When we think of a ‘struggling artist’, the first thing that springs to mind might be a musicians, a painter, or even a theatre actor. Some of us tend to forget that writers are struggling artists as well: The writing process itself isn’t easy, and even if you’ve got the material, it’s a saturated and competitive industry. The writer might wait for months, even years, to be inspired with an idea for a manuscript – but this is just the first step. Then, there’s the surely arduous task of creating a plot, characters – basically a structure, for the manuscript. To top it off, writer’s block is a constant threat lurking in the shadows of the creative mind. And if the author comes out of all this with his or her sanity still intact, publishing the work is the only way to make a profit from the lengthy process. And if a writer isn’t brave enough to go it alone in the self-publishing e-book world, a publisher has to be brought into the picture: Meaning the potential for constant rejection, or acceptance with just a tiny pay out.
Nevertheless, the world has bred a handful of authors who not only make a living from their writing, but have become influential figures in the publishing industry and celebrities in their own right. Forbes has provided information on the world’s top-earning authors last year, in terms of their annual earnings last year. Some names are conspicuously absent; the world’s richest author J.K. Rowling doesn’t feature, as her 2013 release under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith didn’t come anywhere near the success of the Harry Potter novels. Some are brand new, with the number 1 spot nabbed by an author who didn’t even feature on the prestigious list in the past. So, which wordsmiths made the cut – and the biggest cut? – in 2013? Let’s start with…
5. Danielle Steel – $26 million
Fourth best-selling author of all time, Danielle Steel, had a life like one of her glamourous heroines. She was born and raised in the City that Never Sleeps, New York City. Spending most of her childhood in France and given the opportunity to attend her parents’ dinner parties, Steel was exposed to the lives of the well to do and famous. After her parents’ divorce at the age of eight, though, she was raised first and foremost in New York City.
Her passion for writing began at a young age with stories, before progressing to poetry by her late teens. After graduating high school in 1963, she went on to study literature and fashion design first at Parson’s School of Design, before transferring to New York University. While at university, she married young to Claude-Eric Lazard, a French-American banker. Steel continued to write and completed her first manuscript at the age of 19. Her daughter, Beatrix, was born a year later, and Steel worked for several years in a New York public relations agency, ‘Supergirls’. A reader, impressed by the quality of her freelance work, encouraged her to write a book – which she would, of course, eventually do.
Her first book Going Home, inspired by her divorce from Lazard, was published in 1973. The theme of family and human relationships would recur in her novels to come. Her novels have been huge successes; despite gaining a reputation as being a bit “formulaic”, they’ve been translated in 28 languages and are sold in 47 countries worldwide. Twenty-two of her novels have been adapted for TV and two of them, including her 1992 novel, Jewels, were nominated for Golden Globes. Columbia Pictures bought the rights to her 1998 novel, The Ghost. In 2005, Steel reached an agreement with New Line Home Entertainment to sell the film rights to 30 of her novels for DVDs.
With all of this success, it’s no surprise that she’s the best-selling author alive and has sold over 800 million copies of her books.
4. Bill O’Reilly – $28 million
Political commentator turned author, William “Bill” O’Reilly came into the world in 1949. Born in New York City, his family moved to Long Island shortly after his birth. Primary school was spent in parochial school, St. Brigid and, to please his father, who insisted that he attend catholic school, Chaminade High School. He wrote for the school newspaper, The Circle, at Marist College. He received a BA in history at the University of London and following his graduation, Grisham taught history and English for 2 years at Monsignor Place High School in Miami. He returned to school the year after and received an MA in broadcast journalism from Boston University. He continued his writing as a reporter and columnist for various newspapers and then received a master of public administration from Harvard.
O’Reilly spent about a decade reporting for various television stations in the United States, including CBS and ABC news. Then, he spent the early nineties anchoring for the entertainment news program, Inside Edition and later, O’Reilly became host of the political commentary program, The O’Reilly Factor. He has ten books to his name, including The O’Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life and The No Spin Zone. Both consecutively reached Number 1 on the New York Times’ Non-Fiction Best Seller list.
3. Suzanne Collins $55 million
The world-renowned author who brought the world The Hunger Games was born in 1962 in Hartford, Connecticut. Suzanne Collins was moving constantly as a child, due to her father’s military career as a US Air Force officer. She studied at the Alabama School of Fine Arts as a Theater Arts major, and then took a double major in theater and telecommunications at Indiana University. Finally, she earned her Major of Fine Arts in dramatic writing from the New York University Tisch School of the Arts.
Two years after finishing school, she began writing for children’s television, including several Nickelodeon shows like Little Bear and Oswald. She also headed the writing team for the short-lived TV series, Clifford’s Puppy Days. She was inspired to work on children’s’ and Young Adult literature and went on to write The Underland Chronicles, beginning in 2003. But it was The Hunger Games trilogy, the first of which was released in 2008, which really made Collins a superstar in the publishing world, and as long as the movie adaptations of Collins’ books continue to form high-profile releases, this author is likely to be a fixture on best selling and highest-earning lists the world over.
2. James Patterson $94 million
Author James Patterson takes our top spot, with almost $100 million in net worth. Born in Newburgh, New York, he received his BA in English from Manhattan College and his MA in English from Vanderbilt University. After spending most of his life in advertising, he retired in 1996 to dedicate himself to writing full time. Patterson has written 95 novels since 1976, including 19 consecutive No.1 novels, and hold the Guinness World Record/The New York Times record for most bestselling hardcover fiction by a single author, which is 76. His books have sold over 260 million copies, outselling Stephen King, John Grisham and Dan Brown.
Patterson has received several plaudits throughout the course of his career, including the Edgar Award, the BCA Mystery Guild’s Thriller and the Children’s Book Award for Author of the Year. He’s the first author to have had new titles at the number 1 spot simultaneously on The New York Times adult and children bestsellers list, as well as the first to have two books on Novel Tracker’s top-ten list concurrently. In 2013, Patterson’s run as the highest-earning author in the world was toppled by a newcomer to the prestigious list…
1. E.L. James $95 million
The fan fiction writer turned literary icon, E.L James – or Erika Mitchell – was born in London, England. She began her career as a history major at the University of Kent, before working as a studio manager’s assistant at the Beaconsfield National Film and Television School.
Her writing career began in 2009 by writing fan fiction under the pen name “Snowqueens Icedragon”. James’ inspiration came mainly from the Twilight series and it was one of her Twilight inspired fan fictions that was later developed into the best selling erotic romance book series, Fifty Shades of Grey – in true 21st century fashion, this novel was first released online in its Twilight fan fiction form and was spotted by a canny publisher. The trilogy has set the record for fastest selling paperback of all time, selling over 35 million copies in the US and 70 million worldwide. In 2013, James’s net worth hit a whopping $95 million, including $5 million from the sale of the Fifty Shades films rights to Universal studios.
E.L. James been named Publisher’s Weekly’s “Publishing Person of the Year and has been named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World”. Fifty Shades of Grey has won the 2012 National Book Award for Book of the Year and Popular Fiction Book of the Year.