Top-Earning Authors? No Longer a Boys’ Club

By Jim Menick

I got into the wrong end of this business.

Seriously. Publishing is made up of two groups, the folks who write the books and the folks who get them to the public. I am of one of the latter. I edit books for a living, and to be honest, I thought I was doing pretty well until I read the Forbes list of the world’s top earning authors. At the very top is James Patterson, a perennial in this spot. His income last year? $94 million. And his books aren’t even long! And they almost all have co-authors!

I didn’t make anywhere near $94 million last year, and most of my job I had to do myself.

Stephen King, who almost quit writing for good after he was practically killed by a minivan while taking a walk in 1999, made the right choice to hit the books again, coming in second with $39 million. Then again, that is less than half of Patterson’s take. Steve, I would suggest some co-authors.

Janet Evanovich pulls down a plum $33 million in third place, nipping right at King’s heels. The other women in the top ten are veterans Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel, and relative newcomer Suzanne Collins. In fact, according to Forbes, the story this year is indeed the rise of women. There are more Hunger Games movies still to hit the silver screen, so look for Collins to move up a peg or two in the coming years. There’s Fifty Shades of E.L. James finding an insatiable market for her sexy trilogy. Also making a big comeback with her first adult novel next month is J.K. Rowling. The top ten could perhaps be more women than men next year, if current trends hold.

Sigh. If this doesn’t make you fire up Word, nothing will.