Despite the many authors we know by name, the chance of becoming a published author is somewhat rare, and becoming a wealthy published author is even more so. Some have accomplished this and have become household names, writing series, seeing their work on the big screen, and earning millions in the process.
Check out the world’s richest authors and the titles that pushed them to stardom.
11 Dean Koontz – $145 Million
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Koontz is known for his suspense thrillers. Novels like The Night Window, Elsewhere, and Devoted earned the author a fan base that keeps coming back for more. Koontz has sold over 450 million copies of his books across the world, and his work has been published in 38 languages.
10 Michael Crichton – $175 Million
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Most famous for his novel, Jurassic Park, Crichton reached blockbuster status when the book became a series of movies that fans are flocking to, still today. Crichton also worked as a screenwriter, film producer, director, and television producer throughout his career. He passed away in 2008.
9 Jackie Collins – $180 Million
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The famous British author has written 32 books, each one earning a spot on the New York Times’ Best Seller list. Eight of her books have been film-worthy, including The Stud and The World is Full of Married Men. Collins worked as a screenwriter, actress, and film producer and is the sister of actress Joan Collins. She passed away in 2015.
8 R.L. Stine – $200 Million
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Best known for his young adult horror series, Fear Street, and children’s series, Goosebumps, Stine’s name has perhaps resurfaced in 2021 as Netflix released a three-part series based on the Fear Street novels. He has sold over 400 million copies worldwide and, according to Money Inc, holds the spot for the best-selling author of a children’s book series.
7 Tom Clancy – $300 Million
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Clancy has seen his novels turned into numerous blockbuster hits such as Patriot Games, The Hunt for Red October, and Clear and Present Danger. Many of his world-famous novels are based on espionage, military science and distinguish themselves by technical knowledge, and are based on his most famous character, Jack Ryan. Clancy passed away in 2013.
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6 John Grisham – $300 Million
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Once a practicing lawyer, Grisham left law to pursue his love of writing. His first novel was A Time to Kill, and the well-known author continued with crime novels throughout his career. His bestseller to date is The Firm, a popular film starring Tom Cruise. According to Wealthy Genius, Grisham makes approximately $45 million per year from royalties and other fees from licensing his books.
5 Nora Roberts – $370 Million
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4 Danielle Steel – $385 Million
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She wrote her first manuscript at 19 but didn’t publish her first book for nine years, following her divorce from her first husband. Steel has written more than 70 novels, picture books, children’s literature, and more, but multiple divorces and real-life dramas led Steel to produce some of the world’s most popular romance novels. According to Wealthy Gorilla, she’s sold more than 800 million copies of her books and is the fourth best-selling author of all time.
3 Stephen King – $400 Million
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It’s no wonder King would be at the top of the list as his books and screenplays have circulated across the globe, and many have become cult classics. Carrie, The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, and many others have gone down in history as the backdrop to our first scary movie, drive-in movie experience, or novel that kept us up at night. King has won over 50 literary awards.
2 James Patterson – $750 Million
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Patterson is known for his fictional character Alex Cross and the many mystery novels that follow. He’s branched out to numerous genres, including mystery, young-adult fiction, thriller, comedy, romance, and science fiction, and has seen many of his books become hit films over the years. As the first person to sell one million e-books, Patterson’s annual earnings are estimated at around $95 million.
1 J.K. Rowling – $1 Billion
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The richest author in the world and the first author to ever achieve this level of financial success owes it all to the mega-hit Harry Potter series. What began as a young boy discovering his secret abilities at a school full of interesting and dangerous characters led to perhaps one of the largest movie and merchandise earnings to date. Rowling is known for her rags to riches story, sharing her experiences as homeless and living on social security to the ultra-wealthy woman she is today.
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Sources: Money Inc., Wealthy Genius, Wealthy Gorilla
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