August 20, 2010 / 6:11 PM / 9 years ago

James Patterson tops list of highest earning authors

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The book publishing industry may be experiencing lean times and lower sales, but a new survey shows fat incomes for many of the world’s top authors in the past year.

Bestselling thriller fiction author James Patterson topped the list of high-paid writers released on Friday by, earning $70 million, which includes his latest deal to pen 17 books by the end of 2012 for an estimated $100 million.

The Forbes rankings were based on earnings from books, film rights, television, gaming deals and other income from June 1, 2009, through June 1, 2010.

The 63-year-old Patterson has written more than 50 bestsellers and sold more than 170 million books worldwide, creating a franchise that expanded into Hollywood, television, comic book and gaming deals.

Vampire romance author Stephenie Meyer, whose “Twilight” series has been adapted into a top-grossing film series, earned $40 million despite not releasing a new book in the time frame of the survey. Her new 192-page novella, her first title in two years, was released in June.

Stephen King, the horror and suspense perennial bestseller, placed third with $34 million, including $8 million from backlist sales, according to the Forbes survey. His last novel, “Under the Dome”, was released in November, selling 600,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan.

Coming in fourth place was romance writer Danielle Steel, who earned $32 million, followed by British writer Ken Follett, whose 1989 acclaimed novel “The Pillars of the Earth” has been adapted into a U.S. TV miniseries. He raked in $20 million.

U.S. author Dean Koontz was No. 6, taking in $18 million with “The Husband,” which was optioned for film, while romance adventure author Janet Evanovich, famed for the “Stephanie Plum” romantic adventure book series, made $16 million.

Legal thriller writer John Grisham, romance writer Nicholas Sparks and prolific British author J.K. Rowling, who made $10 million — a smaller sum for the billionaire after she did not release a new book in the past year — rounded out the top 10.

The full list can be found on

Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Jill Serjeant and Bob Tourtellotte

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