Top 20 Richest Authors in the World (and Their Net Worth)

Every book these authors have written has rewarded them with a big, fat paycheck.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

The richest authors in the world

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When starting out, most budding writers are not thinking of six-figure advances, movie adaptations and merchandising lines. After all, simply getting published is a challenging task in itself: Moby DickAnimal Farm and The War of the Worlds are all literary classics that were initially disregarded, while Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 was allegedly named after the amount of times it got rejected.

But for those who eventually make it into print, there is the potential to earn big bucks, and to prove it, we’ve compiled a list of some of the highest-paid scribes in the business.

So, if you fancy yourself as the next literary sensation, here’s a bit of inspiration: these are the top 20 richest authors in the world, according to Wealthy Gorilla.

20. Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins attending the movie premiere of DFree /

Estimated net worth: $80 million

A dramatic writing graduate from New York University, Suzanne Collins originally worked as a television writer for Nickelodeon, before publishing a successful series of children’s novels. In 2008, however, she began writing instead for young adults, publishing the first instalment of The Hunger Games trilogy (paid link), later to be adapted (by herself) into a critically acclaimed film series starring Jennifer Lawrence.

The 60-year-old writer has won numerous awards for her work, particularly for her The Underland Chronicles children’s books.

19. Janet Evanovich

Estimated net worth: $80 million

When Janet Evanovich first started her career, she was writing short romance novels under the pen name Steffie Hall. What propelled her to fame, however, was her Stephanie Plum book series that center around a female bounty hunter, whom the author describes as “incredibly average and yet heroic if necessary”.

With 200 million books in print, works available in 40 languages, and 40 of her books appearing in the New York Times bestseller list, it’s no surprise that Janet was selected for the inaugural 2021 Forbes 50 Over 50.

18. Deepak Chopra

Deepak ChopraYahoo via Flickr

Estimated net worth: $80 million

An important figure in the New Age movement, Deepak Chopra’s books — the contents of which have been largely described as technobabble — have made him one of the wealthiest advocates for alternative medicine.

The Indian-American author’s approach to healing disease is built on the philosophy that the human body is not made of matter, but rather of energy and information. He also claims that ageing can be sped up, slowed down, or even reversed. Despite the scientific community regarding this as totally invalid, Chopra’s estimated net worth still rose to a mind-blowing $80 million.

17. Jack Higgins

Estimated net worth: $86 million

Henry “Harry” Patterson, writing under the pen name of Jack Higgins, was a best-selling British author known for his thrillers and espionage novels. His most famous work, The Eagle Has Landed (paid link), was written in 1975 and has since sold over 50 million copies.

Patterson’s novels, nearing 80 in total, have sold 250 million copies and been translated into over 50 languages.

Higgins passed away at his home in Jersey in April 2022, at the age of 92.

16. Paul McKenna

Paul McKennaDeepinthezone via Wikimedia Commons

Estimated net worth: $100 million

Paul McKenna is a British hypnotist, behavioral scientist, and author of self-help and personal development books. Over the course of three decades, McKenna claims to have helped millions make “small changes that yield huge results”. While some swear by his methods on managing lifelong struggles with weight gain, smoking, stress, and insomnia, others have criticized him as being just another snake-oil salesman.

As of today, McKenna has sold 10 million books in 35 countries.

15. George RR Martin

George RR Martin attending the 2018 HBO Emmy After PartyKathy Hutchins /

Estimated net worth: $120 million

Unless you live alone on a secluded island, chances are that you know this man. George RR Martin is the 74-year-old American author behind the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire (paid link), adapted into the Emmy Award-winning TV series Game of Thrones.

Among dozens of other short stories, novellas and novels, the books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series alone have sold around 100 million copies worldwide and are available in over 40 languages.

14. Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer at the movie premiere of Jaguar PS /

Estimated net worth: $125 million

Like her indirect protégé EL James, Twilight (paid link) creator Stephenie Meyer also had no writing experience prior to publication, reportedly completing the draft manuscript for her vampire love story in just three months. Yet, also like James, the resultant output — three best-selling sequels and a billion-dollar-grossing movie franchise — has seen the Connecticut native subsequently cement her place among the literary world’s wealthiest.

13. Dean Koontz

Dean KoontzALA The American Library Association via Flickr

Estimated net worth: $145 million

Since publishing his first novel, Star Quest, in 1968, Dean Koontz has become a staple of science fiction, thriller and suspense writing, having published hundreds of original works under a variety of pen names. Many of these have been adapted into feature-length films, including Phantoms (starring Ben Affleck and Peter O’Toole), Hideaway and Mr Murder.

12. EL James

EL James at the movie premiere of Featureflash Photo Agency /

Estimated net worth: $150 million

Erika Mitchell, widely recognized by her pen name EL James, requires little introduction. As it’s commonly known, Mitchell’s inspiration for Fifty Shades (paid link) was sparked by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga.

What started as fan fiction, first published online in 2009 under the web name Snowqueens Icedragon, quickly went on to become the best-selling British book of all time. Fifty Shades of Grey won two UK National Book Awards a year after its publication, in the 2012 Popular Fiction Book of the Year and Book of the Year categories, and has since sold 125 million copies around the world.

11. David Oyedepo

Estimated net worth: $150 million

David Oyedepo is a Nigerian preacher, Christian author, and founder of the Living Faith Church Worldwide. To date, he has published 90 titles, most of which have been translated into major languages, including French and Spanish. His faith-based works and teachings aim to “liberate the whole world from the oppression of the devil”.

10. Dan Brown

Dan Brown speaking at the 2015 Web Summit in DublinG Holland /

Estimated net worth: $178 million

Originally an aspiring musician, much of Dan Brown’s early career was spent teaching to support himself, before deciding to focus full time on writing in 1996. The result was his debut, Digital Fortress, which was quickly followed by the first of his Robert Langdon novels, Angels & Demons, in 2000.

