The English canon of literature just got officially ravaged. Twilight fan fiction novel and S&M and bondage tale Fifty Shades of Grey is now officially the all-time best-selling book in the UK.
It’s beaten the Harry Potter series well into submission, shafting JK Rowling along the way in a climax that has thus far seen EL James’ book peak at more than 5.3 million copies sold in this country (combined ebook and paper copies). Worldwide, it’s sold more than 40 million copies.
That’s a lot of repressed bondage fans and sexually unsatisfied housewives. Fifty Shades of Grey (which in this author’s opinion is really, truly badly written) was originally self-published fan fiction. After exploding online, Random House bought the UK publishing rights to the trilogy of which Fifty Shades of Grey is part (the other two books are Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed). Combined sales for the trilogy are more than 12 million in the UK.
Whatever you think of the book, you can’t help but admire the momentum it has gained through its fanbase, plus a canny PR campaign that got women’s mags and Sunday broadsheets alike debating whether it was sexist, degrading to women, remotely realistic, and why the world and his dog had suddenly become so keen on erotic lit.
Beyond the PR, the huge sales of the book are also a textbook example of how, sometimes, success just takes on a life of its own, beyond anything anyone could have expected. Even the British author EL James seems amazed by it. She said of her record: “My main ambition when I signed the deal with Random House was to see my books in the shops. I simply had no idea they would be so successful and this is totally unexpected. The whole process has been both extraordinary and rewarding. I couldn’t be more pleased with the sales and would like to thank everyone involved.”
Susan Sandon, managing director of Cornerstone Publishing, also chipped in with: “The Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon is perhaps one of the most extraordinary experiences of my entire publishing career and I feel privileged to be part of it. The speed and sheer size of the sales is incredible and the roles played by so many people across the business simply breathtaking.
“Each and every department across editorial, art, finance, legal, publicity, marketing, production and home and international sales has risen to the creative and logistical challenges presented by the trilogy with energy, excitement and passion. I take my hat off to the brilliance and professionalism of all involved. And above all, it is so much fun!”
If you haven’t yet come across a copy, you can satisfy yourself with the first chapter here.
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