So the question really is how many copies have been sold in Dulwich of E L James’ novel, Fifty Shades of Grey?
To be honest, when this book was beginning to get mentions in the trade press and on TV, we wondered if we should stock it; will anyone in Dulwich buy this? And we decided not to stock it! How wrong were we, the first in the trilogy is now our third bestselling book of the summer, after Mark Thomas and Iain Sinclair – and they had to appear in the bookshop to bag the top two spots!
Once we started to stock the book, customers would ask “Have you got that book everyone is reading?” and definitely asked for the book to be put in one of our plain brown paper bags…. Now the interaction has changed, it’s more a case of “have you got that book?” but no thanks to a bag. Where does that leave the book loving buyers of the Dulwich or the UK for that matter? It would be safe to say that mostly, yes mostly, the book is bought by women though of course once it is lying around the house, a man might surely pick it up to find out what all the fuss is about.
From what I gather it will not win any literary awards but every publishing house is now checking their backlist and new proposed titles to see if any can be branded into what is now a new genre called “mummy porn”. (I wonder how a reader who is not a Mum gets classified.) I should declare at this stage that I’ve not read the book, that’s not because I have not tried! I took home a copy, only for us to sell out in the bookshop, so I took my copy back to sell and have not replaced it yet.
So apart from every bookshop loving the idea that there’s a demand for a must-have book, the other lovely side effect is that people have moved away from reading it on their ereaders, being happy and maybe even proud, to be seen to read it “in public”. Vintage are the publishers and they must be pinching themselves. They snapped up this book, which was first published online, a few months back and now 20 million copies later, after 17 reprints, the publishers will be wondering how they are going to follow this up next year.
Vintage is one of the leading UK publishers, publishers to the likes of Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Sebastian Faulks and now E L James. The book is set in Seattle, but E L James, or Erika Leonard to give her real name, lives modestly (though not anymore as the film rights have now been sold) in West London with an author husband and her two sons. It is not the first book she has written, and describes the trilogy as her “midlife crisis, writ large, and all her fantasies are in there, that’s all”.
Well done to her, I trust that she signed a deal giving her royalties on every sale and secured the film rights income for herself. Fifty Shades gives hope to all writers out there, find the right topic and hope it becomes a must-read, must-have book du jour!