50 Shades of Shade – the #AskELJames “Fiasco”

Author E L James holds a copy of her new erotic fiction book "Fifty Shades of Grey" at a book signing in Coral Gables, Fla., Sunday, April 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Jeffrey M. Boan)
“Ask me anything.”

Some of you may be following (or participating) in the Twitter feed for #AskELJames. I admit that I’ve posted a few questions—and you can see them if you follow me on Twitter (@JayneMarlowe)—but they were not nearly as snarky and downright vicious as some of the tweets.

Why? Because there but for the grace of (insert your favorite deity/fetish here)….

I don’t know if James is very brave or very stupid for inviting the ire of critics and trolls in such a free-for-all. Granted, every writer does this when their books are available for online customer reviews. But how many people are going to see a 1-star review of your book with the 7-digit ranking compared to an international best seller on a popular social network?

I admit. I didn’t like the book and didn’t read the trilogy. I struggled with Fifty Shades mainly because of the writing itself. But didn’t James ask for this trouble? Doesn’t she deserve it?

Yes…and no, in my opinion.

Yes: She (and/or her people) asked for a Q&A…and that’s what she got, regardless of whether or not it went “as planned.”

No: She doesn’t deserve the mean and vicious tweets. No one does (but damn if those hashtag challenges aren’t fun). But if you’re going to put yourself out there, the potential for abuse is not “if” it happens—it will happen.

James should be wearing her asbestos big-girl panties. She should keep them on for a while longer because she’s still getting spanked.

In one of my (legitimate) tweets, I asked if she’d do her next Q&A in a private chat room. Already other PR savvy marketers are making the rounds with tweets about how to interact with your public in a more controlled, if not friendly, setting.

In another of my (legitimate) questions, I asked where can we see the answers to these questions. I’m being serious. If she has no intention of answering any of the questions—good, bad, and ugly—somewhere, then this is just a publicity stunt, and an extremely tacky one, in my opinion, because it means James is not just ignoring her meanest critics, she is ignoring her die-hard fans.

But amongst all the snark, vitriol, and legitimate questions, there have been some astute tweets. Such as:

  • Did she have an editor and proof reader?
  • James and her crew are laughing to the bank, so it doesn’t matter how the hashtag is faring.
  • “No publicity is bad publicity” and “bad publicity is still publicity.”
  • Is James enjoying the abuse? If not, isn’t that ironic?
  • Cyber bullying sucks.

Yes, cyber bullying does suck.

For those of us who write erotica and are wanting build our audience, we already have passionate detractors simply because of the subject matter we choose to write.

I like edgy and dark content, and I like rough sex—and I’m still tame compared to other erotica writers out there. I want to broaden my reach, but I hope I never get called out like this.

Now imagine if you’re an erotica writer who writes about incest or non-con sex, for example…and you raised a Twitter Storm? E L James may be laughing to the bank regardless, but you may have to go into hiding.

So, while we may be laughing or cringing as we watch all of this go down, just ask yourself how you would handle it if it were you.




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