Home » Big Publishing, Romance » E.L. James Named PW’s Publishing Person of the Year

E.L. James Named PW’s Publishing Person of the Year

4 December 2012

From Publishers Weekly:

E.L. James, the author of the Fifty Shades trilogy, has been named Publishers Weekly‘s Publishing Person of the Year for 2012. James, the pen name of Erika Leonard, became the author of the fastest-selling adult series of all time after her erotic trilogy, initially posted online as Twilight fan fiction, became a massive viral hit. The series was acquired by Random House’s Vintage unit in March and the books--Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed–have sold over 35 million copies in the U.S. alone (combined print and digital), bringing in more than $200 million in revenue to the publisher.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Dan for the tip.

Big Publishing, Romance

48 Comments to “E.L. James Named PW’s Publishing Person of the Year”

  1. I’m not proud of having my name on this one, but it is publishing news. 😀

  2. P.G.

    Can anyone tell me why Stephenie Meyer hasn’t sued?

    For something.

    That 50 shades is so successful really rips into the idea of editing, don’t it?

    Editing is a waste of time, if EL can blast the doors off and make so much money. Frak quality and trying hard. It’s just a lousy rip, badly written tripe.

    She’s off to the bank.

    Good luck to her, but it’s a severe lesson.


    • That’s not the lesson I choose to learn from it. In fact I choose to ignore it and focus on what I do well and continue improving at it.

    • You can immitate something very closely without violating the author’s rights as long as you don’t (a) plagiarize or (b) publish something that can reasonably be considered a derivative work. James didn’t write a story about a sparkling century-old vampire who looks like a teen and is perpetually in high school, where he meets a teenage-girl-living-with-her-single-father who’s a cop in a Pacific Northwest town which has a werewolf infestation during prom (or have I lost Meyer’s plot in my rambling?). If she had, well, yes, then Meyers might well have sued and might well have won–ESPECIALLY if she could also show that specific scenes, plot events, and/or text matched her work too closely.

      But however James got started or whatever her inspiration (yes, TWILIGHT fanfic, as we all know by now)… The result was (I gather) explicit erotica about a non-vampire billionaire businessman who introduces a twentysomething woman into bondage. And stuff.

      Much too little resemblance for a lawsuit. Meyers doesn’t seem to have grounds for anything other than grumbling about the way James’ work is perpetually associated with her own work.

      • Laura,

        Do you think 50 shades is any good, and deserves any place on a bookshelf?


        • I don’t see how that’s revelant. For example, I can name a dozen books I was forced to read for my education in high school that I didn’t think were any good and didn’t deserve any place on a book shelf. I can all-too-easily name a dozen #1 NYT hc bestselling fictin and nonfiction books that I didn’t think were any good and don’t deserve any place on a bookshelf. I’ve read Pultizer, Nebula, Hugo, Edgar, Rita, Booker, and Nobel Award winning books (or authors) who I didnt think were any good and didn’t deserve a place on any bookshelf.

          Clearly in all of those instances, lots of people disagreed with my opinion. Art is always subjective and taste is very personal.

    • Meyer hasn’t sured because she does’t care: Meyer spoke publicly, saying she saw no grounds for complaint.

      “When asked about the bestselling success of E. L. James‘ Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (a series that began as Twilight fan fiction) Twilight creator Stephenie Meyer told MTV News: “Good on her — she’s doing well. That’s great!”

      “…the novelist admitted she hadn’t read the erotica bestseller, but wished her old fan luck. Even though the book has its roots in fan fiction, Meyer said James would have been a writer no matter what inspired her.”

      In other words: “I got my pile of money, she got hers…” 😉

      • Yup, that’s what she said in public, on record, no doubt after careful thought. I’d do the same, through gritted teeth; I’d have no desire to spend years on a lawsuit I might lose, or be publicly seen to resent another author’s success.

        We’ll never know if those are Stephenie Meyer’s real feelings.

        • Well, now, considering she is reportedly a religious person who carefully kept any explicit sex out of TWILIGHT, it wouldn’t take much analysis to guess she wasn’t terribly amused to see an BDSM narrative even vaguely liked to her work.
          That she hasn’t made a public fuss is to her credit, regardless of the legalities.
          Not everybody throws a tantrum at every bit of unfairness life throws at them.

