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30 June 2014

This week's Bookseller reports that E L James made £33m before tax in the year to the end of September 2013, more than three times her pre-tax earnings from the year before. This astonishing amount of money shows how very much an internationalyl bestselling author can make, especially when it's actually a trilogy. Fifty Shades Ltd said it ‘had a very successful year, during which it secured royalty agreements with numerous international publishing houses and licensing agreements with other organisations'.

Earlier in the year, Random House said sales of the trilogy had exceeded 100m copies worldwide. This figure is much bolstered by the fact that the trilogy has been published into 51 different languages.

And the effect on the publisher? Random House has turned in very good results but is in any case well able to look after its own interests, having handled the situation adroitly.

In a different sphere, Galley Beggar Press, which first published Eimear McBride's Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction winner A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, has introduced a new submission policy after being inundated by manuscripts. Its submissions have gone from an average of one a day last year to sometimes 20 a day, according to Galley Beggar Press's co-director Sam Jordison, and the publisher is now asking writers who submit manuscripts to provide proof that they have read something it has published, an idea borrowed from independent publisher And Other Stories. But if you really only want to publish a small handful of books a year, does it make sense to accept unsolicited submissions at all?

The ‘open submission' periods offered by HarperCollins Voyager in the US and just closed by Jonathan Cape at Random House in the UK, are an intriguing push-back. For the truth is that if publishers can work out some way of organising the flow and creaming off the very best submissions without having to wade through the rest, perhaps they could end up with more potentially bestselling authors like E L James on their books? And for that purpose, the huge growth in self-publishing is a potential boon to them. Now publishers can just keep an eye on self-published authors and, once they have built their own market and ‘test-driven' their work, scoop the authors up and turn them into much bigger sellers. E L James' work started off as fan fiction, after all.