After Fifty Shades, erotic fiction is big at book fair

The best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey has meant a flood of fiction involving sex at the Frankfurt Book Fair

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 October, 2012, 11:47am

A wave of erotic fiction in every shape, size and hue swept the halls of the Frankfurt book fair this week in the wake of E. L. James's record-breaking success with Fifty Shades of Grey. But one British publisher was hoping it had found an antidote to the deluge, with the acquisition of Fifty Shades of Feminism.

One of the most talked-about books at the world's biggest international book fair, which takes places annually in Frankfurt and sees thousands of publishers and literary agents hammering out deals for the hottest new titles, was S.E.C.R.E. T, an erotic story written under a pseudonym by a Canadian author and TV producer. L. M. Adeline's tale of a young widow who joins a secret society "that recruits women to help them realise their sexual fantasies and liberate their sexual selves" is understood to have sold for a high six-figure sum in America, with offers pouring in from publishers around the world.

With James' sado-masochistic trilogy riding high in international markets as well as the UK and US, publishers are reporting being swamped by erotic fiction. The Welsh publisher Xcite Press was even selling rights to an interactive version of the Kama Sutra, the Kama Xcitra, "a sexual position guide with 3D hologram illustrations".

David Shelley, publisher at Little, Brown, said: "We've seen loads of erotica on offer: Scandinavian erotica, Japanese erotica, every sort."

Lee Brackstone at Faber & Faber said: "My friend Chris Herschdorfer from Ambo Anthos says there is tonnes of erotica around. The latest being, apparently, zombie erotica. I, thankfully, have seen nothing.

"But that's one of the many advantages and pleasures of being an editor at Faber.'"

In response, Lennie Goodings at Virago has found what she calls "just the antidote needed". Out next March, Fifty Shades of Feminism will be edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach, bringing together the stories of 50 women, from politicians to actors to scientists, as they reflect on "the shades that inspired them and what being a woman means to them today".

"I think a lot of women find the image of femaleness currently all about desire, even masochistic desire, just too reductive and frankly a bit perplexing," Goodings said. "There are many powerful ways to be female. And we are still in a casually misogynist world.

"Look at how Julia Gillard's fabulous riposte went viral. We need more shades of woman: of course sexually happy but also not afraid to be bolshy, brave, thoughtful, intelligent, serious, stylish and witty. I think this book is absolutely the right thing for now."