Will 'Fifty Shades' trend continue in 2013?
TORONTO - From reports of a "Fifty Shades" baby boom and "Fifty Shades" baby clothes, to a "Fifty Shades" stage spoof and even a "Fifty Shades of Chicken" cookbook, E. L. James's erotic novel phenomenon certainly permeated all parts of pop culture in 2012.
And the trend is set to continue well into the new year, with several other authors riding the adult romance wave that swelled in the past year thanks to James's steamy whips-and-leather-filled trilogy.
"I definitely don't see this phenomenon slowing down. It certainly hasn't yet," says Beth Lockley, executive director of publicity and marketing for Penguin Group of Canada. "It sort of seems almost hotter than ever in a way."
"Certainly E. L. James with 'Fifty Shades' ... boosted the whole genre and it hasn't shrunk back down to where it was before, and I'm doubtful it ever will shrink down to be that small again," notes Nathan Maharaj, director of merchandising at Kobo.
Lockley points to American author Sylvia Day's erotic "Crossfire" series, which became a bestseller for Penguin in the past year. Like "Fifty Shades," the trilogy features a 20-something woman who falls in love with a troubled billionaire.
The first two "Crossfire" books, "Bared to You" and "Reflected in You," are now on shelves. The third, "Entwined with You," is due out in the spring.
"This is a huge, huge book. People were rampant for it," says Lockley of "Reflected in You," noting it sold almost 20,000 copies in Canada alone in the first week it hit shelves at the end of October.
Other Penguin erotic romance writers stirring up buzz include Maya Banks of Texas, who is gaining traction with her "Sweet" series and will release "Shades of Gray" from her "KGI" series in January.
Then there's a Canadian author who writes under the pseudonym Sylvain Reynard and is making headlines with the recently released "Gabriel's Inferno" series that Lockley calls "kind of a 'Fifty Shades' comes to Toronto."
"I think that's really just gone mainstream, at this point," Lockley says of the genre. "You look at the bestseller lists and almost the first four or so are erotica or romance fiction."
"Fifty Shades" publisher Random House, which was recently able to give every employee a $5,000 bonus thanks in part to the success of James' series, is now focusing on its February release of "S.E.C.R.E.T."
Written by a Canadian erotic fiction writer with the pseudonym L. Marie Adeline, "S.E.C.R.E.T." follows a widow who immerses herself in an underground sexual fantasy society in New Orleans.
The story, which has already sold in at least 17 countries, is also part of a series.
"It's a bit more about female empowerment than perhaps E. L. James, which was a bit more about a love story spiced with you know what," says Brad Martin, president and CEO of Random House of Canada.
Other romance authors leading the charge include Beth Kery and her "Because You Are Mine" series, and Jennifer Probst with her "Marriage to a Billionaire" books.
While adult literature has existed for centuries, experts say "Fifty Shades" has had a unique effect on the genre for a couple of reasons.
For one thing, the series that began as online fan fiction got a boost from "mommy bloggers" who spread the word, says Maharaj.
Plus, it hit the market as ebooks became mainstream, allowing readers to enjoy the racy material anonymously in public.
"You used to have your erotica in your nightstand and now people are just like reading it wherever they are, which is fascinating," says Newfoundland-based writer and poet Leslie Vryenhoek. …