Friday, August 10, 2012

Forbes List of Highest Paid "Authors" in the World

Rick Riordan and his Wimpy Kid
It's that time of year again.  Forbes has just announced its list of the "World's Top-Earning Authors" and, as usual, I want to throw up.

First, here's the list:
1.  James Patterson ($94 million)
2.  Stephen King ($39 million)
3.  Janet Evanovich ($33 million)
4.  John Grisham ($26 million)
5.  Jeff Kinney ($25 million) 
6.  Bill O'Reilly ($24 million)
7.  Nora Roberts ($23 million)
8.  Danielle Steel ($23 million)
9.  Suzanne Collins ($20 million) 
10. Dean Koontz ($19 million)
11.  J.K. Rowling ($17 million) 
12.  George R.R. Martin ($15 million)
13. Stephenie Meyer ($14 million)
14. Ken Follett ($14 million)
15. Rick Riordan ($13 million)
Is this what we have come to, Reading World?  I admit to enjoying some of Stephen King's work (especially his "long short stories" or novellas), Ken Follett's historical fiction, and some early Grisham, but the rest of this lineup has me shaking my head.  Don't even get me started on hacks like James Patterson, though, because none of us can spare that much time.

Note: I am also giving a pass to Jeff Kinney of the Wimpy Kid series because anything that gets kids excited about reading is OK by me - and these actually look good.  And O'Reilly's Lincoln is a cut above his usual stuff, too, although there's not much of a track record there.

It's almost all genre and YA fiction.  And next year, as the Forbes article points out, we will almost certainly see 50 Shades of Tripe author E.L. James crack the list for the first time.  Are serious adult readers really outnumbered by such a huge margin that not a single "literary" writer could crack this list?  Gore Vidal must be cursing out there somewhere.

The scariest thing about a list like this is that, with the demise of so many bookstores and traditional publishers, this might be all we can find in the future - this and a haystack of millions of self-published e-books within which it has become impossible to locate worthy offerings.  I need a beer...


  1. This is unsettling to see, but also not surprising. I do wish at least one literary author had made the list, but when you think about it, that's pretty impossible. Because unlike YA novels (and a lot of genre), literary novels usually require more time and care to write. So authors aren't producing multiple books in one year, resulting in less income.

    At least I hope that's the reason why more literary authors didn't make the cut. They don't pump out quick and cheap stuff (like Grisham and Roberts), and their writing is meant for adults (unlike Collins and Rowling). Quality takes time. But that quality really should be rewarded. It's sad that it's not.

  2. I'm willing to give Uncle Stevie and Jeff Kinney props, too. The rest -- oooh, pass the beer.

  3. I'm with you on this. Though I wasn't even impressed by Ken Follett.

    I also think that people buy books for other people & pick up what's on the largest display, or that they've heard about - thus the stuff self-perpetuates.

    I dunno - maybe we're just more discerning than most people. :-)

  4. I have read about 3 of these authors, got tired of their books, and passed on. I'm guessing there is no shortage of readers who might come in waves.

  5. I have read very few of these authors, which is interesting to me. However, I would rather these authors(and others!) make this money than movie stars make movies for the limited amount of "work" they do for the money that they make. lol

  6. James Patterson bothers me the most. I really enjoyed his earlier books, but everything since the Jester has been mediocre at best. Nevermind that he probably writes very little of the books himself now...

  7. That's exactly what gets me, Renee. Quality never gets rewarded as it should. And anything that gets hot gets exploited to death...vampires, witches, fan fiction, and the like. It's pretty much all garbage, with rare exception, but it pays well.

  8. I probably should have better qualified my comment about Follett, Debbie. Really the only one of his that I remember thoroughly enjoying was The Pillars of the Earth, and I'm not sure that one would stand up to a second reading. I do have a copy of the follow-up but haven't tried to read it yet.

  9. Your uncle Stevie would be pleased to hear that you give him a pass on this one, Susan.

  10. Harvee Lau, I think it's a lot about wanting to read what is makes people feel more secure about themselves, especially young readers feeling all that peer pressure.

  11. Interesting theory, Kayo...although I don't think Patterson does much work these days other than signing contracts and outlining work for others to do. He's an architect, not a construction worker who has to get his actual hands dirty.

  12. Books N'Crooks...less and less every year from what I understand. Soon Patterson will just sign the contract to farm his name out and go back to bed.

  13. Ryan, it's all about name recognition and image. One success in any field that makes you a "celebrity" and you're set for at least a couple of books. Quality be damned.

  14. Dammit -- I just wrote a comment and somehow it did not let me post it.
    I'll try again -- Firstly, as to your last ellipticizes sentences, I am having a beer as I write this, and I could not agree more with your assessment of this listing.
    My first thought, on seeing it, was:
    "I must tend to love authors that are NOT making a heap of money at it!"
    Because no one I read is ON this list.
    But they SHOULD be,
    Having said that, I do agree with what you mentioned about Jeff Kinney, or children's authors in general. Anyone that gets kids to read -- I salute them. I happen to know a kid that adores the Wimpy books.
    But overall -- yeah, this list is a sad statement. I mean -- culture-wise.
    And now... another beer....

  15. P.S.
    An addenda to my former comment --
    Ken Follett.
    He's actually not all that bad, really.

  16. Thanks for having the patience to type all that again, Cip. I hate when that happens and, depending on my mood, I sometimes just opt out from making a comment.

    What kills me about this list is that writing of quality so seldom rewards its author to a degree approaching what the fifteen on this list earn. Sad, is right.