSM erotica out there. She just hit the jackpot somehow, like Meyer before her (even though there was a TON of better PNR out at the time).


    What I do detest is the very thing you were so quick to dismiss. The relationship reflected in the story is abusive and is not demonstrative of healthy D/s lifestyle choices, basically misrepresenting a whole group of people and making abuse not only OK, but hot and sexy and appealing to droves of (clearly) uneducated women.

    The tweet that said it best was, “Is it okay for Christian to be an abusive stalker because he is really hot, or really rich?” Teaching women that is OK is not OK with me.

  • I’m the camp that’s trying to figure out if the hashtag chat was just one big publicity stunt. They knew it would explode given how her series has been received, so they rolled with it and got everyone talking about it. I haven’t read the books, nor will I because I’ve seen enough excerpt– I understand are cherry picked to highlight the abuse–that I don’t want to read it because the character Christian Grey creeps me out.

  • dweezer19 says:

    Unfortunately I avoid overly hyped books and movies as well. To be perfectly honest, I was late hopping on the train to Hogwarts u til my youngest son recommended them. Afterwards we saw every single film together as a rite of passage for his teen years. It remains a fond connection for us. Those books were well written. There was reality woven into the magical. I attempted Twilight. Couldn’t get past the third page. I don’t like to sound snobbish but I just cannot be captivated by writing that is grammatically incorrect and books that are poorly edited. (Now you can go to my site and rip my story up if you like. All is fair in love and literature.?) Seriously, though, I have not touched Fifty Shades. I cannot handle another series that attracts grown women like flies to sugar simply because they need to experience titillation . In fact, I think it makes a sad commentary on the frame of mind of women in modern times. We are supposed to be liberated and we get excited by sadistic passive aggressive romance? Okay I get it and who doesn’t appreciate a trashy romance novel now and again? But to get SO involved and make these pieces phenomenal just shows me why I really don’t move in a lot of broad circles of women. And let’s face it. The men who like this series have some real issues. So to answer your question, No I don’t hate it. I don’t even consider it.

  • Ocean Bream says:

    Very enjoyable and thought-inspiring post to read! I have never read any of James’ books, yet I have critically judged them for being what they were, sensationalized, mainstream porn which glorified abuse in relationships. People like that stuff, who are we to judge? I am a firm supporter of the ‘live and let live’ mantra. She can write what she pleases, and if she is ready to accept backlash and criticism, well then good on her. She is a very successful lady and it just goes to show what our society is really like. Us humans like to bask in scandal, it seems.

  • Man look inside grey shade book in b&n & say it rubbish. even simple brain of monkey crank out prose what better than that Man say.

  • wscottling says:

    What I dislike about E.L. James and the 50 Shades of Grey empire is that the whole thing started off as a fan-fiction of the Twilight series, which is okay, but it took her forever to admit that. Then!, she had the nerve to tell others who wrote fan-fictions of her Grey stories to “cease and desist” and that is when I lost what little respect I had for her as a person (I never had any for her as a writer). So yes, when someone acts like a total ass, then they get what they deserve a la the Twitter fiasco. Which, I might say, I read with complete schadenfreude, but did not participate in. Okay, I retweeted a few of them… but I didn’t pile on.

  • Dreamhowl says:

    I have steered clear of her books, and the movie that came out as a result; I admit I saw some excerpts, but the genre (and terrible grammar!) didn’t appeal to me. And while part of me really cannot fathom how the series got so popular, I don’t hate the author as a person. I mean, look at the success she has found for herself. And if her books are getting people to read (which so many don’t do nowadays), I don’t feel like I can be much of a judge. I think her written work should be discussed and criticized, but she shouldn’t be hounded and hated for it.

  • It appears that I am the only person in the world who has noted the numerous references in 50 Shades to Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ I found the comparison fascinating, but apparently everyone else can’t get beyond a bit of BDSM. Typical of the blinkered age we live in.

  • My opinion is that people should utilize Goodreads and critique the “work” and not bash the creator of the work. I don’t believe ANYONE has the right to rip another persons heart out just because they didn’t like their work. If the work is less than stellar, you as a reader should let that be known without trying to destroy the emotions of the writer.

