The world’s highest-earning authors, according to Forbes


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.


43 thoughts on “The world’s highest-earning authors, according to Forbes”

  1. What an interesting list. There are a few authors that aren’t featured, whom I thought would be, but Forbes is very political in terms of who they put on their list. Writing for money is senseless, anyway. Respect and perfect the craft, and the checks will follow. Ladies Prism is coming soon to romance the world. Scotian Breeze is the movement. Treasure Words, Collect Figures is the company. History in the making; stay tuned.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. one of my favorite authors (I have many of them) says he writes for the money. I was glad he was a good author or I may have stopped reading him! (Philip Pullman) And then the author of ‘Goosebumps’. I didn’t read him for that reason. He had a syndicate (like the Babysitter’s club ended up) who wrote for him, he just stuck his name on the best stories. Am sure he gave a lot of authors a leg up, but the idea of putting his name on someone else’s story creeped me out.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It surprises me that Stephen King is so far down on the list. Though in all fairness, I guess he doesn’t write as much as he used to. As far as James Patterson, he’s my second favorite author (after Harlan Coben), but I honestly have a hard time getting past the co-writer thing too. I guess it just makes me wonder how much of the book he actually writes and how much is just his name stamped on the cover. I know that sounds harsh, but I don’t know. Still, though, like I said, he’s my second favorite writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. J. Patterson may not be a great writer, but he’s #2, and how smart of him to realize it and actually have the guts to hire co-writers AND admit it 🙂 Excellent post, Amir — not only for the list but also the fascinating info on each writer. xo

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Patterson isn’t the first to use a Co-author. Many speculate that’s exactly what Shakespeare did. I think it’s noble to want to starve for your art, but a lot more pragmatic and reasonable to support and feed a family.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s a shame that E.L James is first on the Forbes list. Well she may be no. 1 om Forbes but she clearly isn’t no. 1 on most people’s list.
    The case of Patterson is interesting I think, though peoplr question his credibility due to using cowriters. Still, I wonder how did he make having co-writers work out for him. Is it like a partnership thing or is Patterson essentially the boss when it comes to picking out the ideas which go into the published version?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I look forward to having my name on that list..haha. I nominated you for the grateful blogger award few minutes ago. Do check it out when you have the chance and accept either by commenting or reblogging or creating a wonderful new post. I know awards arent everyone’s thing, so please do what you are absolutely okay with. Gracia. Muaaah.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This kinda goes to show that developing a following might be more important than being an excellent writer. James and Patterson are not considered to be great writers, but they’ve done a great job and creating a following. That’s huge.

    Liked by 1 person

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