The average author will barely earn enough money to live on, and this is as true in the age of the self-published giants as it has always been. There are simply too many authors competing for the same limited shelf space. However, for every hundred or so authors that struggle to make ends meet, there is one that enjoys a very comfortable life off the back of their work.
These are the richest fiction authors right now.
5. Danielle Steele = $300 million
Danielle Steele may not be the richest on this list, but she has likely outsold everyone on it, with many calling her the “best-selling living author”, and the fourth best-selling author of all time. She has shifted over 800 million copies of her books and is still going.
4. Nora Roberts = $390 million
Nora Roberts has published over 200 romance books, and churns them out at a rate of knots. She is one of the most prolific authors in the world and that hard work has paid off big time, earning her a net worth just shy of $400 million.
3 Stephen King = $400 million
You can’t help but love Stephen King. He is the man that every author would like as a friend, and the man that most have been inspired by. He is also very generous with movie rights, letting many filmmakers acquire rights to his novels and short stories for very little.
He is prolific and is considered by many to be the best living horror author.
2. James Patterson = $550 million
James Patterson is prolific, putting his name to books across multiple genres and release several a year. He doesn’t write all of these himself and in many cases he simply gets a co-writing credit because he has been involved with the process. Still, it’s a business model that has worked very well for him and taken his net worth above half a billion dollars.
1. J. K. Rowling = $1 billion+
It is no surprise to see JK top this list. The Scottish author created one of the most successful children’s book series of all time, one that has managed to transcend genres and demographics and earn just as much in merchandise and film rights as it has in book sales. She’s worked very hard for her success and should be an inspiration to every aspiring author and struggling author, even though most will never enjoy a fraction of the success that she has had.
The Problem with Author Estates
An author’s estate is not something that can be easily passed on. Unlike a house, a business or a fleet of expensive cars, the wealth is tied up in rights, deals that will continue to come in years and even decades after their death. That’s why many older authors rush to get the help of an estate planning lawyer and why so many of their families fall out and are involved in bitter disputes after they are gone.
Still, to the author all this is irrelevant, and we’d all like to enjoy a little more cash and success while we’re alive, regardless of where it goes when we’re gone.