J. K. Rowling and Michelle Obama

Behold! The world’s highest-paid authors of 2019

  • British author J.K. Rowling, ex-US First Lady Michelle Obama top the chart

Web Editor | ConsumerConnect

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is one of many financial blessings for author J.K. Rowling: The winner of six Tonys clocked $2.3 million in ticket sales in a single week, the most of any non-musical play in Broadway history, Forbes reports.

Add 2.8million print units sold in the United States (US) across her empire—a down year for Rowling—as well as eight-figure sums from theme parks and a new film about The Boy Who Lived, and she reigns supreme, again, on our ranking of the highest-paid authors, with an estimated $92 million pretax.

Next on the list is 2018 front-runner, James Patterson, who follows Rowling with $70 million, selling 5.5million domestic print units in 12 months, according to NPD BookScan.

The President Is Missing, which Patterson co-wrote with Bill Clinton, was the bestselling adult fiction novel of 2018.

He is still America’s richest author, his net worth estimated at $800 million last year.

All in all, the world’s five highest-paid authors sold more than 18.6million print books combined in the U.S. during our scoring period, logging $235million. This is a $10 million increase from last year’s collective haul.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama rounds out the top three, earning an estimated $36 million. She and her husband, former President Barack Obama, received a reported $65 million joint-advance for two books in 2017, an unprecedented sum for a presidential memoir.

Although Barack Obama’s book has yet to be published—rumour has it that the tome could arrive during the 2020 presidential race—the success of Michelle Obama’s shows the sky-high advance may be worth it for publisher Penguin Random House.

Her memoir, Becoming, sold more than 10 million copies across formats during our timeframe, and was the bestselling book of 2018 despite being released less than two months before the end of the year.

Obama padded her pay cheque with ticket sales from her ten-city book tour, selling out arenas more like a rock star than an author.

Jeff Kinney, author of the beloved Diary of a Wimpy Kid children’s series, ranks fourth with $20 million, selling 3.6 million domestic units in 12 months.

The 14th Wimpy Kid novel came out this past November. Kinney was recently made an officer of France’s Order of Arts and Letters, one of the highest literary honours.

“At a certain age, you realise you have a chance to make the world you live in,” Kinney told Forbes in 2016.

“My advice would be to embrace that idea early on and forge your path forward.”

Stephen King slid from third to fifth place with earnings of $17million, a $10million drop from 2018, when he collected an eight-figure pay cheque from the blockbuster It movie adaptation.

His latest flick, Doctor Sleep, grossed a disappointing $71million worldwide. The king of horror moved 2.1 million domestic print units in our scoring period.

We close the covers—for now, at least—on Dan Brown and John Grisham, who made the ranks of the top five in 2018, but were pushed out this year.

Brown, the scribe behind The Da Vinci Code, previously tied with Kinney at $18.5 million for fifth place, and Grisham, the legal thriller author, had ranked fourth with $21 million.

As for Rowling, look for her reign to continue. She served as the screenwriter for the tenth “Wizarding World” movie, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which grossed $650 million at the worldwide box office.

There’s another on the way—the next Fantastic Beasts movie is slated for 2021—and, with it, a cauldron full of cash.

Methodology

All earnings estimates are from June 1, 2018, through June 1, 2019. Figures are pre-tax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers are not deducted.

Earnings estimates are based on data from NPD BookScan, Box Office Mojo and Pollstar Pro as well as interviews with industry insiders, including some of the authors themselves.

The world’s highest-paid authors of 2019

  1. Stephen King ($17 million)

The king of horror’s earnings dropped by $10 million from last year, when he collected an eight-figure paycheck from the blockbuster It movie adaptation.

  1. Jeff Kinney ($20 million)

The author of the beloved Diary of a Wimpy Kid children’s series sold 3.6 million domestic units in 12 months.

  1. Michelle Obama ($36 million)

The former United States’ First Lady is the only newcomer to 2019 author rankings. Her memoir, Becoming, sold more than 10 million copies across formats during our timeframe.

  1. James Patterson ($70 million)

America’s richest author sold more than 5.5 million domestic units during our scoring period. The President Is Missing, which Patterson co-wrote with Bill Clinton, was the bestselling adult fiction novel of 2018.

  1. J.K. Rowling ($92 million)

Book sales no longer account for the lion’s share of the Harry Potter scribe’s earnings.

Rowling collected eight-figure sums from theme parks, theatrical productions, and a new film about The Boy Who Lived.

Joanne Rowling CH, OBE, HonFRSE, FRCPE, FRSL, better known by her pen name J. K. Rowling, is a British author, film producer, television producer, screenwriter, and philanthropist.

Former United States’ First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is an American lawyer, university administrator, and writer, who was the first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017.

She is married to the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and was the first African-American First Lady of the United States.

Michelle Obama is the only newcomer to 2019 global author rankings.

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