In 2003, the second Langdon novel, The Da Vinci Code (paid link), quickly became the top-selling novel that year, despite poor reviews, numerous inaccuracies and allegations of plagiarism. Nevertheless, several sequels have subsequently followed, as has a series of big-budget Hollywood adaptations.

9. Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer attending the 2012 Pia Michi Prom fashion show in LondonFeatureflash Photo Agency /

Estimated net worth: $195 million

Originally a Member of Parliament in his native UK, Jeffrey Archer — a current member of the House of Lords — has courted controversy throughout his career, including accusations of insider trading, involvement in a libel lawsuit, and his role in a financial scandal that left him bankrupt and forced to swap politics for writing in order to earn an income.

As a result of this enforced career change, Archer has penned an extensive array of novels, short stories and plays, as well as a trilogy of diaries recounting his time spent in prison for perjury.

8. John Grisham

John Grisham the movie premiere of Debby Wong /

Estimated net worth: $220 million

A former criminal lawyer, much of John Grisham’s work has drawn inspiration from his previous career, with his legal and political thrillers continuing to top the bestselling charts even today. His breakthrough came in 1989 when A Time to Kill — a story based on a victim testimony he heard in court, and later adapted into a film with Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock — was finally accepted for publication (after 28 rejections, no less).

Since the start of his career, Grisham has written over 40 books and won numerous awards, including the 2011 and 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

7. Barbara Taylor Bradford

Estimated net worth: $300 million

You’ve probably heard of A Woman of Substance. Published in 1979, Barbara Taylor Bradford’s debut novel has since gone on to sell over 33 million copies worldwide, making it into the list of top 10 biggest-selling novels of all time.

Despite her works mostly following the same rags-to-riches formula, that of young, ordinary women who achieve extraordinary things, all 39 of Bradford’s novels became bestsellers both in the US and the UK. As the saying goes: don’t fix something that’s not broken.

6. Danielle Steel

Danielle Steele at the Beverly Hills HotelFeatureflash Photo Agency /

Estimated net worth: $310 million

With 190 published books (to date), 5 marriages and a host of children, nobody can claim that Danielle Steel has been short on material to write about. A former advertising copywriter, she was encouraged by a boss to pursue writing full time, publishing her first novel in 1972.

Since then, the 75-year-old has received little in the way of critical acclaim for her work, with many of the themes and plot devices in her stories more or less the same. This hasn’t curtailed her popularity among readers, though, and she continues to publish several novels each year.

5. Nora Roberts

Nora RobertsCBS News

Estimated net worth: $390 million

Celebrated primarily within the romance genre, Nora Roberts — who has written under a variety of guises — began her literary career as a bored stay-at-home mother during her first marriage. After numerous rejections, she finally published her debut, Irish Thoroughbred, in 1981.

Since then, the 71-year-old has won numerous awards and seen many of her novels adapted into made-for-television movies.

4. Stephen King

Stephen King at New York Comic ConGeorge Koroneos /

Estimated net worth: $400 million

Born in Portland, Maine in 1947, Stephen King is a modern literary great, and the mind behind some of the most famous fiction ever written. Especially celebrated for his work in horror (CarrieThe Shining and It) and fantasy (The Running ManDreamcatcher and The Dark Tower series), many of his works have been adapted for the big screen, including several of his short stories such as Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption (paid link).

In 1977, King published the first of seven novels under the pen name Richard Bachman, in “an attempt to answer the question of whether his success was due to talent or luck”.

3. James Patterson

James Patterson attending the movie premiere of Jaguar PS /

Estimated net worth: $560 million

A former marketing executive, James Patterson published his first novel in 1976 and has since been a pillar of fiction writing in the US. He holds the record for the most New York Times bestsellers and has sold hundreds of millions of his books worldwide.

The 75-year-old is not without his critics, though, with many particularly skeptical of the fact that much of his work is co-authored, including a recent collaboration with former US president Bill Clinton. Nevertheless, his books continue to sell, alongside his numerous ongoing television appearances and collaborations, adding to his net worth of over $500 million.

2. JK Rowling

JK Rowling attending the movie premiere of JStone /

Estimated net worth: $1 billion

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the second highest-paid author in the world is also one of its most business-savvy. Through the creation of the wizarding world depicted in her Harry Potter novels (paid link), JK Rowling has not only captured the imagination of millions of readers worldwide but also established an enormous commercial empire in the process.

Despite the huge, ongoing buzz, many Harry Potter fans have become disillusioned by Rowling’s tweets around the topic of gender identity and rights over the last two years. When she’s not busied with Twitter feuds, Rowling continues to write non-Potterverse adult fiction under the guise of Robert Galbraith.

1. Élisabeth Badinter

Estimated net worth: $1.3 billion

An author, philosopher, and advocate of liberal feminism, Élisabeth Badinter is considered among the most influential intellectuals of France. Her most notable works include The Myth of Motherhood, The Conflict, and XY: On Masculine Identity.

In 2007, Badinter was made a Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters, recognizing her among the most eminent artists and writers who have made a significant contribution to furthering the arts in France and beyond. She is also the largest shareholder of Publicis Groupe, the third biggest communications group in the world, founded by her father in 1926.

Final thoughts

If we’re to draw any conclusions from this list, it’s that there’s plenty of money to be made in the literary world. Besides that, we can infer that readers don’t tire of repetition as quickly as you’d think, and that a bit of negative publicity never really hurt anyone. In fact, for some authors on this list, controversy seems to act as nothing but a springboard to success.

Let us know your thoughts below!


Originally published on October 3, 2018. Contains contributions by Siôn Phillpott.