Meet the World’s 10 Highest-Paid Authors in 2017
10
DECEMBER, 2017
Samuel Osho
Writing is a tough job. The ubiquity of writing has made it an indispensable tool for content creation in any space. To communicate an idea, it is either you speak or you write. Writing is one of the oldest forms of communication and it is here to stay. The world is prodigiously blessed with a sea of writers but exceptional writers are scarce.

Except you are making the headlines or you are raking in money, a lot of people believe that writers are jokers or lazy people. From a pile of stories, it’s true that making a living as a full-time writer can be an arduous task.

However, there is a myriad of successful writers in contracts running into millions of dollars. These writers who have redefined the face of artistic contribution through the portal of writing are sources of inspiration to young writers. However, the stories of successful writers have the same recurring themes – persistence, rare talent, diligence, and luck.

With the recent influx of digital tools that support self-publishing, life just got better for writers. From the inspiring stories churned out in 2017, it can only get better. It’s a season of earning big-time money for writers who are diligent in honing their craft and showing up consistently with riveting works.

 

Let’s look at some intriguing figures from Forbes’ top 10 highest earning authors for 2017.

 

The World’s 10 Highest-Paid Authors in 2017
Photo Credit: The Big Issue

1. J.K. Rowling ($95 million)

Leading the clan of the world’s highest-earning wordsmiths in 2017 is the British Queen of letters, Joanne Rowling. Though the magical idea of the Harry Potter fantasy series was conceived in 1990, the book did not hit the shelves until 1997. Ever since 1999, Rowling has topped the Forbes’ highest-paid authors list three times.

In a writing career spanning two decades, she has sold more than 400 million copies of her books. Rowling’s total earnings of $95 million in 2017 quadrupled her earnings for 2016. Her astronomical financial growth can be attributed to the 2016 releases of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

The stage play script/book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child co-written with Jack Thorne emerged as the best-selling book of 2016 with over 4.5 domestic million copies sold. The movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, tickled the interest of the Harry Potter fans and subsequently paid off in huge sums for the British novelist.

Rowling has this to say about persistence:

“I’ve been writing since I was six. It is a compulsion, so I can’t really say where the desire came from; I’ve always had it. My breakthrough with the first book came through persistence because a lot of publishers turned me down!”

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times

2. James Patterson ($87 million)

Patterson is not a stranger to the Forbes’ list of highest paid authors. Before slipping to the second position in 2017, he held the first spot for three consecutive years from 2014 to 2016.

The award-winning writer is best known for the crime fiction novel series – “Alex Cross” and several of his works are being adapted for screenplays. America’s richest author has written 147 novels, 114 have appeared on the New York Times bestselling list. He holds The New York Times record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers by a single author, a total of 67, which is also a Guinness World Record.

He has sold over 300 million copies worldwide. Even at 70, Patterson is ready for 2018, it was announced in May 2017 that Patterson will co-author a crime fiction novel with former US President Bill Clinton. It’s expected to be a blockbuster and rake in more money for the prolific writer.

Patterson talks about doggedness in a conversation with TIME Magazine in 2010:

“I worked my way through college. I had a lot of night shifts, so I started reading like crazy. Then I started writing. And I found that I loved it. When I was 26, I wrote my first mystery, The Thomas Berryman Number, and it was turned down by, I don’t know, 31 publishers. then it won an Edgar for Best First Novel. Go figure.”
Photo Credit: The Wimpy Kid

3. Jeff Kinney ($21 million)

American cartoonist and author of children’s books, Jeff Kinney is best known for his book series – Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Upon its release with an online version in 2007, it became an instant hit. In April 2007, the book was published. Up to date, thirteen different titles have been published in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series and has sold more than 60 million copies.

Kinney made huge returns from his creative work this year because the ninth title in the series – Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul made it to the movies.

Kinney shares this about his passion for writing:

“I only work on my books at nights and at weekends. It is really just like a hobby.”
Photo Credit: The Daily Beast

4. Dan Brown ($20 million)

If you have watched Angels and Demons and perhaps you fell in love with The Da Vinci Code, then you must be familiar with Daniel Gerhard Brown popularly known as Dan Brown. The 53-year old American author has carved a hunt for himself on the hills of thriller fiction with suspense wrapped around themes such as keys, symbols, codes, cryptography and conspiracy theories.
He has written seven books with five out of them serving as subjects of major controversies – the Robert Langdon series: Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol, Inferno, and Origin.

 

He has three movie adaptations of his works from the Robert Langdon series – Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and Inferno. Inferno was released in 2017 but it could not replicate the sterling performance that made the first two screenplays spectacular. However, Dan Brown made considerable cash from his newly released book – Origin.

 

“When I graduated from college, I had two loves–writing fiction and writing music. I lived in Hollywood CA for a while, doing the songwriting thing. Aside from a song in the Atlanta Olympic ceremonies, I never had much success in music. I woke up one morning and decided to start writing fiction again. Digital Fortress was my first attempt at a novel. I certainly feel blessed that it sold; I’m not sure I would have had the patience to write another one on spec!”
Photo Credit: The Daily Beast

5. Stephen King ($15 million)

The King of horror novels has written a myriad of thrillers that have earned him millions of fans across the world. More fans equal more sales and more money. He is one of the world’s wealthiest authors having sold over 350 million copies of his books.

King’s most popular novels – The Shining, It, and Misery, all have movie adaptations. It made it to the theaters in September 2017 and gathering storm with raving reviews while King’s recent novel, End of Watch sold 1.9 million copies in the U.S. in 2017.