  • Julia Lund says:

    I haven’t read any of James’ books and don’t imagine that I will. From what I’ve read about the novels, I have no intetest in them – my ‘must read’ pile grows ever higher without adding extras. Not having read her work, I’m not qualified to judge the quality of her writing, but what I can say is that she’s got people reading. Isn’t that part of what most writers aspire to?

  • Yes, I hate E.L. James!

  • Jules says:

    What’s the fuss about, isn’t it just pulp fiction?

  • ccyager says:

    No, I have not read E.L. James’ “Grey” books. I heard how badly written they were from others who’d read them, so I decided to skip them. I wasn’t looking to read any erotica anyway, and being a survivor of childhood abuse, I also had no desire to read about a man abusing a woman, consensual or not. What surprises me is that James apparently didn’t care enough about her characters and stories, or she didn’t know any better, to insist on excellent editing to make them the best they can be. Perhaps she was in a hurry to get the books published, I don’t know — that’s the usual reason for being sloppy about the editing. The other surprise is how ferocious the criticism of her writing is. This ferocity makes me feel a little sorry for her — I mean, how awful to be bombarded with such criticism, and let’s be honest here, downright attacks.

    I suspect that the ferocity has been fueled by jealousy or envy. James has made a lot of money with badly written novels. For writers who do care, who work their butts off to insure their writing is the most professional and best it can be, and who suffer through one rejection after another, James’ success is a slap in the face.

    Your restraint is admirable, Damyanti. My one hope is that James learns from this experience, and if she writes more novels, she hires a really good, professional editor to edit them and help her improve her writing.


  • Randstein says:

    I haven’t read her books and I don’t know any other men that have or will admit that they have. The only concern I have is the popularity of such a thing. Are women truly interested in a fantasy that evokes the Marquis DeSade? Should young men idolize the male protagonist and learn how to treat a woman by mimicking what they learn from books like Fifty Shades or pornography that insists a woman gets pleasure from harsh insensitive treatment. We idolize the fiction and imprison and condemn those that follow suit in real life with a non-consenting partner. I’ll have to thank my lucky stars I’m old fashioned. To each his or her own. I’ll remain a dinosaur and stick to my old outdated values. As far as the condemnation. Who cares? This is how we act now. It’s important to make sure the righteous indignation of the public is always far more degrading to humanity than the object of our scorn. If Ms. James sticks to the demeanor of David Hume, she’ll laugh all the way to the bank while the rest of the world embraces new and exciting ways to mistreat each other. Just my two cents. Please keep in mind I’m a dinosaur and I don’t play that game nor do I think the personal attacks are warranted. We vote with our money and Ms. James got lots of votes.

  • cynthiamvoss says:

    I don’t hate her, but I’m not a fan of the books. What I do hate is that just the other day I noticed a 50 shades brand of wine while I was browsing through the liquor store. I wish the annoying merchandise like that would go away. Also, I’m wondering who’s buying this merch anyway? Everyone I know who read it (or attempted to lol) didn’t like the book. Anyway, that’s nice that she has given so much to charity. Gotta respect that.

  • ansumani says:

    E.L. James somehow got her badly written published and there was an excellent response to that making her a multi-millioaire. In the late 1990s ‘Beanie babies’ were sold in the US for ridiculously inflated amounts decades ago and was considerd a collectible.

    No one hates ‘Yy Warner inc’ (the maker of beanie babies) and there is no point in hating E.L. James either.

    The success story of E.L.James teaches us a lesson – that there is a huge segment of the reader population who don’t appreciate literature or well crafted books. That’s a fact …we have to just accept it and work on our own contributions to literature.

    My issue with 50 shades is not particularly the grammar – or weak story…it’s about the degradation of women. I wrote a third of a post on why I don’t like this book in a post 3 months ago :

  • I don’t hate the player, I hate the game. I hate what the success of this series says about the world we live in. I tried to read it to see if I could learn something and apply it to my own work, but there is nothing I would want to imitate other than the sales figures. Sigh.

  • I’ve never formed an opinion about E. L. James because I have never read any of her books, but I have to admit I had one or two judgemental thoughts after reading she has ‘SXY’ on her license plate haha
    I was close to downloading the kindle version but after reading review after review commenting on poor writing and unbelievable plot details I decided against it, and I wish more people would save themselves the agony and do this!

