04/30/2012 03:43 pm ET Updated Jun 30, 2012

Influencer of the Week: E.L James Is Tickled Pink

Let's set aside the color featured in her saucy book trilogy for a moment. The shade that's dominating the New York Times bestseller list. Literary sensation E.L. James is tickled pink.

The author of Fifty Shades of Grey is simultaneously revving the engines of women and upending the publishing world. Originally a self-published author -- and a first-timer, at that -- James is stunned that she's influencing the way books are bought and sold. In a statement to the BBC, James calls it "an extraordinary and wholly unexpected adventure."

Fifty Shades began as a free e-book, allowing for discreet buying for those who didn't want others to know they were reading erotica. After eager book club members started recommending it, the trilogy exploded and went viral. (Not to be confused with the naughty acts she writes about, of course.) Before long, Fifty Shades became a publishing phenomenon. Booksellers, Hollywood, sex therapists and mothers everywhere are thanking her for the boost.

A former TV executive and mother of two, the author is trying to maintain a semblance of privacy by not releasing her real name. But of course, it's out there, on the very engine that thrust her racy tales into the spotlight. I choose not to include it here.

Yes, she has critics. Some call her writing "mommy porn" and say it degrades women. James responds by saying it's a love story and that's why women are responding enthusiastically. That being the case, husbands everywhere must be thrilled at the influence she's having on their wives. According to the Los Angeles Times, high-end sex shops are enjoying sales spikes as new customers pour in, requesting the bondage products described in the book.

Time Magazine has just named James as one of its 100 Most Influential People of 2012. And where did the editors place her on the annual list? In a moment of comic irony, the new queen of erotica is featured on the same page as -- wait for it -- Tim Tebow.