Skip to Content

Just one big bestselling author

9 August 2010

The British independent publisher Quercus has just announced stellar results: revenue has almost tripled to £15m ($24m) for the first six months of the year, making a profit of £3.4m ($5.41m) compared with a loss of £100,000 ($159,120) in the same period in 2009.Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, which last month accounted for £1.57m ($2.49m) of sales, takes a large part of the credit for this. Mark Smith, chief executive of Quercus, said: 'Our results continue to be driven by double-digit growth across the business and, most significantly, by the continued success of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, for which we own the global English language rights. These books represent the three bestselling fiction titles in the UK over the last six months, and Larsson is the first to have sold more than one million Kindle e-books through Amazon."

Larsson has been a global phenomenon. The three volumes of the Millennium trilogy are reported to have sold 25 million copies worldwide in many different languages. A Swedish film of the first book has already been shown in cinemas and the second is to follow shortly. New film versions, presumably with Hollywood stars, are now being prepared in the States. The fans are hungry for more, but it doesn't look as if more exists. Larson's girlfriend Eva Gabrielson has not inherited anything from Larsson's estate because they were not married and he did not leave a will. She did say at one point that there were 200 pages of a new novel but appears determined to ensure that this is not published.

So Larson is a global phenomenon powerful enough to change the fortunes of a new and relatively small publisher. Quercus took a chance on the trilogy, as English language publishers do on any translation they publish (see News Review 31 May 2010), and their faith has been amply rewarded.

What is rather remarkable is that the books have touched such a public nerve all across the world. They are readable with rather baroque plots, quite big and rather long-winded. There is something very Swedish about the characters, the heroine Lisbeth Salander, who is tough and resourceful but damaged, and Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist rather like Larsson himself. There's enough blood and death to satisfy anyone and too much for many crime readers.

None of this explains the books' appeal, so it seems to be down to sheer storytelling. It's encouraging for writers everywhere that an author like this can command such huge sales.

It's tragic that the author did not live to see his amazing success and very sad that his girlfriend will not benefit from his sales, as he would undoubtedly have wished. But at least readers have the great enjoyment of reading the books, which are perfect for summer reading.