I knew that. We all knew that.
What I didn't know was how profitable.
In The Incredible Economics of Fifty Shades of Grey Kevin Rose writes:
It's no secret that E.L. James's Fifty Shades trilogy is the kind of monster publishing success that comes along only once or twice a decade. ....Wow.
. . . .But we didn't know the full extent of the Fifty Shades financial bonanza until yesterday, when Random House's parent company--the giant German media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG--released its preliminary annual report. What the report revealed is that Fifty Shades's success has propped up not just Random House, but the entire corporate structure above it. [Emphasis mine]
The Wall Street Journal has this to say:
At a time when other publishers are struggling to generate sales growth, Random House's world-wide revenue rose 23% to €2.1 billion ($2.7 billion). Operating earnings before interest and taxes rose nearly 76% to €325 million.
Fifty Shades vs Harry Potter
For all its success, E.L. James's series has yet to outsell J.K. Rowling's Potter series. Yes, Fifty Shades has outsold Harry Potter on Amazon, but according to The Wall Street Journal its worldwide sales are still lower.
Let me try to put that in perspective.
E.L. James's "Fifty Shades" erotic trilogy sold more than 70 million copies in print, audio and e-book editions in English, German and Spanish from March through December, according to Bertelsmann ... The first of the books was published in the U.S. in March.50 Shades sold 70 million copies while the second most popular book in the same period sold 2 million.
. . . .For a sense of scale, Random House's second biggest selling North American title last year—Gillian Flynn's thriller "Gone Girl," which has been a national best-seller for 41 weeks—sold more than two million copies in the U.S. and Canada in all formats, between June and December. (The Wall Street Journal)
70 million in just a year. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code sold, as of 2009, 80 million copies, but that was over a period of six years (the book was published in 2003).
By the way, The Da Vinci Code was published by Doubleday in the US and, at that time, Doubleday was owned by Bertelsmann.
That company has been lucky!
To answer the question I posed in the title: Is 50 Shades of Grey the most profitable series of all time? No, it's not.
Do you think E.L. James' 50 Shades series will go on to outsell Rowling's Potter series?
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Photo link: "Money" by AMagill under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.