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Forbes Top Earning Authors 2012-2013

08.15.2013, Uncategorized, by .

Forbes recently listed the top-16 earning authors for 2012-2013. It has the usual names but a few new ones. In total, the top 16 authors earned a half-billion dollars.


Although publishing news is dominated by the rise of the self-published author, the established methods are still very viable. Although the top seller, E.L. James, is the perfect example of how the new and the traditional come together to create a phenom.  James’ 50 SHADES OF GRAY trilogy was originally self-published and sold 250,000 copies. It was then picked up by Vintage (division of Knopf, division of random House, a part of Bertelsmann). Vintage was able to get physical distribution everywhere, re-edit the book and sold over 70-million copies world-wide.

The list:

  1. E.L. James – $95,000,000
  2. James Patterson – $91,000,000
  3. Suzanne Collins – $55,000,000
  4. Bill O’Reilly – $28,000,000
  5. Danielle Steel – $26,000,000
  6. Jeff Kinney – $24,000,000
  7. Janet Evanovich – $24,000,000
  8. Nora Roberts – $23,000,000
  9. Dan Brown – $22,000,000
  10. Stephen King – $20,000,000
  11. Dean Koontz – $20,000,000
  12. John Grisham – $18,000,000
  13. David Baldacci – $15,000,000
  14. Rick Riordan – $14,000,000
  15. J.K. Rowling – $13,000,000
  16. George R.R. Martin – $12,000,000

Some thoughts:

  • 15 of the 16 authors write Fiction – Only FoxNews personality Bill O’Reilly (written with Martin Dugard – wonder what he made?) wrote books that were non-Fiction. His KILLING LINCOLN and KILLING KENNEDY books remain hardcover bestsellers and eBook smashes.
  • E.L. James is an anomaly. She came out of nowhere and exploded onto the book scene. Chances are this will be the only year she is on this list. But what a year. Congrats!
  • James Patterson is more of a “Publishing Imprint” than an author. He has a stable of co-authors and writes in many genres. He brings out 14-20 new books a year. His output is impressive and larger than many independent publishers.
  • Old favorites continue to sell – Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Grisham all have been writing novels for over 30 years each. All have had best-sellers for decades.
  • The new Penguin-Random House publishes eight of the 16 authors. This fits with the dialogue that P-RH is about 50% of the best-sellers.  The biggest authors will continue to be published by the biggest conglomerate.
  • Large publishers published the other eight authors too.  The details – Hachette (2); Scholastic (2); Macmillan (1); S&S (1); Disney (1) and Abrams (1).
  • Three authors write primarily for young adults and children (Rowling, Kenney and Riordan) and a Patterson occasionally writes for kids.
  • 12 of the 16 authors were on the list last year. So there is little movement from the top. This plays into the brand name and celebrity of these top writers. They continue to get top billing, the best placement and exposure. Many write series and sequels that continue to expand on their previous books.


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