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EL James highest-earning author in world, surprising no one

To the surprise of hopefully very few who have so much as glanced at a bestseller list since spring of 2012, business magazine Forbes’ annually released figures of the biggest sellers in publishing have revealed that, between June 2012 and June 2013, the highest-earning author in the world was EL James, the first-time novelist whose Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has made her $95 million (£65 million) over that twelve month period. James’ closest rival was veteran airport standby James Patterson, whose books have sold over 270 million copies since the publication of his debut novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, in 1976, and who made $91 million in the same timeframe. Both authors’ sales dwarfed third-placed Suzanne Collins, whose Hunger Games trilogy made her a mere $55 million, presumably helped along by the highly lucrative film adaptation of the trilogy’s first instalment. I’m sure she’s inconsolable.

The novels that make up the Fifty Shades trilogy have sold more than 32 million copies collectively worldwide, which means James made a little over £2/little under $3 on every copy sold. Nielsen BookScan says that half of those copies were sold in the United States, although per capita the UK bought more, with a staggering 11 million books sold on these shores. Those 11 million books are thought to have made the UK wing of Random House around £50 million. Whilst it’s unlikely that sales of the novels will match their zeitgeist-grabbing first year when Forbes reveals next year’s highest earners, do bear in mind that Sam Taylor-Johnson’s long-awaited cinematic translation of the series begins in earnest on 1 August 2014, and so might grab anyone left who doesn’t usually read but is into seeing attractive young people have kinky sex.

In a completely trivial side note, but one I’m astonished we haven’t picked up on thus far in our Fifty Shades coverage and that may yet come in handy in a future pub quiz, the Guardian notes in passing that until the start of 2012, James worked for Pett, the production company of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. Imagine if all of this turned out to be just the longest round of Novelty Island ever played.

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Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.

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