The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 29, 2012

Lee Duran: Erotic literature fuels publishing world

By Lee Duran
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Sex. If it sells, it will be offered by both traditional and independent publishers -- and today sex really sells. The way things are going, the best way to snare a traditional publisher is by independently putting up a super-sexy e-book that attracts ... who knows who it attracts? It’s sometimes called mommy porn but more than mommies are reading it. Otherwise, the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books wouldn’t be the bestselling books in the world.

But face it, what was once called porn is now called “erotica” and it’s swallowing up everything in its path. Nothing is safe from it, not even the classics.

“Erotic retelling of Jane Eyre,” headlines the bookseller. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Publisher Pan Macmillan calls the racy retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s classic “a further twist to the erotica trend.”

“Jane Eyre Laid Bare” is the name of this new masterpiece by debut author Eve Sinclair and will appear in e-book form in August with a paperback to follow. According to the author, readers through the ages have appreciated “the smoldering sexual chemistry between Jane and Rochester.”

Apparently the “sexual chemistry” is no longer smoldering; it’s burst into a raging forest fire, to the pleasure of the editor.

“Genius,” she says, with an “exciting and enticing erotic make-over” full of sexual tension.

My guess is that the original author, Charlotte Bronte, is rolling over in her grave. And to think it all started with an independently published e-book.

In case you think this is a passing fad, consider another headline, this one in GalleyCat: “What if Louisa May Alcott read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey?’”

Those who care will soon know the fictional answer to that question when “Fifty Shades of Louisa May: A Memoir of Transcendental Sex” by “Louisa May Anonymous” is published.

The book is billed as “literotica” that reveals “the private desires of the Little Women author.”

“The real Louisa May probably died a virgin, so she probably didn’t have much erotica in her life. ‘Fifty Shades of Louisa May’ is an attempt to give her a second chance at sex. In it, Louisa May has many sexual encounters,” she said.

Anonymous also pointed out, correctly, that the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy is a phenomenon. Fans may even be able to buy “Fifty Shades of Gray” merchandise soon.

GalleyCat wonders what kinds of products will come from the bondage novel and gets an answer: “Among the diverse categories being discussed ... for licensing are lingerie/sleepwear, apparel, fragrances, beauty products, bedding, home furnishings, stationery, jewelry and adult products.”

Marketers point to the enormous interest in ‘Fifty Shades,’ saying that with, “continuing book sales and a film version keeping awareness high, we expect this property to make a very strong showing in a number of licensed categories over the coming months.”

Maybe. But I’m not buying it. I firmly believe that authors should write what they want and readers should read what they want. Nevertheless, I’m appalled by the vandalism of classics. Guess I’m just old-fashioned.

Husband of erotica superstar sells YA novel

Niall Leonard, husband of ‘Fifty Shades’ author E. L. James, has sold a book for young adults to Random House Children’s Publishing, according to The Bestseller.

“Crusher,” a "gritty" London-set thriller about a 17-year-old school dropout who finds his stepfather murdered and becomes prime suspect for the crime, will come out in September.

Leonard is a British TV screenwriter and this is his first novel. He said he originally intended to self-publish after writing it during National Novel Writing Month last November. NaNoWriMo was mentioned in my June 8 column.

His new publisher calls the book an "electrifying story" and Leonard "a fantastic new voice for teenagers."      

Good luck to him. No matter how big a hit the book becomes, it won’t approach the sales of his wife’s book and you can count on it. As I said it the beginning, sex, sex and more sex is what many -- maybe most -- readers want today.