The 10 Richest Authors of All Time

It's no surprise Stephen King is one of the world's richest authors.
It's no surprise Stephen King is one of the world's richest authors. / Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Writing books isn't the most lucrative career. According to Indeed, the national average salary for novelists is $49,046 per year. While many writers struggle to make a comfortable living from their work, a lucky handful have made a fortune off their literary talents. Keep reading to discover the richest authors of all time.

According to Most Expensive Thing, Elisabeth Badinter is the world's most valuable author, with an estimated net worth of $1.3 billion (partly gained from her role as the majority shareholder of Publicis Groupe, an advertising and public relations company her father founded). The French philosopher is known for her books on feminism, including The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. She is also one of France's wealthiest citizens.

In the second spot is J. K. Rowling, author of the blockbuster Harry Potter series. Her fantasy books and the movies, theme park rides, and merchandise they’ve inspired have earned Rowling a net worth of $1 billion. It’s estimated that the novelist made $181 per minute in the 2016-17 fiscal year, or $4.37 per word based on the average typing speed.

That’s it as far as literary billionaires go, but the millionaires on the list boast impressive earnings as well. Familiar names include James Patterson, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, and Danielle Steel. After looking through the full list, check out the best-selling books of all time here.

  1. Elisabeth Badinter // $1.3 Billion

  2. J.K. Rowling // $1 Billion

  3. James Patterson // $560 Million

  4. Stephen King // $400 Million

  5. Nora Roberts // $390 Million

  6. Danielle Steel // $310 Million

  7. Barbara Taylor Bradford // $300 Million

  8. Nigel Blackwell // $292.5 Million

  9. John Grisham // $220 Million

  10. Jeffrey Archer // $195 Million

A version of this story ran in 2021; it has been updated for 2023.