In his book, On Writing, King shared about how he handled rejection as a teenager while trying to publish his short stories:

“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”
Photo Credit: Famous Authors

6. John Grisham ($14 million)

The sixth spot is equally shared by two successful American novelists, John Grisham and Nora Roberts. John Grisham’s exceptional style of crafting legal thrillers has made him the fancy of many readers across the world.

His books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide; his first bestseller, The Firm, sold more than 7 million copies. Nine of his novels have screenplay adaptations: The Chamber, The Client, A Painted House, The Pelican Brief, The Runaway Jury, Skipping Christmas, and A Time to Kill.

He recently published three novels: The Whistler in 2016, Camino Island and The Rooster Bar in 2017. The Whistler emerged as the third bestselling book of 2016 with over 660,000 hardcover sales in the U.S. and the sales of Camino Island is not doing bad either.

Grisham talks about focus:

“My name became a brand, and I’d love to say that was the plan from the start. But the only plan was to keep writing books. And I’ve stuck to that ever since.”

“It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time it was too famous.” – Robert Benchley

Photo Credit: Screen Junkies

7. Nora Roberts ($14 million)

Nora Roberts dubbed as the Queen of romance novels and also known for her prolific nature published four novels in 2017 with two new titles ready to hit the bookshelves in 2018. In 2017, Roberts raked in sales from her latest novel, Come Sundown after topping the New York Times bestselling list.

 

She is one of America’s wealthiest writers with a net worth of about $370 million. She has authored over 200 novels and a handful of them have been adapted into screenplays earning her the screenwriter’s credits.
“Every single book is a challenge. No matter how many you’ve written, you’ve never written this one before. And each book has to receive your best effort every single time. No slacking. But that’s the job. I’m lucky to love my job. Certainly the plagiarism, and dealing with the fallout of it, was the most difficult thing I’ve ever faced since I started writing.”
Photo Credit: CBC

8. Paula Hawkins ($13 million)

Zimbabwe-born British author, Paula Hawkins, debuted on Forbes’ list of highest paid authors in 2016 and clinching the eighth spot implies that she is on top of her game. Hawkins strolled into the limelight in 2015 with her psychological thriller, The Girl on the Train, which was widely accepted by book lovers across the world. She has sold more than 2 million copies of the book in the U.S. over the past 12 months.

 

She has other novels under the pen name, Amy Silver but she is popular in literary circles for the ingenuity portrayed in The Girl on the Train. The thriller was recently adapted into a movie and making ripples at the theaters after it grossed $173 million in 2016. Her latest book, Into the Water, was released in 2017 and the rights for its film adaptation was acquired by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners.
In an interview with The Guardian, Hawkins has this to say about her record-breaking book:
“It’s great to break a record. It’s also, though, a slightly artificial thing, isn’t it? I’m not even sure when those records began, and from an author’s point of view, that’s not the most important thing.”
Photo Credit: Forbes

9. E.L. James ($11.5 million)

English author, Erika Mitchell, popularly known by her pen name E. L. James, is the author of the bestselling erotic romance trilogy – Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed. The first book in the series, Fifty Shades of Grey, was published in 2011 while the other two sequels reached the bookshelves in 2012.

Sales from the trilogy pushed James to the top of Forbes’ list of highest-earning authors in 2013 with earnings of about $95 million. She is in the eight spot in 2017 because of the film adaptation of the second title in the series – Fifty Shades Darker, the screenplay failed to receive massive approval from her fans.

The 2017 movie grossed $379 million worldwide, nearly $200 million short of Fifty Shades of Grey. She published a new novel this year – Darker: Fifty Shades Darker as Told by Christian while the film adaptation of Fifty Shades Freed is set to hit the theaters in 2018.

James talks about writing:

“Write for yourself. That’s it. And write every day.”
Photo Credit: Forbes

10. Danielle Steel ($11 million)

American prolific author, Danielle Steel, shared the tenth spot with Rick Riordan after a very eventful year despite her recent induction into the septuagenarian circle of literary sages.

 

At 70, Danielle is rock solid like a steel; published six novels in 2016, seven in 2017 and she has four ready to hit the bookstores in 2018.

 

The novelist known for her romantic stories is the best selling author alive and the fourth bestselling fiction author of all time having sold over 800 million copies of her books worldwide. Asides her prolific nature, her books top the charts and 24 out of her 110 novels have movie adaptations.
In an interview with Goodreads, Steel sheds light on her rigorous writing process:
“I work for about six months to a year on an outline and do it by hand mostly. Eventually I type up what I’ve got, send it to my editor, get comments, and alter it, send it back, get comments, alter it again. And I eventually sit down to write the book, and when I do that I pretty much lock myself up for about a month and do only that for about 20 hours a day. And it goes back and forth like a tennis ball between me and my editor for about two years while I rewrite it. I’m usually working on four or five books at once.”
All earnings listed here are for June 1, 2016 through May 31, 2017 before taxes and other fees.
Credits: This post was made possible with the annual list from Forbes Magazine.

Also published on Medium.

Comments

comments

Get Free Writing & Productivity Tips

Get Free Writing & Productivity Tips

Sign up for my free weekly newsletter and get free tips on writing, life, creativity, and other stuff. 

Welcome to the winning team! I am so glad to have you here. Your life is about to experience a quantum leap. Thanks. Sam.

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This

Share this post

Tell Your friends!