Clearly, the term ‘starving artist’ doesn’t apply to these people, named the highest paid authors in the world for 2010. Together, their earnings amount to around $270 million.
The list reflects that readers still prefer a light, fun read. Thes thrillers and romances won’t win any literary awards, and some have been downright lambasted by critics for flimsy plots and bad writing. Clearly, these writers and their fans don’t care. After all, you can’t please everybody, and when you’re earning millions of dollars a year, you must be doing something right. As James Patterson said, ” There are thousands of people who don’t like what I do. Fortunately, there are millions who do.”
He is one of the world’s favorite thriller writers—56 of his books have landed in the bestseller list of the New York Times, and 19 of them became number one on that list. He also holds the Guinness Book World Record for most hardcover fiction bestselling titles, and sells more than copies than those of Stephen King, John Grisham and Dan Brown combined.
This year alone, he earned $70 million from his books, e-books, and deals involving television, comic book and video game spin-offs. The e-books alone bring in a hefty amount. ‘I, Alex Cross’ has sold 160,000 digital copies. He also has a large global fanbase, getting $10 million in foreign sales. His books are almost guaranteed hit.
But to Patterson’s credit, he’s prolific and spends hours creating the novels that have built his fanbase (and his bank account). He recently signed a contract that involves writing 17 books by 2012. Let’s hope he doesn’t get writer’s block—of course, there’s nothing like a $100 million contract to inspire you.
Her vampire romance series ‘Twilight’ was a phenomenal hit, and even if she didn’t write a new book this year she earned enough from residuals and royalties to still rake in $40 million.
A huge chunk of it was from the movie adaptations. The third Twilight movie earned $175 million in is first week, despite such poor acting, editing and script that it’s a shoo-in for the annual Razzy awards (which pays tribute to the worst moments in movies—and a vampire that shines like a Christmas ball in sunlight definitely falls in that category). The only possible explanation is the almost rabid fanbase that Meyer has buit, and an international obsession with her key character, Edward.
3. Stephen King
Stephen King proves he’s still master of the horror genre with a $34 million income for the year. About 30% is from backlist sales.
Like Patterson, Stephen King is a very prolific writer. He just released his fifty-first novel ‘Under the Dome’ which sold a respectable 600,000 copies. King is also expected to get a hefty check from DreamWorks TV, which bought the rights to turn it into a movie.
With that kind of money in the bank—plus a long and successful career—nobody would blame King if he slowed down and enjoyed his well-deserved wealth. However, he really loves to write, contributing to the New Yorker and niche publications (such as the horror magazine Fangoria) and even Playboy. He writes short stories, essays, and poems.
They say you can’t buy love, but millions of women are happy to fork over some of their money for the change to at least imagine it. Danielle Steele’s romantic novels may be cliché—boy meets girl, girl meets boy, bad things happen that keep them apart for at least 500 pages, and everything gets fixed in the end with a passionate kiss—but she has a gift for story telling and creating lovable characters. She has written 71 books, and the public clamors for more.
This year alone, her books earned $32 million. About $1 of that was, unfortunately, a settlement from a very messy court case with a former assistant who embezzled about $760,000 from her. Danielle Steele has also agreed to release all of her books in digital form, which will be sold on Amazon.
5. Ken Follet
The suspense novels of this highly successful British author have won both public and critical acclaim. In fact, when one newspaper survey recently ran a nationwide poll on the best novels in the last 60 years, they voted Ken Follet’s book, ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ as second. (The first was ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ In another survey by BBC (which searched for the nation’s most beloved book) it ranked # 33. The historical novel was also included in Oprah’s Book Club. Follet released a sequel, ‘World Without End’ in October 2007. This year, he earned $20 million for his works, some of it from the royalties he received for the TV mini-series based on ‘Pillars.’ The book was also turned into a boardgame.