“It Started on WordPress and Made This Author More than $100 Million…”
Last weekend, the second in author E.L. James series hit the box office.
The sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, did nearly $50 million at the box office crushing everything else except The LEGO Batman Movie.
With the release of her latest film, I thought it would be great to review how all this started with a blog post.
Grey birthed a new genre commonly known as “mommy porn”? The book’s genesis was as a story – not a very good one either – on a Twilight Fan Fiction site in 2010.
(Unfortunately, the author’s publisher has removed practically all traces of the early work on the Internet)
She quickly moved the story to a personal website (50Shades.com) which has since been rolled into her current author page at eljamesauthor.com.
The response was overwhelming. She began selling copies as an ebook of the early rendition and then quickly contracted with a print-on-demand paperback publisher.
The author’s FAQ page says:
Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed were never self-published as these novels. An earlier version of this story began as Twilight fan fiction which was posted on the internet. The trilogy was picked up by an Australian publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop, who released them as e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks.
According to paidcontent.org (http://paidcontent.org/2013/01/10/with-release-in-hardcover-50-shades-completely-flips-traditional-publishing-cycle/):
A tiny Australian publisher then released them as ebooks and print-on-demand paperbacks, selling about 250,000 copies. Random House snapped up the rights in a seven-figure deal, rereleased the ebooks and made 50 Shades widely available in paperback for the first time — where it achieved stratospheric success.
Fast forward a year later and Fifty Shades of Grey was at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list. Soon, it would be followed by two more Grey books, all in the top 10 list.
Just the list ma’am, just the list…
Remember Dragnet from the old days when Jack Webb played Sgt. Joe Friday. Look it up on IMDB kids.
Sgt. Friday’s favorite line delivered in a dry monotone was, “Just the facts ma’am, just the facts.”
Today, it’s all about the list.
If EL James hadn’t had a list, a huge list of devoted fans, publishers wouldn’t have come knocking. Nobody would have taken a chance on an unpublished first-time author who was writing graphically about sexual bondage and sadomasochism.
But she had a huge market. An audience of rabid followers who were already buyers begging for more.
Seven figures and a life-changing journey followed.
It started with a WordPress blog
She still has WordPress blogs, very fancy well-designed ones, but they are WordPress.
She may not have known it then, and may not even know it now, but she owes her success to her list. Some would call it a market.
So, what about you? Are you the next Big Thing?
If you’re not building your list, I doubt it.
When you have a big, responsive list, and can influence a lot of people, you don’t have to be all that good as a writer or speaker to command a lot of attention.
But if you’re incredibly good at whatever you do, and don’t have a list, you won’t get the time of day.
There are a gazillion plugins that will help you build your list as aggressively as you want. To recommend any here would be silly, but here are two of my favorites 🙂
- Optin Monster (a littler more expensive, but we use this for nearly everything on our site because of the analytics)
- Lead Pages (the fastest way to get an optin page up and start building your list)
The key to building a really successful business online is to focus on building a responsive list and keep adding to it every day.
And some day, you could find yourself with a little extra – like maybe substantial – cash in your pocket.
The money really is in the list.
In 2013, according to Wikipedia, she joined the Forbes list of highest earning authors with earnings of $95m which included $5m for the film rights to Fifty Shades of Grey!
And maybe like you, it all started with WordPress.