Alexandra Topping in London August 08, 2012
Best-selling writer ever ... EL James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey
Sales of 5.3m in print and ebook drive EL James's 'spankbuster' past the Highway Code and Dan Brown.
Literature lovers around the world have released a collective gasp, or perhaps a groan, at the news that the publishing phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey has become the bestselling book in British history. The erotic novel has sold more than 5.3 million copies in print and ebook in Britain - more than the Highway Code or Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.
EL James's novel - centred around the corruption of a virginal student by her successful, helicopter-flying, sadomasochistic boyfriend - has already outsold all seven Harry Potter books on Amazon.
Dubbed "mummy porn" by some literary critics, Fifty Shades of Grey is the first book in a trilogy that traces the adventures of Anastasia Steele after she meets tycoon Christian Grey. James said "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."
Fifty Shades of Grey remains in the top slot in the British bestseller lists for the 16th week running. The second and third books, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, are also selling fast, with British sales of 3.6m and 3.2m respectively. Combined UK sales for the trilogy are in excess of 12 million copies, with rights to the book sold around the world and published in languages including Albanian, Chinese, Russian, Serbian and Vietnamese.
Susan Sandon, managing director of Cornerstone Publishing, part of Random House, said she was privileged to be part of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, one of the "most extraordinary experiences" of her career. To say critics have welcomed the book with the same unbridled enthusiasm is an understatement.
In the London Review of Books, Andrew O'Hagan said: "It's not that Fifty Shades of Grey and EL James's other tie-me-up-tie-me-down spankbusters read as if feminism never happened: they read as if women never even got the vote."
Guardian News & Media