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The 15 Highest-Paid Authors Of All Time

POSTED ON Dec 10, 2023

Sarah Rexford

Written by Sarah Rexford

Home > Blog > Business > The 15 Highest-Paid Authors Of All Time

One of the reasons it’s helpful to learn about the highest-paid authors is so you have context on their success. Learning about author salary is fun, but going all the way back to their debut novel helps provide that context for you. Every writer started out with a blank page.

If you want to be a full-time author, learning from the top, highest-paid authors in our day will pave your way forward. 

Some of these names will likely go down as the highest-paid authors of all time. So, what exactly is the net worth of these highest-paid authors, and what was their debut novel?


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1. J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer'S Stone - The Illustrated Edition

It's no surprise that J.K. Rowling leads the way in the highest-paid authors. The world knows her as the author who inspired a generation to read. Her Harry Potter series took the world by storm. While she began her series writing on napkins, today, the names Harry, Ron, and Hermione are hard not to know. 

  • How many books has she written?
  • What’s her genre?
    • Primarily fantasy 
  • What’s her net worth?
    • 1 billion 
  • What was her debut book?
    • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

2. James Patterson 

12 Months To Live - James Patterson

James Patterson is an avid writer. His stories are so compelling they have been translated into many languages. To date, he is one of the highest-paid authors. 

  • How many books has he written?
  • What’s his genre?
    • Crime and mystery
    • Some romance and horror
    • Adventure for kids 
  • What’s his net worth?
    • 800 million 
  • What was his debut book?
    • The Thomas Berryman Number

3. Candy Spelling 

Stories From Candyland - Candy Spelling

Candy Spelling’s first book became a bestseller. This success inspired her second book. Both detail her life, struggles, and successes.

  • How many books has she written?
    • 2 books
  • What’s her genre?
    • Autobiography 
  • What’s her net worth?
    • 600 million 
  • What was her debut book?
    • Stories from Candyland 

4. Danielle Steel

The Whittiers - Danielle Steel

Known for her romance books, Steel has sold millions of copies of her stories. 

  • How many books has she written?
  • What’s her genre?
    • Primarily romance, some poetry, and two children’s series  
  • What’s her net worth?
    • 600 million
  • What was her debut book?
    • Going Home

5. Stephen King

Carrie - Stephen King

King is known as the King of Horror and has made quite a living off his storytelling prowess. Most people know Carrie as his first book, but actually, he wrote The Long Walk first. Carrie was his first published work.

  • How many books has he written?
    • 64 novels as Stephen King, many other works, and some novels under a pseudonym  
  • What’s his genre?
    • Horror,
    • Supernatural fiction
    • Suspense
    • Crime
    • Science-fiction
    • Fantasy
  • What’s his net worth?
    • 500 million
  • What was his debut book?
    • Carrie

6. Nora Roberts

Weather The Storm - Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts was stuck home with her child during a blizzard. She used her time indoors to write her first book, which led to her earning her place among the highest-paid authors. 

  • How many books has she written?
    • Over 225
  • What’s her genre?
    • Romance  
  • What’s her net worth?
    • 410 million
  • What was her debut book?
    • Irish Thoroughbred 

7. Michael Crichton  

The Venom Business - Michael Crichton

Crichton wrote his debut novel during medical school. He attended Harvard, so this is even more of a feat. Despite his passing, he still stands among the highest-paid authors.

  • How many books did he write?
    • 28 books
  • What was his genre?
    • Science fiction
    • Techno-thriller
    • Medical fiction
  • What was his net worth?
  • What was his debut book?
    • Odds On

8. John Grisham 

The Exchange - John Grisham

With a tremendous background as an attorney and politician, Grisham’s novels ring true to fact.

  • How many books has he written?
    • Over 50 novels
  • What’s his genre?
    • Primarily legal thrillers 
  • What’s his net worth?
    • 400 million
  • What was his debut book?
    • A Time To Kill 

9. Barbara Taylor Bradford 

The Wonder Of It All - Barbara Taylor Bradford

Bradford’s first novel sold millions of books back in 1979. Despite being 90 years old and one of the highest-paid authors, she still writes.

  • How many books has she written?
    • 39 books
  • What’s her genre?
    • Romantic thrillers 
  • What’s her net worth?
    • 300 million
  • What was her debut book?
    • A Woman of Substance

10. Tom Clancy 

The Hunt For Red October - Tom Clancy

Perhaps best known for creating the character of Jack Ryan, Tom Clancy was an author who kept readers on the edge of their seats.

  • How many books did he write?
    • 19 books
  • What was his genre?
    • Thriller
  • What was his net worth?
  • What was his debut book?
    • The Hunt for Red October

11. Dean Koontz

Devoted - Dean Koontz

Koontz’ books are so loved that they have been translated into 38 languages. 

  • How many books has he written?
    • Over 100 novels 
  • What’s his genre?
    • Suspense thrillers 
  • What’s his net worth?
    • 200 million
  • What was his debut book?
    • Star Quest

12. George R. R. Martin

Dreamsongs - George R. R. Martin

Best known for the HBO series Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin is one of the highest-paid authors for his complex characters and storylines. 

13. Janet Evanovich 

Going Rogue - Janet Evanovich

Evanovich is a well-known writer but began her career under the pseudonym, Steffie Hall. She co-authors novels as well. You can find her full novel list here.   

  • How many books has she written?
    • Over 40 books 
  • What’s her genre?
    •  Romance
    • Suspense
    • Mystery
  • What’s her net worth?
    • 140 million
  • What was her debut book?
    • Hero At Large 

14. Stephenie Meyer

The Chemist - Stephenie Meyer

Stephanie Meyer wrote her debut novel, Twilight, in just three months. This sparked the Twilight Series and later film franchise. She earns a place among the highest-paid romance authors. 

  • How many books has she written?
  • What’s her genre?
    • Primarily YA vampire romance  
  • What’s her net worth?
    • 120 million
  • What was her debut book?
    • Twilight 

15. Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

While Collins is most known for her series, The Hunger Games, she started her writing career writing for children’s television. 

  • How many books has she written?
  • What’s her genre?
    • YA dystopia, fantasy, picture books
  • What’s her net worth?
  • What was her debut book?
    • Gregor the Overlander 

Bonus: Veronica Roth 

Just for fun, here's one more name to join the list of highest-paid authors. Roth is best known for her YA dystopia/science fiction series, Divergent. With a net worth of 30 million as of 2023, she still continues to pour herself into her writing, her characters, and her readers. 

Your next step

Now that you have a working list of the top paid authors of all time, you may have some questions such as:

You are welcome to read through the above resources to find answers to these questions. But don't forget, writing is the key ingredient to adding your name to the above list. Use the free resource below and take the next step in your author journey!


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