If you wanted to feel even worse about that tortured-genius manuscript you have floating around that no book publisher will even sneeze on, this will make you feel even worse. Mom bondage porn phenom 50 Shades of Grey sold so well this year — more than 35 million copies and staying at the top of the best seller list for 40 weeks now — that all the employees of publisher Random House are getting a year-end bonus. A $5,000 bonus, which is a lot of money that cash-strapped publishing industry workers could sure use. But do they feel dirty about taking dirty (talk) money? We asked this 28-year-old Random House employee from Boerum Hill (who asked to be anonymous lest he wake up bound and gagged in the RH dungeon) to walk us through the feels. -Td.
If there was one heartening story that came out of the publishing industry this year, among the mergers, e-books, and lawsuits, it was the success of 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I should disclose right at the top that I haven’t read 50 Shades or its sequels, but I do work for the company that published it and will soon be receiving a $5,000 bonus because of its outsized success. About all I can say about the tomes is that women (and sometimes men) really seemed to get their panties in a twist about it (sometimes literally). It was the book everyone from my mom to my girlfriend wanted a copy of, and when people weren’t discussing their favorite new boudoir tip they were complaining about the quality of the writing. For whatever reason it caught the public’s indecent imagination, and we were the publisher fortunate enough to deliver it to them. Should I feel bad about this? I used to work at another publisher and I’ll never forget a line of catalog copy from a particularly weird romance/thriller that went something like, “Lethally sexy undercover agent Stefan Patruskii knows a thousand ways to kill a man — and twice as many ways to pleasure a woman.” So, it was hard for me to believe this book was that much worse.
Anyway, due to some intense media interest I can’t quite put my finger on — my only guesses are that people thought book publishers were too poor to have any extra money lying around or the media is still 50 Shades crazed — the entire Western world now knows that every Random House employee is getting the bonus, which was announced with much fanfare by our psuedo-Steve Jobs-ish CEO (he even said “One more thing…”!) at the holiday party earlier this month.
I’ve been asked whether I feel bad about the source of this dirty, filthy, bonus, to which I can only say: not in the slightest. Sure, it would have been wonderful if Random House had sold 35 million copies of books by Karen Russell or Ian McEwan or Gary Shteyngart, but until the time the entire world is populated by me, that’s not going to happen. People are entitled to their opinions about the quality of Ms. James’ writing, but at the end of the day people were reading, buying, and talking about books and the hard-working, mostly low-paid employees who brought it to the public were rewarded for it. I don’t see much of a problem in that.
And judging by my co-workers’ reaction at the announcement, they don’t either. There was sustained, minutes-long applause, and as far as I saw, absolutely no hand-wringing or questioning. At the end of the day, we’re producing a product that at its worst is silly but benign and at its best life-changing, and I don’t think any of us felt at all badly about being rewarded for those efforts.And now the world has had the pleasure of consuming lines of dialogue like, “I want you to become well acquainted, on first name terms if you will, with my favorite and most cherished part of my body. I’m very attached to this.” In case that was too subtle for you, he’s talking about his ding-dong. You’re welcome, readers.
People have asked how I plan on spending the money. I mean, it’s a bonus, so you’ve got to blow it on something really good. I have to admit I’ve had my eye on a pretty dope credit card bill that I’ve just gots to wet my beak on, and there’s a baller January rent check that’s been calling my name for a while. And so forth. I suspect many of my colleagues are in the same boat. We work in book publishing, after all. All I can say at this point is, thank you Ms. Esmerelda Lewinsky James. Pretty sure that’s her real name.
For further reading, this.