    She definitely does not deserve the flaying she’s been receiveing though, especially when consenting adults are the ones purchasing her book. Really, I think E. L. James gets so much flack because she is a woman who has got a ridiculous amount of wealth from selling a terribly written story. It’s a kick in the neck for a lot of people (especially writers) I suppose. And in a time when people shout vulgarities and demeaning comments from behind a screen quite often; I am sad to say I am not shocked people have responded to her this way.

  • While I haven’t read the books, I have seen the movie. I wouldn’t call it the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but I would call it required viewing for every young woman so they can see the red flags they should be looking for in their own relationships.

    Also, I don’t think James has earned any of the hate she’s gotten. The book’s not well-written. So what? It’s published and it’s popular. Does she deserve that success? Well, life isn’t about what you deserve or don’t deserve; life is about what you get and what you’re willing to get. James was willing to put her writing out there, willing to take the criticism, and got back a whole lot from the risk she took.

    Should authors of better-written works that aren’t so popular be jealous of her or hate her for having so much success? No. If you’re truly writing for the art, then the amount of success that you get or that someone else gets really shouldn’t matter. The act of writing is its own reward.

  • I don’t have the taste for reading her work, but I do agree with you that she deserves to be acknowledge as a person with an acute business sense to have spotted the gap and filled it,

  • I scanned Shades briefly in a bookshop, and then (before I had lunch) I wondered who else might have touched the cover of the book. Where could I wash my hands? Yuk! So, not having read it, I couldn’t possibly comment, although I did plough my way through the first four pages of another atrociously edited book – by JK Rowling!

  • Kudos, Damyanti, for sticking up for common decency. If James’ writing is bad, then don’t buy her book or read her book. None of this shameless, personless online degrading. We aren’t in 5th grade people. Lets discuss poor writing in a better forum than in a bully tweet.
    p.s. I did not read or purchase her book for two reasons – not my kind of reading and I also heard the writing was poor. There are so many good books out there to read to waste time on poorly written one. And honestly, her editor and publisher need to be discussed as much as James. They printed the books.

  • JunkChuck says:

    Her books are shit, but hate her? I’m sure she’s doing the best she can do–I doubt very much she sits at her desk and thinks, “how bad can I make this and still sell like mad?” I don’t begrudge any artist for hitting the commercial jackpot. Who wouldn’t sell 125 million copies if the chance presented itself. Plus, we get the added benefit of her books “outting” all the folks with dull, unsatisfying sex lives: if a person is getting all hot and bothered by Mr. Grey’s tepid passions, you know there’s not much heat at home.

  • I don’t think she had a negative effect on her readers. I’m sure her series was not the first and definitely won’t be the last to use this type of arousal with its readers. The only difference between this and previous books is that it was front page news and they were not. She has tasted success and I hope that she continues to be successful, and uses her flaying on Twitter to write a better novel than the last, to prove to her critics that she is a legitimate author. But she didn’t have to, because as you’ve already pointed out, she’s wildly successful anyways.

  • Honestly I haven’t read it and have no plans to. I will admit despite the hate she seems to have through the Internet, she is still successful as an author. Which is impressive, since the book started off as a fanfiction. From the complaints, I have a decent that the book is erotica at its worst. They all seem to agree the writing is subpar, yet she still has success. Personally I would have a story that doesn’t revolve around the sexual actions of two characters, but that is just me. There is a massive difference between putting sex in a story, and writing a story that revolves around it.

  • Great article. As much as I loathe Fifty Shades of Grey, I don’t think the author should be targeted with hate. I don’t understand WHY this book is popular. I tried to read it and found it about as sexy as being stuck behind the naked runner at Bay to Breakers with toilet paper stuck in his backside, but you know, everyone has their own tastes!

    One thing that gets me though is a quote from E.L. James that says she claimed to have ‘set the new standard for writing’. That makes me gag.

  • My problem isn’t with the writer, but with the industry. I read parts of the first 50 Shades book for free on the Internet and found the writing appalling, but to each their own. My frustration is that, as a writer, I’m doing the whole necessary things to become a good writer and this 50 Shades mess gets out of the slush pile and becomes a success. That gives the impression that it is all about luck, not talent. So does all my hard work go for naught?

