'Fifty Shades of Grey' Author Earns $50 Million

U.S. sales of the "mommy porn" trilogy hit 20 million copies.

The Fifty Shades juggernaut keeps on going. 

Publisher Vintage, a division of Random House, reports U.S. sales of the trilogy are expected to cross 20 million copies this week.

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As of July 2, sales stood at 9.8 million paperbacks and 9.6 million ebooks for a total of 19.4 million copies sold. Add in another 12 million books sold abroad, and worldwide sales top 31 million copies since Vintage published the three-book series in March.

Such sales figures for a hit series are not unusual -- the Twilight series saw similar sales figures by the publication of the fourth and last book in series -- but what is shocking is the speed at which Fifty Shades has hit the 20 million-copy plateau. It took Twilight more than three years to hit that mark; Fifty Shades did it in less than six months.

The sales are producing enormous earnings for author E.L. James. Using roughly standard royalty rates of 7 percent for paperbacks and 25 percent for ebooks James has earned $35 million on U.S. book sales alone. Add in the $5 million she received for the movie rights from Focus Features, and her take is up to $40 million. International royalties are harder to assess, but even a conservative assessment of $1 per book puts James’ international earnings at more than $11 million.

James’ total take for Fifty Shades in less than six months? At least $50 million and counting. 

Not bad for a project that started as a takeoff on Twilight posted to a fan fiction site and written to help James deal with her “midlife crisis.”