'50 Shades of Grey' Lands E.L. James a 'Role' That No One Saw Coming

Fifty Shades of GreyI tend to see the same comments on every article about E.L. James' erotic trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey: Ugh, these are the worst books EVER! Her writing is SO TERRIBLE! I wouldn't read this series if you tied me down, stuffed a ball gag in my mouth, and repeatedly struck my naked buttocks with a LEATHER WHIP!

I don't disagree that James' writing can be a little ... problematic at times. ("Laters baby," inner goddess, "fair point well made," etc.) The Fifty Shades trilogy isn't the best series I've ever read in my entire life, but hey -- I'm just one of of the millions upon millions of readers who have bought all three books. Isn't that proof enough that James is a huge success, whatever you think of her style?

Or consider this: James began writing just four years ago, and today Forbes announced that she's the highest earning author in the WORLD. We can go ahead and criticize her overused phrases all we want, but James is probably laughing all the way to the bank.


E.L. James has only written three books, but those books put her on Forbes' list of top-earning authors of 2013 list, where she crushed the competition with an estimated $95 million in earnings. Longtime author James Patterson, who cranks out five or more books a year, is in the second spot with a reported $91 million, and Suzanne Collins reportedly pulled down $55 million for The Hunger Games trilogy.

Fifty Shades of Grey sold more than 70 million copies in the U.S. just during the first eight months it was on stands. Not half bad for something that started out as Twilight fan fiction, right? Practically overnight, James was launched from an obscure e-book author to a publishing sensation. Her ranking on the Forbes' list is nothing short of amazing, particular when you consider how her series sold faster than any other author in history.

Despite my 'laughing to the bank' comment, I get the feeling that James has remained humble abut the cultural phenomenon she launched. I imagine that having her writing picked apart in such a public way has been difficult, particularly since she's flat-out admitted her limitations:

I’m stunned by [their] popularity. I’m not a great writer.

While I'm not sure how much of that $95 million actually made it to James' bank account, or what she brought home from the movie deal, I'm sure James is much more financially well off than she was before. It doesn't sound like she's taking her windfall for granted, though -- here's what she recently told The Observer:

Yes, I'm more conscious of money now than before. I've had the odd moment when I've thought: I could buy that. But I've always decided not to, in the end. It's just stuff, really, and I've got enough stuff.

Honestly, I'm thrilled for her. She's enjoying a truly unprecedented amount of success for writing something she once describe as her "mid-life crisis writ large," and regardless of a lack of universal acclaim for her writing abilities, you can't deny she's opened up a huge dialogue about adventurous sex -- and forged the path for more mainstream erotica. Personally, I can't see how that's a bad thing.

What do you think about Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy topping Forbes' bestselling author list?

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