    • strangepegs says:

      It is all about luck. Period. However, the more work you do, the more likely you will get lucky.

      James made her own luck. She didn’t submit the work and have someone pick it from a slush pile as the next big thing. She created a following online (much like Meyers) and got picked up because of it.

  • colormusing says:

    A friend pushed 50 Shades on me, and I had to force myself through less than 50 pages before I gave up. I agree that erotica should be well-written (who wants distractions?), but my main issue was that, if you’re going to insist on writing a novel in 1st person (as very few have done successfully), at least make your character interesting! That said, I don’t think James deserves all the hating, for the simple reason that she actually wrote and published books! (How many armchair critics can say that?) And since, like it or not, publishing and marketing are inseparable, I have nothing but respect for anyone who can create a promotional juggernaut out of books with questionable literary value. She’s like Andy Warhol, now that I think about it.

  • I do agree with all you have written. I can’t say I have read any of her books mainly because of the abuse aspect in them. But the fact remains…women bought them and made her a very rich woman. How many men have done the same? Put books, movies, and other questionable content out there that insult and disgust people and get rich doing it. Many. Thanks for the entertaining read.

  • I don’t hate the woman. I don’t know her. I had never heard of her until 50 Shades of Grey. Sure she is rich, but who made her rich? I submit that people will read and support whatever they wish to.

    I am a book editor and enjoy helping new writers and authors get their works ready for publishing. I do have a rule and that rule is that I won’t do propaganda or pornography.

    No use being angry with Ms. James now. Her book is written, published, sold, and made into a movie. It’s a bit late now.

  • I think that as a society, we have a large problem separating the person from the public figure. This happens to movie/TV celebrities. We see the persona that they portray in front of the camera and we can’t think of them as anything but that character. We read what an author writes, and we believe that they must be everything they write. That is true in some senses, but not in everything. I’ve not read her books, nor will I, but I do feel sorry for the personal attacks she is receiving.

  • Dan Antion says:

    I haven’t read her book(s) and I have no plans to. I also won’t complain about her success. She has a long way to go (in the wrong direction) before it would bother me. After being forced to read some of the works of Benjamin Franklin in college, I can say that the only time I will be angry with a bad writer is when I am forced to read his or her work.

  • Michael says:

    I haven’t read any of her books and I honestly have no plans to do so. They’re not my cup of tea.

    That said, I am curious to know why her publisher didn’t insist on better editing of her novels. Based on what I’ve read, it feels like some of the barbs might have been reduced if someone had edited her a bit. It simply makes both she and her publisher look good.

    Even one of the most successful writers on the planet admits he needs a good editor — Stephen King.

    If it’s good enough for King, who has sold a metric ton of books, it should be good enough for EL James.

  • Morally I can’t get behind what she writes, but hey, she’s wealthy because everyone went out and bought her book. Whose fault is that? That she’s taking care of her family and charity is a good thing. I won’t say anything about her, nor will I read her books.

  • First of all, I hated the book because I feel that the aim was just to mint money, was more about hardcore sex and nothing else, though I like the e-mail exchanges cum letters in the book. True was a desperate attempt with over the top sex. Make no mistake, I also write about eroticism–not that I think I am a writer. But, I don’t hold against her the success she earned as a writer and it’s her right to afford luxury. The hard work cannot be taken away from her and what’s wrong about minting money. I think we need to demarcate between bad literature, shoddy work and someone’s hard work, earning.

  • Sammy D. says:

    ‘Push’ marketing is the bane of discerning consumers, period! Quality is generally not a priority in what is ‘pushed’ or we woukdn’t have best-selling authors like her; celebrities like the Kardasians; or so-called politicians like Trump.

    Sadly, the masses seem so disconnected from their own authentic experiences that they’ll grab the latest ‘pushed’ novel or shie style or reality show because to them, it’s a sign of belonging to some trend that gives them validity.

    Of course personal attacks on people are NEVER appropriate. Hate the product, trend or behavior but do not engage in the personally abusive attacks.

