"Mommy porn" sells. Oh, does it sell.
E.L. James, the British author of the mega-best-selling erotic trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey, tops Forbes' list of top-earning authors, trouncing lifelong literary magnates like Stephen King and Danielle Steel.
James, aka Erika Leonard, reeled in an estimated $95 million in earnings, including $5 million for rights to the forthcoming movie adaptation, for her novels.
And her story is equally impressive. Fifty Shades started as online fan fiction based on the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer. She then moved to self-publishing, and was picked up by publisher Vintage.
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MORE: E.L. James is USA TODAY's author of the year
For those who have somehow avoided the Fifty Shades craze that ripped through bookstores in 2012 (James was USA TODAY's author of the year) and continues to fuel late-night television punch lines, the plot centers around recent college grad Anastasia Steele and her erotic, bondage-based relationship with millionaire businessman Christian Grey. The following two books, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, continue to follow the growing relationship.
Each of the books in the trilogy has spent more than a year on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list.
No. 2 on the list is mainstay James Patterson ($91 million), No. 3 is Hunger Games creator Suzanne Collins ($55 million), No. 4 is Fox News' Bill O'Reilly ($28 million), whose thriller-style history books Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy have both become best sellers, and rounding out the top 5 is Danielle Steel ($26 million).
The full list:
1. E.L. James ($95 million)
2. James Patterson ($91 million)
3. Suzanne Collins ($55 million)
4. Bill O'Reilly ($28 million)
5. Danielle Steel ($26 million)
6. Jeff Kinney ($24 million)
7. Janet Evanovich ($24 million)
8. Nora Roberts ($23 million)
9. Dan Brown ($22 million)
10. Stephen King ($20 million)
11. Dean Koontz ($20 million)
12. John Grisham ($18 million)
13. David Baldacci ($15 million)
14. Rick Riordan ($14 million)
15. J.K. Rowling ($13 million)
16. George R.R. Martin ($12 million)
By Lindsay Deutsch, USA TODAY
Gannett / USA Today