So I’ve been researching independent publishing ever since I discovered that some of the books I was buying and reading were released independently. There was a day where self-publishing was a form of vanity press – only those whose writing could never be picked up by a true publishing house would self-publish. Those days are gone, and what’s left is a changing world with lots of questions.

With the emergence and popularity of e-readers, the world of publishing will have to, sometime soon, figure out its role in e-publishing. Amazon and Barnes and Noble both have ways to self-publish books for the Kindle and Nook. I’ve bought some books from that can also be read through an e-reader. I have a Kindle, so I read a lot of books from there. I’ve found some really great books from writers I’m sure I would never have thought to read if not for recommendations online based on other finished books.

This past week, E.L. James got the star treatment from her independently published book Fifty Shades of Grey. Started as a piece of fan fiction for Twilight, the book was self-published by James, who worked as a television producer in London. Through the bidding war for the movie rights, James was offered $5 million for the rights. Although the book eventually did get a publishing deal, she reaped the benefits of the immediate popularity, and continues to benefit now with a paperback version to be released this month.

There is more to discuss about self-publishing, and articles like this one from The Atlantic highlight the ins and outs. However, I want to question the immediate rise of Fifty Shades. First of all, to use the word salacious (a word the narrator Anastasia uses a lot) is an understatement. It has been dubbed “mommy romance” and other not-as-clean descriptors. The characters are not rounded, and the language is clichéd. Yes, I read it, and I’m left unsatisfied.

The erotic book tops the New York Times bestselling e-books list. If you’re considering self-publishing, you can’t help but wonder how to get on that same list. But I question if it takes titillating subject matter to get that kind of flash attention? James is not the only successful independent author out there, but she’s definitely hit the jackpot. I have no interest in following in her bawdy footsteps. But she’s definitely got my attention as it could be the beginning of a change in the publishing world.