Some lady I went to school with years ago invited me and my girlfriend to a bar and was just RAVING about the book. She was a Pure Romance saleslady, so I figured it was something all sexified. Looked on her facebook and all her friends are babbling about it, so I looked into it. I couldn't believe that goddamn fan fiction could ever be a best seller. Have people just become retarded?
The Fifty Shades trilogy was developed from a Twilight fanfiction originally titled Master of the Universe and published episodically on fanfiction websites under the penname "Snowqueen's Icedragon." The piece featured characters named after Stephenie Meyer's characters in Twilight, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. After comments concerning the sexual nature of the material, James removed the story from the fanfiction websites and published it on her own website, FiftyShades.com. Later she rewrote Master of the Universe as an original piece with the principal characters renamed Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele and removed it from her website prior to publication.
This reworked and extended version of Master of the Universe was split into three parts. The first, entitled Fifty Shades of Grey, was released as an e-book and a print-on-demand paperback in May 2011 by The Writers' Coffee Shop, a virtual publisher based in Australia. The second volume, Fifty Shades Darker, was released in September 2011, and the third, Fifty Shades Freed, followed in January 2012. The Writers' Coffee Shop had a restricted marketing budget and relied largely on book blogs for early publicity, but sales of the novel were boosted by word-of-mouth recommendation. The book's erotic nature and perceived demographic of its fanbase as being composed largely of married women over thirty led to the book being dubbed "Mommy Porn" by some news agencies.
By the release of the final volume in January 2012, news networks in the United States had begun to report on the Fifty Shades trilogy as an example of viral marketing and of the rise in popularity of female erotica, attributing its success to the discreet nature of e-reading devices. Due to the heightened interest in the series, the license to the Fifty Shades trilogy was picked up by Vintage Books for re-release in a new and revised edition in April 2012.