Tag Archives: Fifty Shades of Grey

Dark and Brooding Cover Art: Shaun Tan

Outer SurburbiaThey say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but we all know that that’s codswallop. We all do it. The cover can set the tone for the entire book. It can widen an audience, appealing to those who would never otherwise pick it up.

Judging a Book

I feel like I’ve been mentioning 50 Shades of Grey far too much of late, but it is a classic example. On the face of it, with the loosened tie flung casually against the limited blue colour pallette (see picture below, far left), the unsuspecting observer would assume that it was crime-fiction. Judging a book by its cover is the reason that the Harry Potter series begun churning out a simultaneous “Adult” edition and a “Children’s” edition – to appeal to both markets (see picture below, far right). One of my personal favourite set of covers is the original Terry Pratchett covers by Josh Kirby, what a dude (see picture below, second from left). I also recently mentioned a fantastic example of amusing cover art for Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland -worth a peek.

Quality covers

My cover artist of choice: shaun tan

As always, my cart is way before my horse, but if I could get anyone at all to create the cover for my progressing novel (or perhaps series of novels), it would be Shaun Tan. Shaun Tan is an awesome Australian illustrator who has won countless awards. He has an amazing dark imagination which always has a touch of humour. I am a huge fan, and am a proud owner of Tales from Outer Surburbia and The Arrival. His illustrations have a real folklore-ish and fairy tale-like quality which I think would match well with my story in Four and Twenty Blackbirds. There is also a touch of steampunk in his work, which is a genre that I really enjoy. I hope my words could live up to his artwork. Ah, to dream.

*The illustration above is from Shaun Tan’s Tales from Outer Surburbia
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50 Shades of Alice in Wonderland? Seriously?

Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland.Sacreligious. Ack. I can feel the bile rising.

It’s not so much that I mind one of my all time favourite books gone to erotica, it’s something that’s often done in porn with quite amusing re-namings (Buffy the Vampire Layer, Men in Black Women, The Thighlander, etc). It’s that I object to the cheap knock off status of the books coming under what seems to be becoming the quasi-franchise that is 50 Shades of Grey. Perchance Lewis Carroll is rolling in his grave.  So sad. So so sad. (*insert violin music here*)

Amazon has described it as “The First Book in the 50 Shades of Alice Trilogy”, and pseudonymed Melinda DuChamp will most likely be inspired to keep writing, as the sales of 50 Shades of Alice in Wonderland are on the up. Melinda DuChamp recently decanted her sales data in an interview on Joe Konrath’s blog:

Alice has sold 3560 copies in the UK, and 2540 in the US (plus 1275 loans in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library) priced at $2.99. Assuming the loans are $2 each, Alice has made close to $15,000 in the last 20 days. That’s more than many of my advances … Alice peaked at #194 in the US, and #56 in the UK. It is currently #643 and #208. At its peak, it was earning over $1,000 a day. Things have slowed down, but it is still outselling all of my other novels on Amazon.

Perhaps I’m overreacting a little, it’s all in the name of good fun after all. And the cover is highly entertaining, and beautifully done. Having now read the mock reviews on Amazon, I’m a little placated. Some examples as below:

“Sexy as hell. This is really going to turn you on.” – A turned-on woman who asked not to be named

“My wife really benefited from me reading this.” – A friend of the author

“Melinda DuChamp is my favorite author, because she came over and painted my house. Also, her book is pretty good.” – The author’s cousin

So, perhaps I will forgive Melinda DuChamp, and perhaps envy her just a little for thinking of it first. I do still hold fast on my stance that its 50-shades franchise status was a bit of a cheap marketing ploy, but then again, a self-published author needs to use every trick available.

So, Melinda DuChamp, I give you some grudging respect. You never know, I may even read it to see what all the fuss is about.

Writing in a Fad-Driven Market

Recent Book Fads

For the last couple of years, it’s been Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games and (heaven-forbid) Fifty Shades of Grey (and yes, I have read all three of the books, but that’s an exposition in itself). Before that, it was Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Twilight. Looking back at this list thus far, I realise that have read them all, bar Twilight (NB Twilight has been recommended to me as a great trashy read, but after only managing to stomach watching half of the overly teenage-angst-ridden movie, I have no impetus to read it – perhaps a classic example of should have read the book first. No offence to Twilight fans intended, I know that my younger self would have been relishing the world that Stephanie Meyer created). Before Twilight, there was Harry Potter. ‘nuff said.

But this is just the thing. The entire book and film market has become hugely fad-led. One big thing that turns the tides of commissioning for all the publishing houses. Who in 2005 would have understood an entire section of a bookstore being dedicated to Paranormal Romance? But there we go. Yes, to a degree, the market has always gone in the direction of the big thing. The children’s market sees it a lot: one year it’s aliens, the next it’s cowboys, the next it’s dinosaurs, who can keep up? Maybe it’s just me, but I really don’t feel that the adult market had this sort of tunnel vision until the last decade or so (man, that makes me feel old). Not that there is anything inherently wrong with these books as fads. Some of them are brilliant works of literature, as well as being thoroughly entertaining. It’s just that it makes the market more volatile, and tending towards a singlular pursuit for a given time. Which basically means that if you are not of the correct trope, you’re unlikely to be published, and if you are of the correct trope, you’d better get busy finishing off that novel (my personal debilitating issue).

The particular reason it worries me is the fact that fairy tales are hot right now. Really hot. Look at the movies that are out: Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and Red Riding Hood (2011) (as well as the upcoming Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), which looks dire btw), and much more prominently the TV series Grimm and Once Upon a Time. Granted, except for Once Upon A Time, none of these has made a huge splash, but they are indicator of the fas. I really enjoy watching Once Upon a Time and recommend it highly, but it does hugely dilute my material. It is pretty much a parallel of the work I’ve had in the pipeline for years. Yes, true, there’s no such thing as an original story, and far less so when you are rewriting existing works. The worry is still there though. I have to get my arse in gear, finish and publish my book Four and Twenty Blackbirds in time to latch onto this window, because it may be a decade or more before it comes around again. My only saving grace (thus far) is that I have not yet come across a new fairy tale-esk novel of note. But it’s only a matter of time. More application of arse to seat and pen to paper is required, methinks.