1. E.L. James: $95 million
In addition to record sales from her sultry Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (bolstered by strong e-book sales), James earned an extra $5 million for the movie rights to the book, Forbes says. The film is slated to release in 2014.
2. James Patterson: $91 million
The prolific thriller author can boast that one out of every 17 hardcover books sold in the U.S. bears his name. Part of his secret to success? Releasing around 10 new books a year—often with the help of cowriters. When collaborating on a book, Patterson creates an outline, a cowriter does the first draft, and he finishes up with whatever other drafts are necessary. “Some people can’t get past the word cowriter,’’ Patterson told Parade last year. “Lots of shows and movies are written by teams, so it’s not such a strange thing.” But the Maximum Ride and Alex Cross author is no laggard: “I write seven days a week,” he said.
3. Suzanne Collins: $55 million
Her Hunger Games series was already popular before the film starring Jennifer Lawrence became a sensation. But now, the former children’s television writer has reached the “Olympian heights of J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer,” Forbes writes.
4. Bill O’Reilly: $28 million
Who knew the Fox News pundit had become such a successful writer? His nonfiction books Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy soared to the top of best seller lists, and Forbes predicts his next, Killing Jesus, could be even bigger.
5. Danielle Steel: $26 million
The romance novelist publishes an average of more than three books per year, totaling more than 600 million copies.
6. Jeff Kinney: $24 million
Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is one of the most popular kids’ titles in recent memory. Plus, there have been three movie versions adapted from the books.
7. Janet Evanovich: $24 million
The writer made her millions thanks to the New York Times bestselling Stephanie Plum detective series, as well as twelve romance novels and the Alexandra Barnaby books and graphic novels.
8. Nora Roberts: $23 million
The longtime romance novelist has become “the queen of the e-book,” Forbes writes, with the 3.2 million digital copies sold in 2012 (she’s second only to E.L. James).
9. Dan Brown: $22 million
Though Inferno, Brown’s latest Robert Langdon novel, didn’t reach the kind of success The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol achieved, it was still the best-selling book of the first half of 2013.
10. Stephen King: $20 million
The master storyteller has written best sellers and literary fiction that have made the leap to film, TV, and the stage. Still, he says it’s not the monetary rewards that keep him writing. “The major job is still to entertain people,” he told Parade in May. “That’s what we’re supposed to do—writers, filmmakers, all of us.”
11. Dean Koontz: $20 million
With more than 450 million copies sold, Koontz has turn his suspense novels (Odd Thomas, Intensity, and Watchers, just to name a few) into a fortune.
12. John Grisham: $18 million
After 18 novels, the iconic author is still going strong. The Racketeer was the second best-selling hardcover last year, and he’ll publish another book, Sycamore Row, in October.
13. David Baldacci: $15 million
All 26 of Baldacci’s novels, including Absolute Power and The Camel Club, have been best sellers.
14. Rick Riordan: $14 million
One of the most beloved children’s book authors, Riordan’s fantasy adventures, including the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Kane Chronicles, and the Heroes of Olympus, rocket their way to the top of bestseller lists.
15. J.K. Rowling: $13 million
Even after the Harry Potter series ended, Rowling still remains one of the world’s top authors. Last year, her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, was the best-selling hardcover book, and this year, The Cuckoo’s Calling, which she wrote under a pseudonym, could do the same.