The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

E. L. James made $95 million in a year, making her Forbes’s top-earning author

Picture, if you will, $95 million dollars. Visualize that money however you like. Maybe you’re envisioning the bills in neat, orderly stacks, with Walter White hovering above his latest haul. You might just be imagining one of those oversized checks with NINETY-FIVE MILLION in those big letters that make you feel like I AM SHOUTING AT YOU. Perhaps you’re going in more of a Scrooge-swimming-in-piles direction, just splish-splash taking a bath in enough cold hard cash to buy about 500 Aston Martins.

What would you have to do to make this money? (You may be wondering.) Of course! You could write Twilight fan fiction. And then you’d be all set.

Yes, Forbes magazine, also known as the publication that will rig every game of M.A.S.H. so as to wind up in the mansion no matter what, has named author E.L. James, of the “Fifty Shades” trilogy, the top-earner for 2013. Her estimated earnings: $95 million. (The magazine’s calculation is based on sales data from June 2012 to June 2013). From what I can glean from the watercooler chatter, I presume this series tells the tale of Sally Swanson, a tiny woodland creature on a quest to dominate the forest with the help of her best pal, Flutters McGee, the most beautiful bluebird in the land. Sally and Flutters, they really bond, right? There’s definitely some bondage going on. There’s also some light-to-heavy S&M, as your blockbuster best-sellers are apparently wont to include.

E.L. James, or Erika Leonard to those nearest and dearest to her and also to this blog, isn’t just earning money from the books. She has already snagged $5 million for a film adaptation that should be in theaters this time next year.

Don’t fret, scribblers of Earth: Erika left some money for the rest of you. James Patterson, No. 2, made $91 million; Suzanne Collins of “Hunger Games” fame rounded out the top three with $55 million.

When James was named Publisher’s Weekly’s Publishing Person of the Year, The Post’s Ron Charles took note of the milestone in a way that perhaps only he could: