Forbes yesterday released its list of the top-earning authors of 2011. Good to see a lot of genre authors dominating the list, taking 9 of the 15 slots. There are 6 women and 9 men on the list. The big money writers are listed below. The parts in italics are quotes directly from the Forbes list.
1. James Patterson: $94 million
Unlike many of the authors on this list, Patterson earns nearly all his money from his gargantuan book sales and relatively little from TV and film royalties. He published 14 new titles in 2011 – of course, that’s what you can achieve when you’re in charge of a book writing factory.
2. Stephen King: $39 million
“11/22/63” and a new installment of his “Dark Tower” series made good for King, but he also sells well on a massive backlist.
3. Janet Evanovich: $33 million
The author of the Stephanie Plum suspense series told Forbes’s Jenna Goudreau she finds the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomenon “strange” and worries that it might encourage abusive relationships. Interesting.
4. John Grisham: $26 million
With the baseball novel “Calico Joe,” Grisham proved he could write bestsellers that aren’t legal thrillers. But let’s be honest – the name of John Gisham is going to sell pretty much anything initially. Still, if he pulled off a good book outside of the genre he’s famous for, it bodes well for J K Rowling’s career shift. (She’s a bit further down the list.)
5. Jeff Kinney, $25 million
“Cabin Fever,” the latest installment of the “Wimpy Kid” series, was the top-selling book of 2011, with 3.3 million copies sold. The movie version of “Dog Days” made $15 million at the box office in its opening weekend. Not a bad run.
6. Bill O’Reilly: $24 million
You know him primarily as a Fox News host, but these days O’Reilly is making almost as much from his historical books, including “Killing Lincoln” and “Killing Kennedy.”
7. Nora Roberts: $23 million
Are you sitting down? Nora Roberts has written more than 200 books. Think about that for a second. She also writes under the pen name J.D. Robb. 200 books! Dies and is dead.
8. Danielle Steel: $23 million
Although she’s spent more time on The New York Times bestsellers list than any other author, Steel’s earnings seem to have peaked. The romance novelist made $35 million last year. Personally, I’d be happy with just one year of Steel’s earnings. Even this year’s paltry $23 mill.
9. Suzanne Collins: $20 million
The odds are ever in Collins’s favor, with royalties from the blockbuster “Hunger Games” movie swelling her earnings and two more films still in the pipeline. I think we might see her rise in the ranks next year.
10. Dean Koontz: $19 million
This Shippensburg State College alumnus has two current hit franchises, “Frankenstein” and “Odd Thomas.”
11. J.K. Rowling: $17 million
Five years after “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” Rowling is branching out, with an $8 million advance for her first adult novel and the online store Pottermore, where the boy wizard books are finally on sale in electronic form. Wait, let’s just back up a bit there. AN $8 MILLION DOLLAR ADVANCE!? Dies and is dead again.
12. George R.R. Martin: $15 million
Martin’s fans wish he would spend more time writing new “Game of Thrones” books, or at least episodes for the HBO adaptation, and less time blogging about the New York Jets. He took six years to write “A Dance With Dragons,” the fifth of seven planned installments. Let’s hope the TV series catches up and he HAS to write the last two books. Don’t do a Robert Jordan on us, George, please!
13. Stephenie Meyer: $14 million
With “Twilight” behind her, Meyer’s no longer riding quite so high, but the phenomenon she started lives on in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which originated as fan fiction modeled on her vampire romance. Shame Meyer isn’t going to see a penny of that cash factory.
14. Ken Follett: $14 million
Follett is set for a huge autumn, with the next installment of his “Century” trilogy coming out in September and a TV miniseries based on “Fall of Giants” airing.
15. Rick Riordan: $13 million
If your adolescent kids know suspiciously a lot about Greek and Egyptian mythology, it’s probably because of Riordan’s books. Either that or they’re weird cultists. Now I want to read Riordan’s books!
Pretty good earnings for pen monkeys. I think we’ll see E L James pretty high on this list next year, if not at the top, with the “50 Shades of Grey” phenomenon. It became the UK’s best-selling novel of all time if you can believe that. And the movie has been optioned. There will be a certain delicious irony if E L James ends up out-earning Stephanie Meyer over the long term.
For the entire list, with pictures, see the Forbes website.
In the meantime, I’m working on a new book. It’s a thriller about a time-travelling crime investigator, who used to be a pro baseball player, but is now a failed lawyer. He was a wimpy kid, but grew up to be right-wing news commentator reporting on death. He has a love affair with the producer of a violent reality television series and they have a very odd son who ends up going to wizard school. There, he encounters stange political machinations and the return of the dragons. He controls the dragons by hiring sparkly vampires to ride them and they bring down a race of giants. Oh, and it’s all set in ancient Greece and Egypt. And they all have nervous, exploratory, abusive sex all the time. Fuck yeah! This can’t possibly fail.