I’m sure you’ve heard about it by now – The Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon! It has women around the world running to their local bookstore. Last I heard, more than 30 million copies had been sold!
I admit that I’m currently in the middle of Fifty Shades Freed, the third book in the E.L. James trilogy. I had little interest in the series at first, as erotic romance is not high on my list of preferred reading! However, everywhere I turned there was something in the news about the series: My Facebook news feed had constant updates from friends telling me what page they were on; my local TV news was talking about the huge increase in sales, and the radio show I listen to on my way to work was interviewing women who said it saved their marriage. I went to my local Barnes & Noble, bought the book, and dove right in.
Nearing the end of Chapter 5, I had a thought. Why did I become one of the 30 million people reading a book that initially held zero interest for me? Why did I give into the craze and buy the series? Once I figured out the answer to why, my next thought was how? How did Fifty Shades of Grey get to where it is today?
I immediately put the book down and hopped on the Internet to do some research. I watched numerous YouTube clips of interviews with E.L. James and read countless articles about the book, the author and how it all started.
I learned the series was released as an e-book and a print-on-demand paperback by The Writers’ Coffee Shop, an independent publisher in Australia. The Writers’ Coffee Shop had very little budget for publicity and relied solely on book blogs to get the word out in the beginning. The bloggers triggered a lot of sharing online and old-fashioned word-of-mouth, which reached such a pitch, the series went viral. It was bought by Vintage Books, a subdivision of Random House, one of the largest book publishers in America, and re-released in April 2012.
I was fascinated to learn the role blogs played in creating this global phenomenon. I work with numerous book bloggers and mommy bloggers on a regular basis, so it was awesome to hear them get the credit they deserve. Oftentimes, these individual bloggers have bigger audiences than a local community newspaper.
It just underscores the power of all media exposure – whether it’s a mainstream publication or social media. If I’d seen Fifty Shades before all the hype, I would have predicted it would go nowhere.
You never know what will resonate with an audience – until you have an audience.