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5 Million Copies of ‘Fifty Shades’ Books Sold in First Half of 2013

Fifty Shades of Grey is the publishing gift that keeps on giving. E L James sold five million print and eBook copies of her erotic trilogy around the world during the first six months of 2013 (sales through Random House’s English, German and Spanish-language publishing arms).

Random House CEO Markus Dohle praised the company’s biggest bestsellers in a letter to employees today, marking company’s final financial results before the Penguin Random House merger took effect. We’ve reprinted the complete letter below, but here’s an excerpt:

INFERNO by Dan Brown sold more than four million copies in its first six weeks throughout Random House’s English-language territories. Sheryl Sandberg’s LEAN IN and WONDER by R. J. Palacio sold hundreds of thousands of copies in North America and the UK, while helping set social agendas and spurring cultural dialogues. The FIFTY SHADES trilogy by E L James added another five million print and eBooks to its megamillion-copy English-, German-, and Spanish-language Random House sales to date.

Here is the complete letter from the Random House CEO…

August 30, 2013

Dear Penguin Random House Colleagues:

Since July 1, I have had the privilege to meet with more than eight thousand of our colleagues around the world, getting to know the heart of our new company: you. Each of our Penguin Random House companies faces distinct opportunities and challenges, but the way all of you approach your work is the same: with a commitment fueled by a genuine love for what you do. In my conversations at every location—from Kirkwood to Frating, Toronto to New Delhi—the depth of dedication you have shown for our books and for our company has been truly inspiring. We are united by a greater purpose: the societal impact we as a team make every day by putting the very best books in the hands of readers around the world.

As we complete our first two months together as Penguin Random House, we are building upon our excellent performances as separate companies pre-merger. Last month, Pearson presented Penguin’s strong start to 2013 in its half-year earnings report. Today, Bertelsmann announced its fiscal results for the first six months of the year, with Random House once again delivering an outstanding performance. As a result of successful publishing from every division, Random House set an all-time record for its half-year operating EBIT and profitability at midyear. Among the highlights: INFERNO by Dan Brown sold more than four million copies in its first six weeks throughout Random House’s English-language territories. Sheryl Sandberg’s LEAN IN and WONDER by R. J. Palacio sold hundreds of thousands of copies in North America and the UK, while helping set social agendas and spurring cultural dialogues. The FIFTY SHADES trilogy by E L James added another five million print and eBooks to its megamillion-copy English-, German-, and Spanish-language Random House sales to date. Verlagsgruppe Random House has a two-million-copy bestseller with DER HUNDERTJAHRIGE by Jonas Jonasson, and Random House Mondadori led the Spanish bestseller lists this spring with Ildefonso Falcones’s LA REINA DESCALZA.

As previously reported, Penguin’s impressive year-on-year growth was driven by standout publishing from every territory: In the U.S. and Canada, AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED by Khaled Hosseini and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green. In the UK, THE MYSTERY OF MERCY CLOSE by Marian Keyes and John le Carré’s A DELICATE TRUTH. Jamie Oliver’s JAMIE’S 15-MINUTE MEALS and new titles by Ravinder Singh and Durjoy Datta were strong contributors in Australia and India respectively. Dorling Kindersley’s market share increased globally through its LEGO® PUBLISHING.

Our financial achievements are a reflection of the excellence you bring to what you love doing as members of our publishing family. Whether by publishing award-winning authors and the books that people just can’t stop talking about, or through innovating in digital and enhancing print capabilities, we are implementing our vision to shape and redefine the reading experience. In our first weeks as a united company we’ve already enjoyed great attention for several of our early successes. In the U.S. we have had sleeper hits with the #1 bestselling ZEALOT by Reza Aslan and THIS TOWN by Mark Leibovich. John Williams’s STONER and I AM PILGRIM by Terry Hayes achieved sales breakthroughs in the UK, where Sylvia Day’s ENTWINED WITH YOU topped The Bookseller’s first-ever official eBook sales ranking. THE AUSTRALIAN MOMENT by George Megalogenis and John van de Ruit’s SPUD series were honored with major literary prizes in Australia and South Africa respectively. Substantial media coverage is boosting sales in New Zealand for books by Michael Van de Elzen and Lynley Dodd. Random House India published its first enhanced eBook, and Penguin India’s AN UNCERTAIN GLORY by Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen has created a national debate.

We can all take pride in what we have accomplished—both culturally and commercially—in the last eight months pre-merger, and in the last eight weeks as a new company. As we begin this ever-important fall and holiday publishing and selling season, let’s further deepen our collaboration and shared sense of purpose as we make the most of our fantastic lineup of books worldwide. I thank you for the support you have given to our authors, to one another, and to me in our first months together. We began 2013 very well as the world’s two leading trade book publishers. With your commitment and creativity, let’s finish the year even stronger as a united Penguin Random House.

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