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Updated: June 21, 2012 18:54 IST

X marks the spot

    Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty
    Ziya Us Salam
Comment   ·   print   ·   T  T  

Fifty Shades of Grey captures the Indian market. So, what makes this piece of ‘mommy porn’ click?

E.L. James is turning on the heat in India as well. Having taken the western publishing world by storm for her X-rated trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey — which is poised to overtake the Harry Potter series to become the fastest selling paperbacks of all time — the books are being lapped up eagerly in India as well.

They have sold more than one lakh copies since April this year. Little wonder that Caroline Newbury, deputy director, publishing, Ebury publishing, and spokesperson for Random House India, is ecstatic: “The trilogy has been available in India since April and has been selling strongly here ever since. We have sold approximately 100,000 copies across the series and have more reprints coming through at the moment. Whilst it may not have reached the levels of the U.K. sales figures yet, it is doing incredibly well here and demand continues to grow. We are aiming to replicate the U.K. success.”

Described as ‘mommy porn’, James sees her work as “romantic fantasy”, stories that offer women a “holiday from their husbands”. The trilogy first scored as an e-book which prompted the printed versions. The first novel, called Fifty Shades of Grey like the trilogy, has elements of bondage masochism; the story is about a 21-year-old virgin who agrees to become the submissive partner of a mysterious and charismatic billionaire.

What started in India as a trickle, its publishers hope will soon turn into a flood. Newbury talks about the continuous orders they receive everyday from bookstores adding that Random House India is planning a major campaign around the book this summer.

At Bahrisons Bookstore in Khan Market, New Delhi, the book gets pride of place on the display racks. Says a representative of the store: “We have displayed them well and the response is pretty good. All the three sets of Fifty Shades of Grey are selling very well. Everyday, we are selling about 10 copies. We have kept a ready stock of 50 of each of the sets in the store.”

The sales figures are equally impressive at Full Circle Bookstore in Greater Kailash in South Delhi. Says the manager: “There’s a lot of interest in the book. Right now, we have run out of the first set. But we are ensuring that it is available for customers by tomorrow.”

Random House (U.K.) has announced that the trilogy has sold in excess of four million copies in physical and ebooks combined — including sales in India as well as overseas territories, including Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Apart from this, James has sold 15 million copies in the U.S. and Canada in three months.

A former TV executive, James dreamed of writing stories that readers would fall in love with, but put those dreams on hold to focus on her family and her career. She finally plucked up the courage to put pen to paper with her first novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, which is also the name for her trilogy.

When Fifty Shades Of Grey made its debut, the racy series became popular via its discreet e-book version. However, as it crossed into mainstream literature and dinner party conversations, the physical books began to move. What began as word-of-mouth advertising barrelled into a surprising new trend: porn as pop-culture.

In India, there’s Flipkart, ideal for bashful readers who prefer print to pixels. So far the website has delivered about 780 copies of the book. Additionally, they have 221 pending orders, which they are in the process of delivering.

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