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Who are the richest writers in the world?

Updated on August 26, 2017
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The biographies of the literary greats tells us many things about these authors and the times in which they wrote.

A Successful American Writer Once Lived Here

This estate overlooking the Italian Riviera was owned by Gore Vida (and one partner) from 1972 until 2004.
This estate overlooking the Italian Riviera was owned by Gore Vida (and one partner) from 1972 until 2004.

Compiling the Lists

Every year, Forbes magazine publishes a list of the world's wealthiest writers. Since these lists change from year to year, observers of the publication world often consult these compilations to get a feel for how the literary world is changing. The list of names changes from year to year, yet still there are a slew of writers, who dominate the writing world on an annual basis.

Over the last six years writers, such as James Patterson, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Danielle Steele and John Grisham have become mainstays. Between 2015 and 2016, there has been only one new arrival. Paula Hawkins, fresh with her profits from The Girl On a Train, which earned 11 million last year, placing her at #11.

E.L. James

Born Erika Mitchell, her literary career took off when she published Fifty Shades of Grey
Born Erika Mitchell, her literary career took off when she published Fifty Shades of Grey

Gender and Language

Not surprisingly, writers of fiction in the English language dominate this list. Also, men tend to outnumber the women, but not by much, for each year typically finds five or six women authors on the 16 person list.

Writing genre varies but mysteries, suspense thrillers, horror, fantasy and young adult are always popular. By far the most popular writer has been James Patterson, who has dominated the number one spot with his fertile output of novels. In recent years, only E.L. James has been able to push Patterson off the number one spot. That occurred in 2013, when the British lady, published her popular erotic manuscript, Fifty Shades of Grey.

The James Patterson Writing Machine

Over the last decade James Patterson has by a wide margin outsold all others. His output has been around a dozen books a year, but don't be fooled by the large volume, for Mr. Paterson has a crew of co-authors, who help him immensely with this prodigious amount of writing. How else would Mr. Patterson be able to take the weekends off, so he could relax at his Palm Beach mansion. Over the years 23 different authors have received monetary gain for co-authoring at least one of this books.

With sales approaching a 100 million a year, James Patterson has also been the recipient of widespread criticism. For example, Stephen King has referred to Mr. Patterson as "a terrible writer, but he's very successful".



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The Popularity of Young Adult

One big surprise in the world of bestselling literature has been the consistent popularity of Young Adult books. In case you are curious, the Young Adult genre is usually defined by the both the age of the reader and the age of the main character. Ideally, with a Young Adult book you have a teenager reading about a hero or heroine that is the same age. However, anybody can read a YA novel, and some recent estimates speculate that over half of those, who read these books are aged, twenty or older.

This reality may have helped drive the popularity of Young Adult books, placing several YA authors on the list of the world's richest authors. The big winner here is J.K. Rowling, whose Harry Potter series have made her to be one of the richest writers in the world. At the same time, let's not forget writers like Stephanie Meyers, John Green, Jeff Kinney and Suzanne Collins, who have collectively penned scores of adventures and fine tales involving teen-aged main characters. Jeff Kinney deserves special praise, because he not only wrote but also illustrated his very, popular story, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

The Success of Harry Potter

Harry Potter continues to entertain both at the box office and the book stand.
Harry Potter continues to entertain both at the box office and the book stand.

Why Aren't Top Sellers Considered Literature

Though bestselling authors reach millions and millions of readers, there works have seldom gathered the top literary awards, such as the Nobel Prize for Literature or a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Authors, who win these prestigious prizes, often receive a huge boost in sales, though they rarely break into the multi-million dollar sales figures in the way that Stephen King, Dan Brown and Danielle Steele do on a regular basis.

On a similar note, film adaptions of bestselling stories have often been very successful at the box office. Stephen King, JK Rowling and Dan Brown have all had very successful movies created from their fictional tales. In fact, one of the bestselling movies of all time, The Shawshank Redemption, was created from King's novella of a similar name, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

Since its theatrical release in 1992, the Shawshank Redemption has become one of the most popular movies of all time.
Since its theatrical release in 1992, the Shawshank Redemption has become one of the most popular movies of all time.

Bill Clinton Teams Up With James Paterson

Just the other day, (May 8th to be exact), it was announced by the press that Bill Clinton will be joining forces with James Paterson to write a suspense, drama novel. The book will be titled "The President Is Missing" and according to the New York Times, the outline for the upcoming literary effort has already been completed. A publication date has been set for June in 2018.

My Take: Though the ex-president is a genuine fan of Mr. Paterson's books, this collaboration does appear to be on the opportunistic side, which each participant contributing just the right ingredients to insure a large monetary windfall for all. Mr. Clinton is definitely a very intelligent man, who is very familiar with the written word, but it remains to be seen how this book will be received.

Former President and First Lady

Barrack and Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic Convention
Barrack and Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic Convention

The Obamas Break All Book Advance Records

Earlier this year, it was announced that both Barrack and Michelle Obama signed advance book deals that when combined are well worth over 65 million dollars, thus setting an all time record for the biggest book advance ever. This book deal was announced back in March of 2017, and when it comes to fruit, it will make both writers very wealthy, in all likelihood placing both on the Forbes list of richest writers.

The main reason for such a high advance is Barrack Obamas proven track record as an accomplished and successful writer. In fact, it was Obama's success as a memoir writer back in the early nineties that propelled him on a fast-paced course, which eventually lead to the White House. In other words Obama was a successful writer before he was a politician.

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