From Hornsby to New York: how an erotic e-book became a $1m blockbuster
David MarrMarch 12, 2012
SO MUCH has happened to Amanda Hayward in the past few weeks she admits to feeling a little disoriented. An erotic novel published by her Hornsby company, the Writer's Coffee Shop, has hit the No.1 spot on The New York Times e-book fiction best-seller list and been sold for more than $1 million to Random House.
This is a publishing triumph of an entirely new kind. You haven't seen stacks of Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L.James, in your bookshop. Hayward has never had her name in the Australian press. Until The New York Times broke the story this weekend, she and the Writer's Coffee Shop were the unknown unknowns of Australian publishing.
"We were going to appear the other day on the Kyle and Jackie O Show [on 2Day FM]," Hayward told the Herald. "But we cancelled out of consideration for the author until the deal with Random House was finalised."
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Publishing triumph … Amanda Hayward. Photo: James BrickwoodThere is no coffee shop and the only address in Hornsby is a post office box. Everything that matters in this story happened on the net. There, a few years ago, Hayward and a partner in the US set up a site where amateur romance writers could publish their work free to all readers.
Early last year Hayward noticed that E.L.James, a London television executive, was attracting "a lot of readers" with the erotic adventures, posted chapter by chapter, of a young student, Anastasia Steele, and "dashing but damaged" entrepreneur Christian Grey.
So an e-book version was launched in May. Despite having a US partner, Hayward says: "I was the one who invested the money, so it started in Australia." A few paperbacks were printed for the trade only in England and the US. It hit the spot.
In high demand ... Fifty Shades of Grey.The New York Times reported: "Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic novel by an obscure author that has been described as 'mommy porn' and Twilight for grown-ups, has electrified women across the country, who have spread the word like gospel on Facebook pages, at school functions and in spin classes."
Critics on blog sites were cruel but it made no difference to sales. "It's sold 250,000 copies, most in the last couple of months," Hayward says.
Some of the success may be due to an unconsidered advantage of e-books: they can be so discreetly downloaded.
James rapidly provided two sequels. Fifty Shades Darker appeared in September and Fifty Shades Freed was launched in New York in January.
Though now more than 1000 pages, the story of these star-crossed lovers may not be over. "Just when it seems that together their love can conquer any obstacle, misfortune, malice and fate combine to make Ana's worst nightmares come true," reads the blurb for volume three. "Alone and desperate, she must face down the poisoned legacy of Christian's past."
Meanwhile, author and publisher are enjoying their fortune from the Random House deal in which 750,000 copies of the trilogy will hit US bookshops from next week. In April or May Fifty Shades of Grey will at last appear in bookshops in Australia.
It has been a strange journey: a book that made its mark first on the internet, then as an e-book, will finally appear as books always appeared, in print. It's how Hayward would have wished it all along. ''Unfortunately, print doesn't look as though it's going to survive much longer," she says.
The Writer's Coffee Shop has a long list of e-books on the market - not all erotica. Hayward says a little of the windfall may be spent setting up a coffee shop for writers and readers, not on the net but down here on the ground - maybe in Hornsby.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/from-hornsby-to-new-york-how-an-erotic-ebook-became-a-1m-blockbuster-20120311-1uso5.html#ixzz1owepcQyP