Grey: Fifty Shades spin-off smashes UK first-week sales record for adult title

Grey shifted 647,401 copies in its opening three days in the UK

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The Independent Culture

It’s been described as “about as sexy as a misery memoir”. But the critical derision which greeted EL James’s  50 Shades of Grey spin-off did not prevent the novel setting sales records as millions of fans snapped up the tome.

Published last Thursday, Grey retells the story of the S&M-focused relationship between Christian Grey and shy student Anastasia Steele, from the perspective of the controlling businessman.

British author James said her fans had “asked … and asked … and asked … and asked” for the alternative version.

She has been proved right. Publisher Vintage, which released the book in the US on 18 June, said it had sold 1.1m copies to date across paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Grey comfortably beat Dan Brown's UK sales record (AFP/Getty)

In the UK, publishers Arrow Books said the novel had smashed the record for the biggest first-week sales for an adult title. Grey sold 647,401 copies in physical and ebook combined in its opening three days of sale in the UK.

The previous largest first-week sale in Britain was for Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol which sold just under 551,000 copies in the 5 days following its on-sale date in 2009. 

Susan Sandon, Managing Director of Cornerstone, part of the Random House group which owns Arrow, said: “We've had magnificent support from across the trade. The excitement and enthusiasm that Grey publication has generated is totally irresistible and I am delighted with these early results.”

Amazon sales of Grey have been boosted by a heavily-discounted sale price of just £3.85 for the paperback. The Kindle edition, certain to find its way on to thousands of readers ahead of the Summer holidays, is selling for £3.66.

The publishers announced that on Monday, James will take part in a live Twitter Q&A in London, giving fans – but not critics - the opportunity to quiz her at the event.

In the US, Vintage has already sent Grey for five reprints, bringing the total number of copies in circulation to 2.1 million.

“This is an astonishing number of books to sell over a weekend and speaks to the engagement and passion readers have for the Fifty Shades books,” Anne Messitte, Vintage’s publisher, said. “Christian’s side of the story is proving to be irresistible.”


Grey is certainly outperforming James’s original Fifty Shades of Grey, which sold 14,814 copies in its first week, although it went on to become the best-selling debut of all time

James’s previous novels, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed – which tell the story of Christian and Ana’s relationship from her perspective – have sold more than 125m copies around the world to date.

The publication of Grey was announced via a tweet, Facebook and Instagram post by James on June 1, giving retailers limited time to prepare for its arrival. The book immediately topped the online pre-release sales rankings.

Critics found little to admire in the spin-off. Bryony Gordon in the Telegraph called Grey, “about as sexy as a misery memoir and as arousing as the diary of a sex offender.”

Nick Clark in The Independent, described it as “a collection of repeatedly, and increasingly bizarrely, described body parts.”