Posted on Leave a comment

The 25 Authors Who’ve Made the Most Money in the Last Decade

Keep your day job, they say. There’s no money in publishing, they say. Books are dying, they say. And well, mostly they’re right (except for that last one). But sometimes, if you’re very talented or very lucky or both, you can prove them all wrong. Just ask James Patterson. Or, you know, Michael Wolff.

But what exactly turns a writer into a millionaire? As a first step towards figuring it out, I took a look at the authors who made the most money over the last decade. All of the original data comes from Forbes, whose journalists make this calculation annually. They note: “Figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers are not deducted. Earnings estimates are based on data from NPD BookScan and Box Office Mojo, as well as interviews with industry insiders, including some of the authors themselves.”

Some takeaways: 1. Franchises make money, and so do adaptations, but if you want to be a literary millionaire, you really have to write a) for children or b) a mystery (or romance) that strikes fear (or lust) in the hearts of the world. 2. It’s hard to beat James Patterson, but a true phenomenon (Harry PotterFifty Shades of Grey can do it). 3. Some years were good for writers in general, others were (relatively) lean across the board. A full accounting follows. Good luck, aspiring writers.

2018

1. James Patterson : $86 million
2. J. K. Rowling : $54 million
3. Stephen King : $27 million
4. John Grisham : $21 million
5. Dan Brown (tie) : $18.5 million
5. Jeff Kinney (tie) : $18.5 million
7. Michael Wolff : $13 million
8. Nora Roberts (tie) : $12 million
8. Danielle Steel (tie) : $12 million
10. E. L. James (tie) : $10.5 million
10. Rick Riordan (tie) : $10.5 million

2017

1. J.K. Rowling : $95 million
2. James Patterson : $87 million
3. Jeff Kinney : $21 million
4. Dan Brown : $20 million
5. Stephen King : $15 million
6. John Grisham (Tie) : $14 million
6. Nora Roberts (Tie) : $14 million
8. Paula Hawkins : $13 million
9. E. L. James : $11.5 million
10. Danielle Steel (Tie) : $11 million
10. Rick Riordan (Tie) : $11 million

2016

1. James Patterson : $95 million
2. Jeff Kinney : $19.5 million
3. J.K. Rowling : $19 million
4. John Grisham : $18 million
5. Stephen King (Tie) : $15 million
5. Danielle Steel (Tie) : $15 million
5. Nora Roberts : $15 million
8. E. L. James : $14 million
9. Veronica Roth (Tie) : $10 million
9. John Green (Tie) : $10 million
9. Paula Hawkins (Tie) : $10 million
12. George R. R. Martin (Tie) : $9.5 million
12. Dan Brown (Tie) : $9.5 million
12. Rick Riordan (Tie) : $9.5 million

2015

1. James Patterson : $89 million
2. John Green : $26 million
3. Veronica Roth (Tie) : $25 million
3. Danielle Steel (Tie) : $25 million
5. Jeff Kinney : $23 million
6. Janet Evanovich : $21 million
7. J. K. Rowling (Tie) : $19 million
7. Stephen King (Tie) : $19 million
9. Nora Roberts : $18 million
10. John Grisham : $14 million
11. Dan Brown (Tie) : $13 million
11. Suzanne Collins (Tie) : $13 million
11. Gillian Flynn (Tie) : $13 million
11. Rick Riordan (Tie) : $13 million
15. E. L. James (Tie) : $12 million
15. George R. R. Martin (Tie) : $12 million

2014

1. James Patterson : $90 million
2. Dan Brown : $28 million
3. Nora Roberts : $23 million
4. Danielle Steel : $22 million
5. Janet Evanovich : $20 million
6. Jeff Kinney (Tie) : $17 million
6. Veronica Roth (Tie) : $17 million
6. John Grisham (Tie) : $17 million
6. Stephen King (Tie) : $17 million
10. Suzanne Collins : $16 million
11. J. K. Rowling : $14 million
12. George R. R. Martin : $12 million
13. David Baldacci : $11 million
14. Rick Riordan (Tie) : $10 million
14. E. L. James (Tie) : $10 million
16. Gillian Flynn (Tie) : $9 million
16. John Green (Tie) : $9 million