  • Nina Kaytel says:

    Not that she has to worry about it, but I often wonder what will happen when fifty shades goes dark. Many things now rise to great heights of popularity from a billions views on YouTube, to twitter followers, to movies, and back to books, but it goes away. The thing most popular one day fizzle into eventual nothing, and her books are no different, kept alive by movies, promotional projects and stupid twitter gimmick but it doesn’t have fifty lives, something its going to come along and debunk it, so what happens to a writer who never evolved beyond the gimmick? Twilight is over so she hasn’t to find another idea to piggyback on or venture out on her own in the grey waters, her writing style at best is childish and needs to grow like most authors who get stronger with each new book. If she has an ambition to keep writing, I worry about the course or has it been wrecked by the shades of uck.

  • Reblogged this on KENYONA R. COPELAND and commented:

  • I hate that woman! 😉 I think a lot of us hate her because we’re jealous.

    She’s not a good writer, her characters are flat, and she takes BDSM and completely warps it and the book gets so popular that “regular” people think BDSM is that type of abusive relationship. She is essentially glamorizing abuse, which might (I stress might) make women in abusive relationships more likely to think that’s normal or okay than they already do.

    Her books are trash, and I don’t mean because they’re erotica, I mean because they’re badly written and researched. I like erotica. I like my books with a little BDSM (Anita Blake, nuff said) and I know people who are deeply offended that this is how the public now sees their lifestyle.

    That being said, she’s rich! She has written something the masses wanted to read. And that’s all that matters to a writer. We want to touch people, to make them think, to get them out of their comfort zones, and make money while we do it. She’s done that. She filled a need (I’m worried about what that need was) and made a killing. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

  • I have a very simple policy for myself – if I start reading a book and I don’t like it, I stop and move on to something I do like. I don’t understand the need people feel to slate someone the way they did with her, because of the content of her book. It’s fiction, isn’t it? What’s the point in getting mad about it? Yes, there are actual victims of domestic abuse, but there are victims of rape, too, and I haven’t noticed people ganging up on George R.R. Martin the way they are ganging up on E. L. James. Her books aren’t brilliantly written, I didn’t need to read far into it to see that, but a lot of people do love her books. They aren’t for me, but their success proves that they do feel a gap for a lot of others. It’s just not a style I like, and I’m not going to lose my head over a fictional story.

    Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve seen this happen. A friend of mine wrote a great story online but eventually felt the need to take it down because her previously loyal readers gave her hell for including the ‘rape’ (which it wasn’t but that’s neither here nor there) of a teenage girl, and it likely won’t be the last time either. I know I should really just make some tea and read a good book when it happens, but it annoys me because it’s so unnecessary.

    I created my twitter account for my ‘writing career’ (*ahem*) shortly before this E. L. James thing happened, and ended up writing about it on my blog, too. Again, I probably should just have made some tea and wait for it to blow over, but there you go.

  • strangepegs says:

    The problem, in the sense that you’re talking about, is never with the writer; it’s with the readers. A writer writes, generally speaking, to the best of his/her ability. Most writers who write poorly fail but, then, most writers who write well fail. The writer has no power over his/her success. So, if James has written a book to the best of her ability (and I believe that she has), we can’t fault her for trying, which is the thing that each of us is doing. If she has become successful, we can’t fault her for that, because she didn’t cause her own success. In the end, it is up to readers to support good writing. And most -readers- do support good writing. The issue is that things like 50 Shades and Twilight are picked up by people who are, essentially, non-readers — that’s what makes those books do so well — and who have no experience with what is good or bad writing. Basically, they have no taste. The only way to “fix” this kind of situation is to promote reading and turn non-readers into readers, but, then, I’m getting into another topic altogether.
    And, well, I have to stop here, anyway, because my daughter is telling me it’s time for breakfast.

  • If nothing else, she brought popularity to erotica.

  • Kelee Morris says:

    I read the first book. It’s far from great literature, but she did very successfully tap into a deep-seated frustration Twilight’s readers have with the relationship between Bella and Edward. What I think we should disparage is all the unsuccessful attempts to copy her formula and her success.

  • emmilywrites says:

    I think she gets it pretty bad from fellow writers because most of us really try to write well. To see bad writing rewarded so abundantly is a bit unsettling to the integrity of our belief system.

    I think most of the thrashing about stems from that basic foundation of unconscious envy at how literary junk food is being gobbled up by the masses.

