Writing isn’t usually considered a big money career, but a select few have the linguistic chops to make millions. Here are some written word royalty.
Some of these authors have the distinction of being spry with adjectives and enemies of purple prose. Others not so much, but instead choose to pander to the lowest common denominator. The reason I’m pointing this out is because I wouldn’t want you to think that all the authors on this list are worth reading, these are just the sales these talented and not-so-talented writers have managed to earn from their work.
Although there is something to be said when an idea, even a badly written one, becomes a cultural phenomenon and makes its creator, way more money than it should’ve. And yes I’m not going to be coy about it; I’m about you E.L. James.
Dan Brown - $9.5 Million
Made famous by his action packed conspiracy laden book, Da Vinci Code, that featured Harvard Professor of Symbology Robert Langdon. A contested figure in literature, Brown often finds himself at the pointy end of critics’ sharp words due to his allegedly clumsy writing style. Just for fun here are some sentences an Edinburgh Professor of Linguistics singled out as Brown’s worst. No matter what the bad language might say, most of Dan Brown’s series featuring symbology expert Robert Langdon have all gone on to top bestsellers list, bad language use or not.
Dan Brown’s most famous books The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons was also made into a feature films with Tom Hanks as the protagonist. The continuation of the story Inferno has just been completed and should be in theatres later this year.
Rick Riordan - $9.5 Million
With great sales comes great pokes from critics and Rick Riordan isn’t immune even though he is a well selling children’s book author. Rick Riordan is best known for his children’s series of books that feature Percy Jackson as a protagonist and take narrative cues from ancient Greek mythology. His books have spawned full feature films, merchandise and even summer camps. His books are often criticized for using overly fashionable prose that will inevitably be dated in a few years’.
R.R. Martin - $9.5 Million
R.R. Martin is much more accepted by the critics and in fact Lev Grossman called him “The American Tolkien”. Justifiably so, since he is a multi-awarding winning author and creator of the medieval fantasy epic Game of Thrones. Now all the fans are relentlessly hounding George for his latest (and maybe last instalment of A Song Of Fire And Ice) book. Martin’s success doesn’t just lie in the Game of Thrones series though; he is an extremely talented and award winning horror and sci-fi writer.
Paula Hawkins - $10 Million
Writer of the critically acclaimed Girl On The Train, Paula Hawkins is a recent addition to the world’s most profitable authors. Her personal narrative has just as many twist and turns as her thrilling novels. Born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) she moved to London at age 17, graduated in philosophy, politics and economics. From there she worked for the Times for a certain amount of time, then freelanced for various organizations. She finally decided to become a full time writer, but had to borrow money from her father, to complete her book.
John Green - $10 Million
John Green is not only an author but also a YouTube personality and a stunt driver? John Green’s life itself could be a novel as he was bullied as a teenager, decided to become a priest but had a change of heart after being a volunteer Chaplin at a children’s hospital in Ohio. After experiencing the suffering and death at the hospital he decided to become an author, this experience also inspired him to write the novel The Fault In Out Stars.
Veronica Roth - $10 Million
The youngest writer on the list, Veronica Roth is just 28 years old but has already experienced success that some never will even after decades of writing. Her debut trilogy of novels Divergent has won multiple awards and had all three books of the series made into movies. Amazingly Roth had penned the first book of the series during winter break when she was still in college. It was optioned out as a movie, just one year later. Impressively Roth at such a young age managed to place above veteran authors like Martin and Brown.
E.L. James - $14 Million
No matter how loathsome you think James is the truth is that she doesn’t care…because that book you call soccermom-friendly-porn drivel netted the first time author a whopping $14 million dollars, more than enough for your constantly expanding collection of whips and chains. She even managed to release the same book twice…technically in the form of Grey, which follows the same exact story from the 50 Shades book but from the male protagonist’s point of view.
Nora Roberts - $15 Million
An immensely prolific writer it is said that Nora Roberts writes up to 4 to 5 manuscripts a year. During her twenty year career she has penned an astounding 200 books. Roberts is known to write 8 to 9 hours a day, treating her craft less artistically and more pragmatically. Well $15 million dollars’ worth of proof is enough for me.
Danielle Steel - $15 Million
Arguably the Queen of the pulp romance novel, Danielle Steel has published a staggering 129 books and sold upwards of six hundred and fifty copies. She is considered the fourth best selling offer of all time and is currently considered the best selling author of today. She is probably the only author on this list to have married and ex-con in a state penitentiary’s canteen.
Stephen King - $15 Million
Who doesn’t love the King of Horror? Well it seems not that many, considering to date King has earned $450 million from his paranormal spook stories. From movie deals to graphic novels King has tried his hand at many different types of writing but always returns to the dark mistress of horror.
Ironically his career almost never happened, according to this anecdote: Although King had already written four novels, the first one he published was Carrie. King was so frustrated with the story he was writing that he threw it out, but his wife Tabitha fished it out and gave it back to him, telling her husband that she should make it a novel. He was given a 4.000 dollar check from Doubleday Publishing. The book then was bought by New American Library for 400.000 and went on to sell 1 million copies.
J.K. Rowling - $19 Million
The woman that gave us one of the most beloved cast of characters in recent memory with a heart-warming and endearing, from rags to riches story to boot. If you are unfamiliar, J.K. Rowling is the author behind the mega pop-culture hit Harry Potter which was published because of an eight year old. Alice Newton, which was the young daughter of Bloomsbury’s chairman (a large British publishing house), was given a chapter to review. The second she finished it she demanded the second chapter immediately. The rest is magical history.