2013

1. E. L. James : $95 million
2. James Patterson : $91 million
3. Suzanne Collins : $55 million
4. Bill O’Reilly : $28 million
5. Danielle Steel : $26 million
6. Jeff Kinney : $24 million
6. Janet Evanovich : $24 million
8. Nora Roberts : $23 million
9. Dan Brown : $22 million
10. Stephen King : $20 million
10. Dean Koontz : $20 million
12. John Grisham : $18 million
13. David Baldacci : $15 million
14. Rick Riordan : $14 million
15. J. K. Rowling : $13 million
16. George R. R. Martin : $12 million

2012

1. James Patterson : $94 million
2. Stephen King : $39 million
3. Janet Evanovich : $33 million
4. John Grisham : $26 million
5. Jeff Kinney : $25 million
6. Bill O’Reilly : $24 million
7. Nora Roberts : $23 million
7. Danielle Steel : $23 million
9. Suzanne Collins : $20 million
10. Dean Koontz : $19 million
11. J. K. Rowling : $17 million
12. George R. R. Martin : $15 million
13. Stephenie Meyer : $14 million
13. Ken Follett : $14 million
15. Rick Riordan : $13 million

2011

1. James Patterson : $84 million
2. Danielle Steel : $35 million
3. Stephen King : $28 million
4. Janet Evanovich : $22 million
5. Stephenie Meyer (Tie) : $21 million
5. Rick Riordan (Tie) : $21 million
7. Dean Koontz : $19 million
8. John Grisham : $18 million
9. Jeff Kinney : $17 million
10. Nicholas Sparks : $16 million
11. Ken Follett : $14 million
12. Suzanne Collins : $10 million
13. J. K. Rowling : $5 million

2010

1. James Patterson : $70 million
2. Stephenie Meyer : $40 million
3. Stephen King : $34 million
4. Danielle Steel : $32 million
5. Ken Follett: $20 million
6. Dean Koontz : $18 million
7. Janet Evanovich : $16 million
8. John Grisham : $15 million
9. Nicholas Sparks : $14 million
10. J. K. Rowling : $10 million

2009

For whatever reason I could not find the data for 2009. (If you can, let me know!) So instead:

2008

1. J.K. Rowling : $300 million
2. James Patterson : $50 million
3. Stephen King : $45 million
4. Tom Clancy : $35 million
5. Danielle Steel : $30 million
6. John Grisham (Tie) : $25 million
6. Dean Koontz (Tie) : $25 million
8. Ken Follett : $20 million
9. Janet Evanovich : $17 million
10. Nicholas Sparks : $16 million

The authors who made the most money over the last 10 years:

1. James Patterson : $836 million
2. J. K. Rowling : $546 million
3. Stephen King : $259 million
4. Danielle Steel : $231 million
5. John Grisham : $192 million
6. Jeff Kinney : $165 million
7. E. L. James (Tie) : $153 million
7. Janet Evanovich (Tie) : $153 million
9. Nora Roberts : $128 million
10. Suzanne Collins : $114 million
11. Dan Brown : $111 million
12. Dean Koontz : $101 million
13. Rick Riordan : $91.5 million
14. Stephenie Meyer : $75 million
15. Ken Follett : $68 million
16. George R. R. Martin : $60.5 million
17. Veronica Roth (Tie) : $52 million
18. Bill O’Reilly (Tie) : $52 million
19. Nicholas Sparks : $46 million
20. John Green : $45 million
21. Tom Clancy : $35 million
22. David Baldacci : $26 million
23. Paula Hawkins : $23 million
24. Gillian Flynn : $22 million
25. Michael Wolff : $13 million

This story originally appeared on Literary Hub