Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Some very high royalty checks

Last week Forbes published a list of the world’s best paid authors.

No surprise: J. K. Rowling was at the top of the list. The creator of Harry Potter earned over $300 million in twelve months; this former struggling single mother is so rich and famous that her name wasn’t even questioned by my spell-checker when I typed it here! That’s impressive. Of course, Forbes includes income from both books and films, and Rowling is a rare case of a roaring success in one medium also being a roaring success in the other medium. Given the boost in the arm this author has given to kids’ reading, she deserves to be rewarded. If people are reading real books to their grandchildren fifty years from now, J. K. Rowling will be one of the big reasons for it. (And Rowling has also become a noted philanthropist supporting numerous causes beyond what she’s given simply by providing kids with books they love to read.)

In second place, Select Editions favorite James Patterson grossed a mere $50 million, which is quite a drop from number one, but to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it. Patterson and his stable of co-authors have to write a new book every couple of months to stay in the money, though: fortunately Patterson is something of a one-man publishing house, with mysteries, non-fiction, love stories, young adult stories—you name it. And he’s another strong proponent of young people picking up books, and once again my hat is off to an author who is making a difference in the world.

Rounding off the top three is Stephen King, earning $45 million for a combination of his books, graphic novels, TV and movies and even a column in Entertainment Weekly. The reigning master of horror for the last thirty years is nothing if not multifaceted. One of King’s major philanthropic projects has been the creation of the Haven Foundation, a support group for freelance artists and writers in the publishing industry.

The list in Forbes goes on, and as always with such a list, it’s interesting to see who’s there and who isn’t. And it’s also nice to know that these people are giving back. We might not be in some of the trouble we’re in economically these days if there were more people like these in charge of things.

Jim Menick

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