    • Because I am an indie writer and publisher and I want to know what is hot, I read Twilight #1 and #2 and Fifty #1 and #2 (along with the first of Hocking’s books, which is a LOT closer to Twilight than Fifty is). I can tell you that Twilight and Fifty are light years apart. What E.L. James took is the concept of a powerful, sexy, irresistible man who is dangerous and a sweet young thing who falls for him, and went in a totally different direction. If angry fanfic colleagues of James hadn’t outed her as being part of their community, we never would have known about the connection. She did what a lot of fanfic writers do, which is take the character names (which she obviously changed before publication) and put the characters into more extreme and/or sexual positions — literally and otherwise, in this case — and concoct another story around them. Something entertaining for fans who are chomping at the bit for more.

      The Fifty books are lame and amateurish, but they are basically romance. It takes a looong time for the sex to begin (one of the reasons folks kept reading… when do I get to the dirty part?) and there are perhaps two scenes in the two books I read that are disturbingly violent, a few that are erotic if unrealistic, and a whole bunch of sappy, uninspired and eventually boring pages that add up to very little plot. And yet… it has something that pulled many readers in.

      Fifty makes Twilight look quite sophisticated in terms of conflict and story construction, which isn’t saying much.

      One wonders if James has any more books in her. She’ll never see this kind of success again, I would imagine. Then again, she is set for life.

      Luck of the draw. Just keep writing your own best book, and don’t worry about the E.L. James’s of the world. I’m neither Hemingway nor Stephanie Meyer, but I am Fitzgerald.

  3. So, I’m alittle hesitant to lambast this. Yet.

    This is what I want to know. Is PW’s Person of the Year a celebration of that person? Or is it more like Time’s Person of the Year, which is about influence.

    Regarding the later, that makes sense.

    If it’s the former, I’m floored.

    But I also want to note that the Pubilshing Person of the Year award went to someone who was originally an Indie. That has a nice flavor to it.

    • Yes, but the massive intellectual property theft kind of makes it poo flavored.

      • Yep. I mean, it’s one thing if two authors had similar ideas. Happens all the time. For me, it’s completely different when the piece is irrefutably fan fiction.

        Fan fiction can be awesome, but I don’t think it’s right to make money off of someone else’s IP. I haven’t read SoG, so can’t comment on this with direct, personal knowledge, but it is my understanding that although the names were changed and the BDSM was added, the characters were essentially the same people, and recognizable if you’d read Twilight.

        • I have a Mister Bill S. on line two for you. He is screaming something about stories and missing serial numbers.

      • It’s not theft. It would be theft if she wrote about a sparkly vampire who’s perpetually in high school where he meets a teen girl who lives with her father, blah blah blah. Although it came out of fanfiction, the books James actually published were about a non-vampire billionaire who introduces a twentysomething woman into bondage. Or something.

        There’s too much difference in the storylines (and the genre–TWILIGHT isn’t erotica, 50 SHADES is; TWILIGHT is paranormal YA; 50 SHADES is neither thing) for claims of intellectual theft to have merit. There are numerous teen vampire romances that have more in common with TWILIGHT that 50 SHADES, though they did not start as TWILIGHT fanfic and it did.

        Not arguing the moral merits here. Just saying that, in business terms, regardless of the origin of 50 SHADES, it doesn’t bear any relevant resemblance to TWILIGHT.

        • Amen. It’s gone past derivative work into transformative work. (If not as a term of law/art, then as a term of dictionary “it has been transformed entirely into something barely recognizable as ever having passed that other thing in the hall once and perhaps made eye-contact.”) There might be some amount of “derivation” in the style of the writing — I don’t know what Ms. James’ native style is, and I do know that fanfic readers often prefer a imitative style, but while people may call the work “a bad e.e. cummings imitation” or “bad Flannery O’Connor pastiche” or whatever, or even, “a masterful imitation of a style that grates upon my eyes like a cat climbing a chalkboard”…

          I don’t think “style” is copyrightable. I should certainly hope not, anyway.

        • I realize that legally it doesn’t count as theft, but to me, it’s crossing an ethical boundary to profit financially from someone else’s IP that is still in copyright.

          I know that there are different types of fanfiction–and different degrees to which the characters and world are borrowed, so it’s not a black and white issue.

          Everyone will place their moral and ethical boundaries in different places. For me, personally, filing off the serial numbers and profiting from someone else’s IP (changing names, situations, etc., but where the *characterization* or world–or both–are the same) is a line I would not cross, nor would I support authors who have. Others, of course, may agree or disagree. 🙂

          • Everyone places their moral and ethical boundaries in different places, but the law tends to be a little more uniform about what is and is not a violation of an author’s copyright or derivative rights. Whether James work is unethical isn’t an identical matter with whether she’s done something actionable.

