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E L James as 'Publishing Person of the Year' draws outcry from literary world

Publishers Weekly faces controversy after naming 'Fifty Shades of Grey' author E L James 'Publishing Person of the Year' for 2012.

By Staff Writer / December 3, 2012

Author E L James is behind the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' bestselling trilogy, which has sold more than 35 million copies in the US and garnered more than $200 million in sales.

Denis Poroy/Invision/AP

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Publishers Weekly is facing outrage from some after namingFifty Shades of Grey” author E L James "Publishing Person of the Year" for 2012.

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James is the first author ever to receive the title and joins a company that includes Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and Penguin Group CEO David Shanks.

James is the pen name of Erika Leonard, a British former television executive who penned the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy. The first book in the series was released in 2011 and came from a piece of fanfiction James wrote based on the “Twilight” series. James edited the story and changed the characters’ names before publishing her series. As of Nov. 30, the books had sold more than 35 million copies in America and garnered more than $200 million for their publisher, Random House.

But some are up in arms about the decision to anoint James with such a title.

“What was Publishers Weekly thinking?” asks LA Times writer Carolyn Kellogg in leads off her column, while the New York Daily News’ headline on the story reads, “Civilization ends: E.L. James named Publishers Weekly’s ‘Person of the Year’.”

Kellogg writes that she objects to the choice because she believes James didn’t set out to revolutionize publishing – her books happened to become popular and so she signed a deal with a publisher.

“Let me imagine some things an author in James' position might have done to merit such an accolade,” Kellogg wrote. “Create a model for viral ebook distribution, found an independent ebook store, work to legitimize fan fiction, establish or support networks of erotica readers and writers.”

Kellogg also notes the quality (or lack thereof, according to critics) of James’ prose.

“The prose is so embarrassing that to poke fun at the novel, comedians simply read it out loud,” she writes.

James was also selected by Time Magazine for its 100 Most Influential People of 2012 list.

A movie adaptation of the trilogy is in the works, with screenwriter Kelly Marcel adapting the first novel, according to a statement made by James. Casting decisions are still unknown. The film will be released by Focus Features and Universal Pictures.

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