Forbes Names 2016’s Richest Authors

J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Stephen King — rolling in it.

King Midas: everything he touched turned to gold (including his daughter, and probably his books)

Good news — there’s (some) money in literature after all! Forbes has released its annual list of the world’s highest paid authors. This probably won’t come as a great surprise, but the list is topped by James Patterson and rounded out by a few more obscure authors whom you may or may not have heard of, such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and one J.K. Rowling.

According to The Guardian, the list is calculated using “official book sales figures and analysis from experts.” Patterson who’s put out an average of nearly eleven books a year for the past decade and has been described as an “industry unto himself” is far and away the highest earner, listed at $95m. The runner-up — children’s author James Kinney — comes in at a (comparatively) paltry $19.5m, almost five times less than Patterson.

To be clear, these sorts of monetary figures are by no means representative of the literary whole.

What becomes clear after quickly perusing the twelve names is that multi-media only helps book sales. As Natalie Robehmed of Forbes states: “the written word isn’t dead — although television and movie adaptations often help drive sales.” The word “often” however seems unnecessary here. Every single author on the list has had either, or both, television and movie adaptations made of their works, except for Paula Hawkins who has an adaptation starring Emily Blunt due to hit the silver screen in October.

Hawkins is also notable as the only newcomer to the list. Her bestselling novel The Girl On The Train — consistently compared to Gone Girl and The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo — vaulted her all the way up to #9 at a reported $10m, just above George R.R. Martin who earned a pre-taxed $9.5m in book sales.

For a more in-depth take on what publishing looks like for most literary fiction, check out this piece written by our own Lincoln Michel: Everything You Wanted to Know about Book Sales (But Were Afraid to Ask).

In the meantime, for ease of resentment, envy, and daydreaming, here’s the top of Forbes’ 2016 wealthiest authors list:


1. James Patterson $95m

2. Jeff Kinney $19.5m

3. JK Rowling $19m

4. John Grisham $18m

5. (tie) Stephen King $15m

5. (tie) Danielle Steel $15m

5. (tie) Nora Roberts $15m

8. EL James $14m

9. (tie) Veronica Roth $10m

9. (tie) John Green $10m

9. (tie) Paula Hawkins $10m

12. (tie) George RR Martin $9.5m

12. (tie) Dan Brown $9.5m

12. (tie) Rick Riordan $9.5m

More Like This

I Never Made a Living Wage When I Worked in Publishing

We were told that all editorial assistants have it hard, and we were told it was necessary

Mar 7 - Bethany Ball

The Disastrous Decline in Author Incomes Isn’t Just Amazon’s Fault

The bookselling behemoth is making life harder for writers, but so is the public perception that art doesn’t need to be paid for

Jan 11 - Carrie V. Mullins

Give Your Money to Libraries, Jeff Bezos

The Amazon founder says he doesn’t know what to do with his billions. I have an idea.

May 2 - Ann Eleven
Thank You!