For three years, incredibly prolific thriller powerhouse James Patterson sat pretty at the top of the pack of Forbes highest-paid authors; and he was expected to continue. However, his reign ended when JK Rowling returned to the magic world of Harry Potter.
In a war waged by wizards, Patterson was dramatically dethroned in the 2017 ranking of highest-paid authors. The Harry Potter novelist is this year’s highest-paid author, grossing a hefty $95 million in the year to May 31 on the magic wings of her play script, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” It sold over 680, 000 print copies in the United Kingdom alone in the first three days of its release last summer, making it the fastest selling book since the final Harry Potter novel.
Rowling’s fortune was further boosted with the release of “Fantastic beasts and where to find them,” a film set in the Harry Potter world for which she wrote the script.
Also, Bloomsberry, her original publisher had been releasing illustrated versions of the Harry Potter novels to mark 20 years of the publication of the first in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Rowling last topped the big earners’ list in 2008.
Forbes producer Hayley Cuccinello disclosed that Rowling’s earning increased increase $76m over 12 months, attributing the surge to recent successes from the Harry Potter franchise on stage and screen.
Forbes uses a mix ebook and audio sales data, television and film earnings and expert industry opinion to come up with its list of print. No 1 spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest authors, almost a decade after she last topped it. All earnings are for June 1, 2016 through May 31, 2017 before taxes and other fees.
All book-sales data are sourced from NPD BookScan, which tracks 85 per cent of the domestic print market. Estimates are compiled by examining print, e-book and audio book sales, considering TV and movie earnings, and talking to authors, agents, publishers, lawyers and other experts.
Rowling comes in this year $8m ahead of second-placed James Patterson, the thriller powerhouse, who earned $87m. For second place Patterson, it would be the second time a woman would dethrone him. The first was in 2013 when Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James, who came 9th in the latest ranking, dethroned him.
Forbes, in a report, observes that : “Fans of the printed (or digital) word will be cheered to know that although five writers on our list had novels made into movies this past year, they nonetheless earned the bulk of their bucks from their books. Together these 11 writers sold nearly 30 million volumes in the United States over the past 12 months, logging $312.5 million in pretax income.
“We close the covers–for now, at least–on a couple of scribes who fell off the list this year: Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin and The Fault in Our Stars’ John Green. Both will likely return; Martin has four Thrones prequels in the works, and Green is publishing Turtles All the Way Down, his first novel in five years, this October.
“Dan Brown’s latest movie adaptation was a flop, but in the past year, The Da Vinci Code scribe still doubled his earnings from the same period 12 months earlier, thanks to an estimated eight-figure advance for his upcoming novel Origin. Prior to Origin, Brown’s most recent Robert Langdon novel, Inferno (source of that cinematic misfire), was 2013’s adult-fiction bestseller, with 1.7 million hardcover sales alone, according to Penguin Random House.
“British novelist Paula Hawkins, author of the psychological thriller The Girl on the Train, debuted on Forbes’ writers list last year and just keeps a-rollin’: She sold 2.2 million print books in the U.S. over the past 12 months, the most of any female author save the inexorable J.K. Rowling. The film version of Train grossed $173 million in 2016; Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners has acquired the rights to her second novel, this year’s chart-topping mind-bender Into the Water.
Notably, nearly half of the world’s highest-paid authors are women. This year, Veronica Roth of the Divergent trilogy left our ranks, but five female authors kept their places on the list.”
Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney came third with $21m over the last year. Dan Brown comes in fourth, according to Forbes, with earnings of $20m. His earnings “doubled in a year due to an estimated eight-figure advance for his upcoming book”, said Forbes, referring to the forthcoming new Robert Langdon thriller, which Brown will publish soon.
“Our celebrity lists tend to have a substantial percentage of international stars,” Cuccinello said, “but it is remarkable that nearly a third of the highest-paid authors hail from the UK. That said, I think it’s more noteworthy that nearly half of the list members are women.”
Horror superstar Stephen King comes in fifth place, legal supremo John Grisham and romantic suspense bestseller Nora Roberts in sixth, with romance author Danielle Steel and children’s writer Rick Riordan tying for 10th place.
J.K. Rowling is one of the world’s best-selling authors, but she wasn’t always so successful. “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” the first book in the “Harry Potter” series that made her famous, was rejected by several publishers before being picked up by Bloomsbury in 1997.
In her own autobiography she remembers with great fondness, when her good friend Sean became the first person to give her the confidence that one day she would be able to make a very good writer.
Sean was also the owner of a battered old Ford Anglia, which would later appear in one of the Harry Potter series as a flying car.
It was in 1990, that J.K.Rowling first conceived of the idea about Harry Potter. As she recalls, it was on a long train journey from Manchester to London when she began forming in her mind, the characters of the series. At the forefront, was a young boy, at that time not aware that he was a wizard.
The train was delayed for over four hours, but she didn’t have a pen and was too shy to ask for one thing, “To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one.”
But she remembers being very enthusiastic, and excited about the ideas which were filling her mind.
On arriving at her flat in Clapham Junction, she began work on writing the book immediately, although, it would take several years to come to fruition.
It was also in December of 1990 that J.K.Rowling lost her mother, who died of Multiple Sclerosis. J.K.Rowling was very close to her mother, and she felt the loss deeply. Her own loss gave an added poignancy to the death of Harry Potter’s mother in her book. She says her favourite scene in the Philosopher’s Stone is, The Mirror of Erised, where Harry sees his parents in the mirror.
In 1991, J.K.Rowling left England to get a job as an English teacher in Portugal. In Dec 1993, she returned to the UK, moving to Edinburgh where she tried to finish her first book. She was surviving on state benefits and bringing up her daughter as a single parent. She would often go to Edinburgh cafes to work on the book whilst her child had a nap.
Eventually, she finished her first copy of the Philosopher’s Stone’, and sent it off to various agents. She found an agent, Christopher, who spent over a year trying to get a publisher. It was rejected by 12 major publishing houses. But, eventually, a quite small publisher, Bloomsbury agreed to take the book on. The editor Barry Cunningham also agreed to pay her an advance of £1500.
The decision to take on the book was, in large part, due to his eight year old daughter’s enthusiastic reception of the first chapter (However she was advised to continue her training as a teacher because she was told writers of children’s books don’t tend to get very well paid.)
Within a few weeks of publication, (1996) book sales really started to take off.
Patterson’s secret to success is persistence. “You’re lucky to find something you like to do and it’s a miracle if somebody will pay you to do it. That’s kind of been my gig since I was in my twenties,” Patterson, 70, told Forbes.
“My first book got turned down by 31 publishers… but you keep churning along.”
He doesn’t write his novels alone. He is responsible for the vision and plotline of each novel and series but he gives a detailed outline to the hired writer, with who he usually shares authorship. Patterson reads, revises and demands new drafts until he is satisfied.
In 2016 he co-authored seven novels with seven different writers. Patterson has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series.
As of January 2016, he has sold over 350 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, he also writes children’s, middle-grade, and young-adult fiction and is also the first author to have No.1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestsellers lists.
The 2017 Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid authors
1 JK Rowling (UK) – $95m
2 James Patterson (US) $87m
3 Jeff Kinney (US) $21m
4 Dan Brown (US) $20m
5 Stephen King (US) $15m
6= John Grisham (US) $14m
6= Nora Roberts (US) $14m
8 Paula Hawkins (UK) $13m
9 EL James (UK) $11.5m
10= Danielle Steel (US) $11m
10= Rick Riordan (US) $11m