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Rationalizing The Existence Of E.L. James

When I first heard that E.L. James, the Fifty Shade of Grey author, is publishing a writing guide I literally spit out my coffee. Which also made a mess of my desk and kind of made me hate her even more – irrational as that may be.

Fifty Shades of Grey: Inner Goddess (A Journal) is her latest project with Vintage Books. According to the Associated Press it “includes lined pages for readers to set down their own ideas, or “inner goddess.” It also contains a foreword by the million-selling author, professional advice and excerpts from her work.”

For die-hard fans this may be intriguing, but for readers who appreciate things like, oh, good writing, or for people who don’t want to waste their time on another pathetic woman who thinks she can change a man, and for those of us in the industry, this is a complete forehead slapper. In my case it’s more like “slam head against desk”, but I can’t expect everyone to be as devoted to their craft as I am.

It’s no secret that the publishing world, including every self-respecting reviewer, thinks James’ writing is pure garbage, dubbed as “mommy porn” targeted at desperate women whose lives are so deprived of passion they’ll take whatever they can get – even if it means setting women back 50 years.

But one thing I can thank James for is this new fantasy I have about submissive authors.

Despite being equally as unrealistic as a soccer mom actually becoming an “Ana type” in real life, I can’t help but fantasize about an author having to sign a contract for a publishing version of Christian Grey’s Red Room of Pain where it’s decided:

  • How often the author will contact the team, when, and why
  • That all members of the team will be addressed as “sir” or “ma’am”
  • When the author will make public appearances, where, and how often
  • What the author will say to the media, pre-approved by the team
  • How the author will comport himself/herself in the team’s presence
  • When the author will devote himself/herself solely to the team’s ministrations
  • There is no speaking about their relationship, unless pre-approved by the team
  • There will be no self-promotion, unless pre-approved by the team

Additional rules the author would have to abide by include:

  • Never insinuating they know more about publicity than their team
  • Never insisting on a particular date for a news release, event, interview, etc.
  • Never contacting the team to passive aggressively “check on things”
  • Never talking about money or budget
  • Never talking about book sales
  • Never questioning a particular strategy
  • Not expecting the team to amend protocol because their book is “totally unique”

A publishing house’s Red Room of Pain wouldn’t be about whips and leather (unless we’re talking about a fab pair of Louboutins), but it would be a nod to Grey in the sense that once authors enter they are at the full mercy of their team, putting complete faith in what should be a mutually satisfying relationship, dedicating 110% of themselves to the cause without question.

I probably sound bitter and harsh and every author reading this may be saying, “Dear God, I will never work with someone like her,” but I can tell you right now that even if you find someone who you believe thinks you walk on water and deserve better than any other author that’s come before you – it’s an act – and they all secretly want you to sign the contract for their own theoretical Red Room of Pain.

You’d believe me if you could see the look on your publicist’s face the next time they open an email where you’ve asked yet again when the New York Times is going to call…