    As for my own tastes in darker erotica, reading the memoir 9 1/2 Weeks by Elizabeth McNeil changed my life. The story featured two mature, consenting adults exploring a sensual and ultimately perilous game without any rules or contracts. I was riveted by the psychology of the brief relationship and the naturalistic style of the narrative.

    I find the James book unappealing based on its premise and I haven’t read it. I tried to watch the film but couldn’t get past the shallow, unbelievable plot and dialogue. Ugh! But that’s another subject, for another day 😉

  • Niki says:

    I thought I’d give the book a try, but then read some of the reviews which weren’t criticising her content instead they just said the book was badly written so I decided not to bother. She is an author so her job is to write books, it’s our job to decide whether we want to read them! I do agree with your comment though that she hasn’t harmed anyone and shouldn’t be vilified – basically for being a woman making a lot of money.

  • lexacain says:

    Yes, she’s getting what she deserves, which is close to what Meyer got with that awful Twilight thing. If you can’t be bothered to learn a job, study, practice, and produce good work, you don’t deserve to be successful. And I also blame the readers/viewers who clamor for more violence against women and more “role models” who subjugate themselves to men. Women have to struggle enough to be heard as it is; there are countless countries with prejudiced laws and religions, and countless female victims who suffer. The money for a new Tesla car could be better spent helping them not propagating inequity.

    • Josbons says:

      I agree with you.I haven’t read the book but i have watched the part one of the movie and i felt disgusted.How can you call yourself a man and still have a whole room stuffed with abusive objects to hurt women.I wonder if there’s any sane man in this world who will do this to a woman.Women are being abused everyday somewhere.I and know why the writer wrote this story in the first place.I must also say it’s about time women stand up for themselves and stop allowing ourselves to be used like trash.I will never keep going back to a man who only becomes happy by inflicting pain on me.No matter how much i love you,i will leave.

  • J.C. Henry says:

    I think many people are angry that she has been success. Full disclosure I didn’t buy any of her books or watch the movie. My reasons were that I had already been through bdsm book stage, I didn’t have to read 50 shades. I wasn’t a fan of Twilight either so it was easy for me to avoid. I think she understands that fame is fleeting so she is doing her best to ride that horse until it dies. Another thing we should remember is that not everyone like the Twilight series, Stephanie Meyers has her haters too.

  • I pretty much agree with you. I think these internet takedowns hurt the people doing the taking down as well as the take-ee, so I’d rather keep out of it. I haven’t read the books or seen the movie because it just doesn’t appeal to me, and I leave it at that. Time I spend complaining about or critiquing (or reading) E.L. James is time I’ll never get back. I have a friend who feels much more strongly about how horribly abusive the relationship depicted is, and who urged all her friends (including me) to boycott the book/movie. I have boycotted it, in that I haven’t read/seen either one, but it wasn’t a sacrifice, or something that I told others about or urged them to do.

    The one time I was annoyed and wanted to say something was when Newsweek, I think, or maybe Time, wrote an article about it and put a picture that suggested bondage on its cover. I didn’t think that cover was appropriate for, say, the dentist’s office where kids could see it. But I don’t blame that on the author, I blame that on the magazine. They could have easily chosen a different cover. And I’ve seen worse.

  • Beth Caplin says:

    That she has glamorized an abusive relationship is worthy of being discussed – not every reader thinks that, but enough do that it should be worthwhile to consider. I think the books deserve all the criticism they’ve gotten, but there is a huge difference between trashing someone’s work and trashing the author herself. Obviously the latter is not okay, despite my own opinions about the kind of person who comes up with this stuff and calls it “romance.” But, I don’t know her. And I have better things to say in my tweets than badmouth another author, as an author myself.

    I don’t hate EL James but I hate the kind of culture we live in where poorly written literature sells like it does. I hate that we live in a culture where bad writing is excused because it’s about sex, and that these books have been called “mommy porn” because many of its fans are thought to be bored soccer moms looking for an escape, which in itself isn’t bad…but if these books are some kind of substitute for a bland, unsatisfying sex life with a real person, using these books in place of communication is a bad idea. But that’s how they’re being marketed, and that greatly annoys me.

  • Amanda says:

    I don’t believe that anyone should be subjected to that kind of attention; however, her works should be criticized for what they are: abusive and not well written.

    I wrote a blog post about this not too long ago!