E.L. James, who penned the “Twilight” fan-fiction turned mega-hit erotic trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey” has been named the top-earning author of 2013 by Forbes. According to the mag’s round-up, James earned $95 million between June 2012 and June 2013.
“Fifty Shades” has reached phenom status, with a Sam Taylor-Johnson adaptation slated for August 2014, for which James has already pocketed a cool $5 million. A former Blighty television executive, the three “Fifty Shades” installments are all that James has published so far, but a new novel is said to be in the works.
James sold more copies faster than any other author in history — more than 70 million in the first eight months they were on sale in the U.S. Industry analysts attribute that success to the advent of the e-book format, which provided fans with a discreet way to read the tawdry lit in public. Nora Roberts (No. 8) also owes a great deal of her $23 million take to e-readers; she sold more than 3.2 million digital copies in 2012, more than any other author other than James.
James’ explosion onto the scene bumps former champ James Patterson to No. 2. The veteran adult thriller scribe, who first published in 1976, earned $91 million in the same 12-month span.
Patterson still reigns supreme when it comes to churning out hits at a furious pace — he published 13 titles in 2012 and is set to hit the same number by year’s end.
And taking a cue from fellow literary giants Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins (No. 3 on Forbes’ list with $55 million) — who have indicated that the real c ash cow is in young adult novels that have crossover appeal — Patterson is taking a swing at the younger demo. His “Maximum Ride” and “Witch & Wizard” series have made him as much of a presence in the YA market as adult thrillers, where he cut his teeth.
Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln” and follow-up “Killing Kennedy” landed him a spot at No. 4 with $28 million in earnings this year. The Fox News host’s upcoming “Killing Jesus” is likely to be the most popular in the series.
The list includes several faces familiar to Hollywood. There’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” writer Jeff Kinney at No. 6, Dan Brown at No. 9 and at No. 10 Stephen King (who’s also behind for CBS’ summer sensation “Under the Dome”).
J.K. Rowling takes the 15th spot from the success of “The Cuckoo’s Calling” (published secretly under the pen name Robert Galbraith), which tops the hardcover best-sellers list. Another foray into adult fiction, Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy” is No. 1 among paperbacks.
George R.R. Martin of “Game of Thrones” fame is the last writer included on the list with a $16 million take, despite being the best-selling paperback writer of 2012 (after E.L. James).