E L James
Occasionally a book becomes a phenomenon. In the case of E L James – aka Erika Mitchell – it can also sell a barrel-load of red paint and introduce a great many women to the idea that sadomasochistic sex with a billionaire tycoon would be a good thing. And if Christian Grey wasn’t available, then they would make do with their husband, a blindfold and nipple clamps bought on next-day delivery from Amazon.
Fifty Shades of Grey was published in 2011 and was followed a year later by Fifty Shades Darker and a year after that by Fifty Shades Freed. Formerly a television executive, 54-year-old Mitchell first published her book as fan fiction. Fifty Shades of Grey remains the UK's fastest-selling paperback and combined sales for all three books stand at 70m, including 35m in America. In 2015, her company Fifty Shades showed £25m profit on £29.8m sales, had assets of £52.6m and paid a £4.8m dividend.
Mitchell, who is based in west London, recently bought a £5.6m home in Los Angeles. The Fifty Shades of Grey Official Pleasure Collection, approved by E L James, includes “a sophisticated collection of bondage, sex toys and accessories”. They include “You. Are. Mine.” metal handcuffs at £14.99.