Fifty Shades and Then Some!
Right this moment at the iTunes bookstore, the #12 bestseller in paid books is "The Diamond Club: A Novel" by Patricia Harkins-Bradley. A "50 Shades" knock-off, it’s been bouncing around the top sellers on this list since it was released on July 29.
And now I’d like to introduce you to the authorial genius behind this hyper-successful ebook. Do we call her by the more formal Patricia, or does she go by the more casual Pat, or the diminutive, Patty? No actually, she is they, and they go by Justin and Brian.
To be specific, the literary forces that brought this oeuvre to light are Brian Brushwood and Justin Robert Young, co-hosts of the weekly comedy show NSFW on TWiT.tv. Late last month, they created the ebook on Vook, the new cloud-based ebook publishing platform. They call "The Diamond Club" their hoax book, and they’re mighty proud of their baby, which is 100 percent crowd-sourced. The two kindly consented to talk to Pub Buzz about the book.
Pub Buzz: Tell me about your book publishing history. How many books have you published? Do you have any strong feelings about the ebook v. p-book debate? Do you prefer to publish in any particular format?
Brian Brushwood: Before ebooks, I'd previously written "The Professional's Guide to Fire Eating" and "Pack the House." Post-ebooks, I've written "Scam School Book 1: Smoke" and "Scam School Book 2: Fire."
Justin Robert Young: I have a background chiefly in newspaper reporting and blog writing. I work extensively with Andrew Mayne. He was exclusively ebook and completely blew up as a thriller author over the last year it was inspiring to see him to go from 0 to 60 in such a short time. For example, I was sitting next to him on a flight from Houston to Fort Lauderdale when he typed the first chapter to his first novella Grendel's Shadow. Less than a year later, he had an agent, four top ten books and one of his books optioned for film.
That's something that could only happen in ePub.
Pub Buzz: You said on your video that you saw that the top ten bestselling ebooks on iTunes were 50 Shades of Grey books and various rip-offs. Why did this offend you?
Brian Brushwood: I'm not in the least bit offended by the success of "50 Shades," but it was a bit of a bummer to release "Scam School Book 2" and have it be utterly dominated by books that appeared to be selling mostly because they simply looked like "50 Shades."
Pub Buzz: And by the way, did you look closely at the books on the list? One of them, for example, "Gone Girl," is actually a very well-written literary thriller and as far as I’m aware there’s no porn in "Unbroken."
Brian Brushwood: Yeah, the top 10 list changed since June. At the time of the "Scam School" release, 7 of the top 10 were romance novels. When we made our video for release, we just ran the latest screenshot.
Justin Robert Young: We were very flattered to outpace Gone Girl (currently the number one NYT Bestseller) for a week with DC. Also, to be among names like EL James, Gillian Flynn and Brad Thor is kind of awesome.
Pub Buzz: How did you come up with the crowdsourcing idea? It seems like a very novel application of a popular trendy approach with a more traditional form.
Brian Brushwood: That largely came from watching the fans of our NSFW show work: halfway through an episode of our comedy show, we might make a joke about a dubstep remix of a presidential speech, and by the time the episode's over they'll already be sending us a link. Neither of us have seen anything like the speed and talent of this giant pack of wildmen and wildwomen.
Justin Robert Young: So much of what we do on NSFWshow is crowd sourced so this was a natural outgrowth for us. Our Compliment Bomb project is a good example of it. Our audience, which self-identifies as The Diamond Club (where the name came from) is the most amazing group of people I've ever dealt with. Just insane. In fact, since Brian did the Scam School books we were also familiar with the submission process and the idea of mobilizing an audience to get exposure for the project. This was kind of just putting a lot of pieces together.
Pub Buzz: And finally, what makes you call this a hoax? Because you put your names on it but you didn’t write it? Because you never read the contents? Because it was never meant to fit together as a story? Hmmmm… now that I say all that, those seem like very good reasons to call it a hoax. And yet, in the end, what you’ve created seems to be a book like any other, if readers are reading it and enjoying it, no less a book than the fan fiction that led to 50 Shades.
Brian Brushwood: The longer this book stays at the top of the charts, the less like a hoax it begins to feel like. Even now, we've started calling it a "social experiment.”
Justin Robert Young: Actually, our names are not on the book itself. Patricia Harkins-Bradley wrote the book. 🙂 That picture is actually a fan of ours named Rebecca. She's the best.
We called it a hoax because people understand that and if we get the questions of "isn't this a legitimate book?" it's better than if we claimed it was a legit book and people were like "this is a total sham!"
But the concept of what it is exactly is kind of the fun part of this experiment. If someone downloads this and reads it and doesn't hate it, they might go their whole lives no knowing how it was put together. Which is a fun idea.
Also, only because this is a success are we allowed to get really high minded about the concept and execution. If we had gotten into the top 10 on the first night and then disappeared the only thing we would have said was "OMG LOL! That was awesome! We trolled so hard!"
Pub Buzz: What’s next in your publishing career? "Diamond Club Part II"? Other innovations? Or just a good laugh?
Brian Brushwood: I suppose that's up to the chatrealm... If the book continues to run away like this, then maybe we'll try again. We've already uncovered some genuine fans of the book who had absolutely no idea that there was anything tricky about its release. It'd be a shame to leave them wanting more...
Justin Robert Young: I would love to do something else in the eBook world like this. But I think if we did Diamond Club II it wouldn't be the same. That being said, there is some REALLY funny shit in the Diamond Club. I would love to give some of the writers who contributed another platform.