Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 22, 2010

Top Author Earnings

Forbes’ Highest-Paid Authors
Note: Two are children’s authors and two more are trying their hand at children’s writing.
While you may not have a lot of inherent faith in their methodology, Forbes has released their new list of guesses at how much the most successful authors made over the 12 months ending June 1:

James Patterson ($70 million)

A former junior copywriter at J. Walter Thompson, Patterson is intimately involved in cover designs and marketing for his own books. One out of every 17 novels bought in the U.S. are authored by Patterson. Over the past two years he has made some $500 million for Hachette, his publisher.


Stephenie Meyer ($40 million)

Last fall Meyer’s novels were fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh on USA Today‘s bestseller lists. Her four-book series, Twilight, has sold 40 million copies in the U.S. and 100 million worldwide. In June the third Twilight film posted the most successful first week box office return of any movie of 2010.


Stephen King ($34 million)

Among King’s current projects: a deal with DC Comics to co-write a comic book series; a musical with John Mellencamp; and a drama series with the SyFy network based on his novella The Colorado Kid.

Danielle Steel ($32 million)

Steel has four new hardcovers out this year and clinches an average $7 million advance per book. Among other income this past year: a reported $1 million settlement from her former assistant, who was convicted of embezzling $760,000 from the romance novelist.

Ken Follett ($20 million)

Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth was adapted to a TV series that premiered in July starring Donald Sutherland. Follett often sets his novels where he lives: the author has homes in Stonehenge, London, Antigua and South Africa. Follett’s wife was Minister of Culture under Prime Minister Gordon Brown.


Dean Koontz ($18 million)

Koontz’s latest book, The Husband, came out in May and was optioned to Focus Features and Random House Films. Forty-four of his novels have been New York Times bestsellers.


Janet Evanovich ($16 million)

Evanovich may rank seventh, but her selling power is comparable to James Patterson (about 20 million of her titles sell annually). Still, St. Martins failed to agree to a $50 million advance she reportedly asked for this year, prompting Evanovich to leave her publisher of 15 years and sign a new deal with Ballantine Bantam Dell.


John Grisham ($15 million)

Grisham’s new legal thriller, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, is his first aimed at the tween market. Earlier this year Grisham’s entire 23-title backlist made its digital debut as Random House e-books.



Nicholas Sparks ($14 million)

One of the top-selling romance genre writers, Sparks has sold 55 million books. Film adaptations of those novels haven’t done bad, either. Movies made from Sparks’ books have grossed $300 million.



JK Rowling ($10 million)

The Harry Potter series made Rowling the world’s first author-billionaire. Existing book sales are still minting money for Rowling. But with no new Potter book and slow merchandise sales in a tough economy, Rowling’s financial juggernaut has slowed.


Hope to report on you someday.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. thanks for posting, Kathy. This was interesting.


  2. I agree, and I hope it’s all of “us” someday!
    I’m impressed that J.K.Rowling was #10 …


  3. […] Author’s Earnings Did you see this on Kathy Temean’s blog?  Top Author’s Earnings from […]


  4. Hmmm, all the authors I never read. Guess I’ll never be rich.


  5. Good day! Thanks for sharing. I will bookmark your website.


  6. I agree with Anita, Kath–really interesting. Thanks for posting.


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