Tag Archives: fifty shades of grey

The Difference Between The Best Seller List and The Best

Last week I posted about Fifty Shades of Grey being art…then, a few days later, posted about Cause and Effect and how it figured into my next novel.

For some reason I began thinking about the two posts and how they could be tied into a single question…


Do people buy a book because it is popular—or—Does a book become popular because people buy it?


Sticking with the Fifty Shades example…

The series passed the 100-million copies sold mark in February 2014, and I would assume that the popularity of the movie caused another spike in sales.

Now let’s look a little bit of historical info.

50SoG was originally written as fan-fiction based on the Twilight series (another series that could have served as an example for this question). Twilight has also eclipsed the 100-million mark in sales – a very impressive number.

But is it impressive simply because of the sheer volume? Or is it a true barometer of the level of quality inherent in the work?

Let’s face another fact…America is The Land of the Fad.

Don’t believe me?

Then explain to me if you will…

  • The Pet Rock
  • Cabbage Patch Kids
  • Oxygen Bars
  • Racquetball

pet rock

Yes, here in The Land of the Free…we will stand in line for days to purchase the latest hot-ticket item and even throw a few punches to get the last one off the shelf. We’ll pay top dollar for something we could get for next-to-nothing (water) and we’ll replace a perfectly good product with the latest version (iPhones) for no other reason than it’s this year’s model.

So is it a stretch to think that we will buy a book based solely on the fact that “everybody is reading it”?

I think the numbers speak for themselves.

While I still stand by my post about 50SoG being art…I also believe that you can’t judge a book by its sales numbers – especially a number like 100-million.

That’s a mind boggling number.

To put it into perspective let’s look at Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Huck Finn

Arguably one of the best books ever written (in this country), it was published in 1885 and sells about 200,000 copies per year. That means it will sell 1 million copies every five years. So how many years will it take to sell 100-million?





According to my math – that’s 500 years.

Let that sink in for a minute…

It would take 500 years for one of the best pieces of American literature to match the sales numbers Fifty Shades has hit in less than 5 years.

Surely this doesn’t mean that 50SoG is a better book than Huck Finn? Not just better…better by a factor of 100?

I refuse to even entertain that thought.

I think the only thing we can accurately discern from this is that Fifty Shades is benefitting from being the most current fad, and like all fads it will fade into the annals of pop culture history before the next President is elected. It will be nothing more than a question in Trivial Pursuit (talk about fads) where the answer is perpetually on the tips of people’s tongues.


You might say that it won’t be long before we turn the page on it and move on to the next chapter.

Naturally this topic deserves a much deeper conversation than I am offering here, but I think it is safe to say that, when it comes to the book buying public in America, we can invoke a thought from one of my other recent blog posts…If you build it, they will come.

Face it America…if Madison Avenue says you want it, you’ll sell your sister into slavery to get it.


As always – thank you for reading


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Fifty Shades of Grey is Art – Whether You Like It or Not

Before we get to today’s topic please take a couple of minutes to watch this video of an Australian movie critic’s review of the movie adaptation of the best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey.


Well – this is embarrassing…the review has been taken down because of copyright issues. I’m sorry about that.

In short – she trashed it. According to her there was not a single redeeming quality to be found in the movie. She called it “domestic violence dressed up as erotica” and several other negative things. She even went as far as to say that her husband did not get lucky after the movie because (I’m paraphrasing) it left her anything but in the mood.

Agree? Disagree? Don’t care?

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have never read any of the Fifty Shades novels, nor have I seen the movie…and barring a frontal lobotomy, I never will.

50 shadesThat being said…let’s talk about taste.

A wise man once said “Opinions are like assholes…everybody has one, and everybody thinks everybody else’s stinks.”

I posted the above video (when it could actually be seen) on my facebook page recently and, within minutes, I had a nice little string of comments – some agreeing with the critic and some accusing her of having her head where her opinion is.

I’m not picking on Fifty Shades (even though it was originally written as fan fiction for the Twilight saga), I chose it specifically because it has an immediate polarizing effect whenever it comes up in conversation, so I figured it would be a good example for my point…

Book(s) or movie…it doesn’t matter…mention Fifty Shades of Grey and you’ll have a debate raging in no time. Not just your garden variety debate either…you’ll have a full-blown free-for-all with one side saying it’s awesome, another side saying it’s trash, the third side will tear it up for the way it objectifies women and there will even be a side complaining that the author didn’t properly research the whole BDSM scene before writing about it.


Men, women, young, old – Fifty Shades gets ‘em hot…and not in a good way.

But is it good?

Is it trash?

Is it a poor excuse for erotica?

Is it a brilliantly played card by the author to cash in on horny housewives?

Relax…those are all trick questions.

The answer is to each one of them is Yes…and No

When it comes to our taste in art there are no right, or wrong, answers. Good taste and bad taste are totally arbitrary concepts. Art appeals to each of us in a different way, for different reasons. The world would be extremely boring if everybody liked the exact same kind of music, movies, paintings and books.

I think we need to amend the list of taboo discussion topics…Religion, Politics, Sex and Art.

Call it what you will…but Fifty Shades is art.

That’s right, I said it. It’s art. art

You couldn’t pay me to read it and I’d rather pour bleach in my eyes than watch the movie…

…but, love it or hate it, it’s art, and the thing that makes it art is the fact that we can’t come to an all-encompassing opinion about its quality (or lack thereof).

It’s the difference between art and science.

If I say “Jaws is the best movie ever made” there will be people who agree with me and people who disagree with me, and with varying degrees of intensity.

Now if I say “The sum of the squares of the two legs of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse.” Nobody can disagree with me – because it’s science.

pythagorean theorum

A fact is a fact is a fact…but an opinion is, well, we’ve already covered that.

Whether you’re talking about books, music, movies, paintings or interpretive dance – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

The interesting thing, to me anyway, is how defensive some people get.

I’ve seen people defend their favorite artist with more ferocity than they would their own children. I remember once, in high school, when I wanted to pound a classmate six ways from Sunday for having the audacity to say that Kiss was a better band than The Beatles.


I kid you not…to this day I’m still amazed at the self-restraint I was able to muster in the face of such blasphemy.

But, I digress…

I imagine the first art critic made his debut in a cave in France, and there was probably more than one Neanderthal there with their leopard skin wrap in a twist over his review. Who knows…it may have been the reason for the first war, or at least the first rumble.


Since then there has been no shortage of people standing by to tell us why something is good or bad—and an equally ample supply of folks willing to let everyone know how wrong the dingbats in the first group are.

It’s funny how people will call a reviewer all sorts of names when said reviewer takes an opposing stance on a particular work of art, but those same people, when trying to decide which movie to see, will say “oh, let’s watch that one….they say it’s really good.”

Who says it’s really good?

Probably the same guy you called a moron last week because he panned Fifty Shades.

The impetus for this entire post, believe it or not, was a conversation with a fellow author about book reviews. We authors ask (more like beg) readers to post reviews knowing that it’s only a matter of time until somebody trashes our book.

It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but you have to take the good with the bad. The trick to dealing with it is to remember that it’s all a matter of taste.

So, the bottom line is, whether you’re an artist or an art aficionado, screw the critics, because art appreciation it is not a matter of black and white…

…it’s all about shades of grey.

face palm

(come on – tell me you didn’t see that coming!!)


As always – thank you for reading


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