I recently read Fifty Shades of Black & White: The Anatomy of the Lawsuit behind a Publishing Phenomenon, written by Mike Farris and Jennifer Pedroza, and published by Stairway Press. As I’m sure you can guess from the title, the publishing phenomenon in question is the Fifty Shades trilogy. As I mentioned in a previous post, Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels were originally published by a small independent publishing company that seemed to specialize in fan fiction, and when The Shades went big, this small publishing company sold the rights to a major publisher. They ended up getting around $35,000,000 just for the rights. The major publisher, of course, earned way more than that, as did the author.
It truly mystifies me why 125,000,000 people bought the book. All I can think is that the world is vastly different — baser and less literate — than I ever imagined it to be. But that’s not what I want to talk about.
This book, Fifty Shades of Black & White, has all the elements of a blockbuster novel because of all those millions of dollars as well as the greed of one of the publishing partners who managed to snag all that cash for herself. The major conflict, too, is a catchy one — the naïve and trusting vs the scheming and manipulative. But what really sticks in my mind and tickles me is the irony.
(What follows in no way gives away the story if you don’t already know it from the news. It’s all in the first chapters.)
Apparently, one of the clauses the greedy partner stuck in the contract she had her trusting friends sign was a non-compete clause. Any time the defrauded woman tried to do anything in the publishing world, she got a cease-and-desist letter from the greedy woman’s greedy lawyer. So she and a fellow refugee from the original business decided to do something different — make soap. They did well, but when some authors they knew wanted to buy soap and put the images of their covers on the soap wrapper for giveaways, the greedy woman got even greedier and threatened to sue if they didn’t stop.
Realizing the greedy woman would never leave them alone, the two refugees finally got a lawyer, not to sue but to try to keep from being sued. Things escalated from there, and the only redress they had was to be proactive and start a suit themselves.
And it’s this irony — more than the millions and the catchy conflict — that makes the story so compelling. If the greedy woman had been satisfied with what she had already absconded with, if she had left the others alone, she would never have been sued.
It just goes to show that one shouldn’t get so greedy that one’s greed gets in the way of one’s own best interests. Or maybe it shows karma at work. Or maybe it shows the necessity of leaving well enough alone. Or something.
It makes me wonder if the greedy woman and her husband are still married. To hide the millions she grabbed, she turned them over to her husband to put into his name and his businesses. Depending on the law of where they lived, if he divorced her, he’d end up with it all. Instant retribution!
Still, I’m satisfied with and amused by ironic twist to the story.
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