Random House sees ‘Fifty Shades’ of profit, thanks to E.L. James

E.J. James meets fans of her "Fifty Shades" trilogy at Comic-Con in San Diego.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Publishing giant Random House posted record profits last year, Publisher’s Weekly reports. Thanks to E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades” trilogy, revenue at the Bertelsmann-owned publisher exceeded $420 million in 2012 -- up a staggering 75% from the year before.

The erotic tale of a college student and a millionaire with a taste for bondage, “Fifty Shades of Grey” and its sequels “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed,” sold over 70 million copies between March and December of 2012, accounting for -- believe it or not -- one out of every 10 books Random House sold in print or online.

According to the Guardian, about 50% of these sales were e-books, compared with a company average of about 20% for e-book sales.


Not all of Random House’s good fortune comes courtesy of James. The company, which is to merge with the Penguin Group once regulators approve the deal, had 33 books on the New York Times 2012 bestseller list, including books by John Grisham and Rod Stewart, Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” and “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. Random House is aiming to continue in this vein, and is set to publish Dan Brown’s latest, “Inferno,” in May.

In a letter to employees, Chairman Markus Dohle offered praise for the staff’s “highly effective execution of our author- and content-centric, and market- and reader-oriented strategy. With your know-how and passion, and your collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit, you have expertly navigated the new order of publishing, and positioned us well for future opportunities.”

Dohle also put his money where his mouth is: In December, the strong sales of “Fifty Shades” led him to announce, at the company’s Christmas party, a $5,000 bonus for every Random House employee, including warehouse workers.

Random House staffers -- and their bosses -- must be loving those whips and chains.


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