            • I know. 🙂

              I’m not sure if it’s because I responded to Dan’s comment, but for me, it’s never been about the law. If Meyer could have taken legal action over this, I’m sure she would have. As a reader, the fact that James has done something I consider highly unethical can, and does, influence whether or not I would support her financially by purchasing the book. (Erotica’s not my thing, so for 50 SoG, it’s a moot point.)

              • I feel the same way. There’s no reason why someone should copy another person, whether the original is dead or alive, in or out of copyright. The original has a right to say where their story goes. I’d hate for someone to take my characters and do stuff I wouldn’t like.

                Nowadays the excuse is ‘nothing is original’ and ‘other people are doing it, so it’s okay’. I see it on music blogs often when singers copy songs, dance moves, hair styles, clothes, videos, etc. They’ll be forgotten in time. The legends/originals won’t.

                If not for that, I’d be happy for these people. I would like to have that big an impact, but not if I take advantage of others. Then it’s not worth it.

                • I got rid of that Bill guy on line two, but now there’s some guy named Homer on three yelling in a really thick accent about George Clooney singing songs he didn’t write. I have no idea what he wants.

          • And I have to abandon this topic in favor of my repelled horror after reading the comment below, that Ana and Gray have become two of the most popular baby names of the year. I mean… REALLY?

            I was named after a racehorse–a stakes lower at Arlington the summer I was born. This suddenly seems like a crown of GLORY compared to growing up with the knowledge that you were named after Mr/Ms Bondage Protagonist…

            • Well, not the MOST popular, but I read online the other day that they’ve risen dramatically in popularity. But then so have Apple (gag) and Siri (WTF?) and I do mean like the iPhone Siri.

              People are dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.

              • The reason for its rising popularity may have Iphone origin, but Siri is an ancient Scandinavian name, like the first Mrs. Strindberg for example.

                • Unfortunately, I doubt the Scandinavians will get proper credit. Everyone will think it’s origin is the iPhone. Just like the word meme, which has an illustrious pedigree that has been bastardized by internet snappy image sayings which are generally unfunny and annoying.

                • Meme was originally an analogy: that ideas propagated, cross-fertilised, and evolved within a culture, much like genes. Then certain psychologist types tried to say that human conciousness was nothing but a meme’s way of perpetuating itself. The selfish meme, if you will.

                  Thereby trying to raise an analogy to the level of a paradigm, which they could use because psychology doesn’t actually have a paradigm. In much the same way as they tried to use the selfish gene (another analogy raised to the level of paradigm and equally spurious) twenty odd years earlier.

                  So, personally, meme being used for an idea that propagates through the culture (usually via the internet) is returning to the original meaning (albeit with a heavy helping of self-aware post modern bollocks) and not bastardising it.

                  Okay, I’ll get off my hobby horse now.

            • Germany is awash in 16 to 20-year-olds named Kevin after the protagonist of the Home Alone movies. Not quite as depressing as being named after the Fifty Shades of Grey protagonists, but pretty close.

    • It’s a celebration of the benefits that publishers provide when they tastefully curate the literary legacy of the world.

  4. I guess that means you’re not the target audience, then…

  5. In related news, Snooki has been named TV’s Person of the Year. And Octomom has been named Mom of the Year. Volume, volume, volume!

    • Crappity, crap, crap.

    • Octomom is also a nominee for four different annual awards from the adult movie industry’s version of the Motion Picture Academy, just in case you were having any regrets about our impending destruction at the hands of the Mayan gods.

      “So you’re going to destroy civilization as we know it?”

      “Frankly, I don’t think I’ll miss it.”

  6. Well, the PW thing may well be apt, IMO. Like Amanda Hocking, James is a very high-profile icon of the huge changes sweeping through the industry, where top sellers are starting to “make” themselves rather than “being made” by publishers.

    Hocking quickly rose to tremendous prominance via her professionally-approached self-publishing strategy with a bunch of original novels in a still-new ebook market. That was huge news–but it’s also last year’s news.

    James had a viral rise through social media as an amateur, a fanfic posteur, and that led -her- ultimately to a major deal and to many weeks atop the bestseller lists. James has been this year’s “new chapter” in the ongoing story of how fast and how much the world of books is changing.

    My bet is on next seeing an oral poet rise to the top of the “new twist” heap in our changing industry.

  7. Do you also know that Ana and Gray are some of the fasting rising baby names this year? I just wonder what those parents (moms) will tell their kids when they ask who/what they were named after? What will all these mommy porn addicts think of this in ten or fifteen years? That it changed their life or ewww… yeah I remember that.

  8. Someone (possibly on this site?) described 50 Shades as ‘weird crap’. Sums it up perfectly.

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