Forbes’ Top Earning Authors: A Numerical Breakdown


Forbes has just published its annual list of the year’s top earning authors, and the results, not unusually, are sure to make aspiring authors of serious literary fiction reconsider their craft. Yes, the big money in 2011 was in genre fiction, with authors of thrillers and YA novels attracting the bulk of the book buyers’ hard-earned dollars. But you already knew that.

In other notable developments, George R.R. Martin makes his debut on the list, thanks to the success of the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones and the attendant skyrocketing book sales he’s been enjoying. We were surprised (though we shouldn’t have been) by just how much money The Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise has made. J.K. Rowling, whose star had been waning a bit (as far as Forbes lists go, anyways), is back, thanks to Pottermore and her upcoming novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, for which she received a reported $8 million advance. And while the race and age breakdowns haven’t changed much at all, female authors are slowly climbing the rankings. Click through to read the full list and our numerical breakdown.

The list: James Patterson: $94 million (He published 14 new titles in 2011!) Stephen King: $39 million Janet Evanovich: $33 million John Grisham: $26 million Jeff Kinney, $25 million Bill O’Reilly: $24 million Nora Roberts: $23 million Danielle Steel: $23 million Suzanne Collins: $20 million Dean Koontz: $19 million J.K. Rowling: $17 million George R.R. Martin: $15 million Stephenie Meyer: $14 million Ken Follett: $14 million Rick Riordan: $13 million

By genre: There’s actually a little more genre variety than we’ve seen in recent years, but the standbys are still holding strong — if you want to make money, write thrillers or books for teens.

Thriller: 5 YA: 4 Romance: 2 Horror: 1 Children’s: 1 Historical: 1 Fantasy: 1

By gender: Forbes is quick to point out that women are “on the rise” in its annual list, but let’s not get carried away: there’s only one more female author than last year. Then again, the women of the list raked in a collective $130 million to last year’s $93 million, so we’d say that’s a significant step in the right direction.

Male: 9 Female: 6

By race: No news here, unfortunately.

White: 15

By age: Or here either, though the 30-50 crowd is making a relatively good showing.

Under 30: 0 30-50: 5 Over 50: 10