The Forbes list of the Highest-Paid Authors came out a few weeks ago. There were the usual suspects: Stephenie Meyer, JK Rowling, Dan Brown, Danielle Steele and Stephen King to name a few. All the heavy hitters in publishing were accounted for.
What I did find surprising was the fact that James Patterson occupied the #1 spot. Granted the list covers the period from June 2009- June 2010 and Patterson signed a $100 million deal for 17 books. A nice chunk of change. According to Forbes, he has published 51 bestsellers and writes in longhand! All of these numbers are mind boggling.
Despite the mega money, I find the authors themselves very interesting and in a sense, each one is a brand unto themselves. Stephenie Meyer came up with the idea for the Twilight series after dreaming about a vampire. JK Rowling went from being a single mother on welfare to a multimillionaire. Janet Evanovich moved from St Martin’s Press to Random House this year because she couldn’t secure a $50 million contract from her former publishing house. And if you read any of Stephen King’s books you can only imagine what kind of nightmares he had as a boy.
That being said, these figures represent only a minuscule amount of writers– perhaps one to two percent. Where does that leave the remainder? And what about the rest of us who are not even published?
It’s disheartening and yet the question that begs to be asked, is why bother to write at all? After all, it’s one of the few professions where you have to deliver first before you get paid and that could take years. The answer, I would assume, is that for most of us, writing is like breathing: we do it because we have to.