How Much Do Successful Authors Earn?

Today’s Publisher’s Lunch made mention of the Forbes study on the amount successful authors earn yearly. The listed authors write fiction and are primarily from the U.S. or the U.K.

The highest earner is thriller and young adult author James Patterson, $95 million last year. He has important promotional backing from the Hachette Group (worldwide publishing). You can read his bio and learn more about his prolific writing life at http://www.JamesPatterson.com .

  James Patterson, author. Photo from his web site.

Non-fiction authors earn considerably less. There is a consensus among my colleagues that you need about three books in your non-fiction genre to start generating income. You’ll probably earn more if you self-publish. If it’s a topic in the minds of many, you might earn up to $10,000/year, if you are fortunate. If you are writing non-fiction you’ll likely need back-up work to support your passions and your life.

The PL blurb below outlines how well popular fiction authors earn a living. Big difference!

“Forbes has their annual guesses on the earnings of the some of the most successful authors, estimating that 14 authors together earned $269 million. (Though they don’t underscore it, that’s their lowest total for top authors in the past 5 years: $399 million in 2012; $476 million in 2013; $325 million in 2014; and $355 million in 2015.)”

James Patterson $95 million
Jeff Kinney $19.5 million
JK Rowling $19 million
John Grisham $18 million
Stephen King $15 million
Danielle Steel $15 million
Nora Roberts $15 million
EL James $14 million
Veronica Roth $10 million
John Green $10 million
Paula Hawkins $10 million
George RR Martin $9.5 million
Rick Riordan $9.5 million
Dan Brown $9.5 million