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Shady win for Publishing Person of the Year?

So, Publishers Weekly has named E.L. James the ‘Publishing Person of the Year’.

For those of you still scratching your heads, it’s okay, because the name isn’t nearly as well known as the insanely successful Fifty Shades trilogy. Yep, she’s that author.

And the magazine is catching a lot of flack for this, considering she’s joining the ranks of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Penguin CEO David Shanks, and Barnes & Noble Chairman Len Riggio…you get the idea.

So naturally the publishing world is up in arms. The NY Daily News posted an article titled, “Civilization ends: E.L. James named Publishers Weekly’s ‘Person of the Year’”, and topping that, Ron Charles from the Washington Post responded with this video.

But she’s sold 65 million copies worldwide and millions of others that have never read a single one of her books have heard the phrase “fifty shades of grey”, so where does the controversy lie?

Well, she’s the first author to ever make the cut. And since reading that sentence I bet a number of you have thought of at least one, if not more, authors that you figured would have preceded her if we’re talking about game changers.

LA Times writer Carolyn Kellogg had a few ideas for what someone in James’ position would have do to merit such a recognition, like, “Create a model for viral ebook distribution, found an independent ebook store, work to legitimize fan fiction, establish or support networks of erotica readers and writers.”

And according to PW itself, “The designation is reserved for those shaping and, sometimes, transforming, the publishing industry.”

To most in said industry, one successful series does not a transformation make. And to be totally blunt, the quality of writing has been consistently reviewed as, how to say this delicately…garbage. Sorry. It’s not a literary masterpiece; this shouldn’t be up for debate.

And I’m not denying her success, James has sold a ton of books, it would have been a once in a lifetime opportunity to have worked with her. But we need to look at the bigger picture, the publishing industry as a whole is creeping dangerously close to reality TV territory – I’ve said it before – we’re stuck fighting a skewed popularity contest where the almighty dollar trumps all.

The public has spoken and they want authors like E.L. James, that’s fine, but we should be wary of giving them all of our attention.