While penning a good tale is one way to become the richest author, it certainly isn’t the only path to the top. From millionaires to billionaire status, these rich authors not only made it onto our list of the richest authors of all time, but they often did so via surprising (and roundabout) ways. Note: all figures are based on estimated figures in USD via Celebrity Net Worth.
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20. Dave Ramsey (Net worth: $200 million)
In addition to being an author, Dave Ramsey is a financial expert, entrepreneur and radio host. His subject is finance, and he also often works in his Christian beliefs. He became well known following his first book, Financial Peace in 1992. His radio program “The Dave Ramsey Show” can be heard in both United States and Canada. And speaking of wealth, here is a rundown of just who was the richest man in the world each year from 1987 to 2021.
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19. Tom Clancy (Net worth: $300 million)
The late Tom Clancy was an American author and producer. He was a prolific writer and his novels have been turned into successful games and movies, including The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games and The Sum Of All Fears. Before making a living as a writer, he first worked at an insurance agency. He was also part owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. Clancy passed away on October 1, 2013.
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18. Olivia Harrison (Net worth: $300 million)
A British-Mexican author, Olivia Harrison is the widow of famed ex-Beatle George Harrison. The two lived a relatively quiet existence until George’s passing in 2001. She worked on several biography projects of her late husband, and co-authored the book, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, released in 2011. While she didn't quite make the world’s richest women list, $300 million is nothing to scoff at.
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17. Kenneth Copeland (Net worth: $300 million)
Copeland is an author, public speaker, televangelist and musician. He's best known for preaching on abundance and prosperity, which is commonly referred to as the prosperity gospel. It is primarily based on preaching through television, books, DVDs and CDs. He has been surrounded in controversy for purportedly using church funds to fuel his lavish lifestyle.
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16. Barbara Taylor Bradford (Net worth: $300 million)
This British-American novelist debuted her first novel A Woman of Substance in 1979. This book spawned an entire generation of fantastic fiction series. To date, she has written over 30 novels, and sold 30 million copies worldwide. However, it’s her first work that sealed her spot as penning one of the top 10 bestselling novels of all time.
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15. Pleasant Rowland (Net worth: $310 million)
Pleasant Rowland is an American educator, writer, reporter and entrepreneur perhaps best known for creating the “American Girl” doll brand (pictured). She was first a schoolteacher in the 1960s and then a reporter and anchor for an ABC affiliate, before founding the popular line of dolls, merchandise and books. Rowland sold the company to Mattel in 1998 for $700 million and is one of the richest self-made women.
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14. Nora Roberts (Net worth: $400 million)
Another American author on this list, Nora Roberts is one of the most prolific romance novel authors, although she was initially rejected by Harlequin. The year 1985 saw her first bestseller with Playing the Odds. In addition to romantic novels, she also writes romantic suspense under the pen name, J.D. Robb, and in the U.K., she is known as Sarah Hardesty. She is known for writing eight hours a day, each day of the week and continues to be a prolific writer. She is one of the best-paid authors in the world.
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13. Michael Crichton (Net worth: $400 million)
Author, television and film producer Michael Crichton is best known for his works like Jurassic Park. His books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide Before his death in 2008, Crichton also created the massively popular show ER.
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12. John Grisham (Net worth: $400 million)
Known for his popular legal thrillers, John Grisham was first an attorney before penning his now-famous works. The author earns $50-80 million per year in book royalties and advances alone. He has sold over 300 million copies of books worldwide, and several works have been turned into movies, including The Firm, The Pelican Brief and The Client. His bestseller A Time To Kill was his first novel written in 1987 and was initially rejected by many publishers before finding a home with Wynwood Press.
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11. Stephen King (Net worth: $500 million)
One of the most prolific writers of our time, at the time of this writing Stephen King has published more than 60 novels, having sold more than 350 million copies worldwide. He is best known for writing and screenwriting horror, suspense, fantasy and gothic novels — many of which have been turned into award-winning films and mini-series. His best-known works include Carrie, It, The Shining and the short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. He has won more than 50 literary awards.
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10. Rose Kennedy (Net worth: $500 million)
American philanthropist and socialite, Rose Kennedy (yes, of those Kennedys) authored a book titled Times to Remember in 1974. While it’s widely believed that her wealth was the product of illegal bootlegging by her husband and family members, little actual evidence supports this. Instead, Joe Kennedy is said to have made the bulk of his money investing in legal liquor importing and distribution after the prohibition and was a successful financier who got out of the stock market just before the 1929 crash.
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9. Paulo Coelho (Net worth: $500 million)
Brazilian novelist, musician and lyricist Paulo Coelho is a prolific writer who knew he wanted to be a writer from a young age. Unfortunately, his parents sent him to what was at the time considered a mental institution, from which he escaped a number of times before finally being released four years later. He travelled the world and took an extended trip through Spain which later lead to his story The Alchemist – a national bestseller. He continues to write, and to date has sold more than 150 million copies.
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8. Grant Cardone (Net worth: $600 million)
Grant Cardone is an author, motivational speaker and automobile salesperson whose own life story served his trajectory onto the list of richest authors. Early on in his life, Grant developed a drug addiction and at 25 entered rehab. Within five years of leaving rehab, he was a millionaire. He has authored five books, including If You’re Not First, You're Last, which made numerous best sellers lists, including The New York Times.
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7. Matt Groening (Net worth: $600 million)
The American animator, television producer, cartoonist and author is best known for the massively popular The Simpsons (the longest-running primetime-television series in history). When Groening first moved to Los Angeles in 1977 at age 23 to become a writer, he had to take on normal day jobs to make ends meet. At that time he made a self-published comic book for his circle of friends describing that life, titled Life in Hell. His first professional comic sale came a year later, and some 11 years later, on December 17, 1989, the half-hour show premiered and the rest is history.
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6. Candy Spelling (Net worth: $600 million)
Spelling is an American heiress, writer, socialite and entrepreneur. She was born and raised in the 90210 zipcode since made famous by her even more famous husband, Aaron Spelling, who passed away in 2006. Spelling’s autobiography, Stories from Candyland made it to the New York Times bestseller list, and she regularly writes for several publications, including LA Confidential and the Huffington Post.
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5. Danielle Steel (Net worth: $600 million)
Even if you haven’t read her many works, you may recognize the name. Steel is a well-known American romance novelist, and having spent most of her childhood in France, she first took to writing with poetry. She impressively penned her first manuscript at 19, and following the birth of her first daughter, turned to copywriting at an ad agency and subsequently working for a public relations firm. In a classic art-imitating-life scenario, Steel has had several dramatic and well-publicized marriages and divorces, which inspired several works. She has written over 190 books, which include picture books and children’s literature. In 1989 she got on the Guinness Book of World Records for having a book on the New York Times Bestseller List for 381 consecutive weeks.
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4. Jim Davis (Net worth: $800 million)
Perhaps also doubling as the world’s richest cartoonist, Davis is best known for his Garfield comic strips about a mischievous and wisecracking cat, his owner, Jon Arbuckle and Jon’s lovable but gullible dog, Odie. Garfield is the most widely syndicated strip, and Davis continues to write new adventures for these characters, including for a new CGI-animated series.
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3. James Patterson (Net worth: $800 million)
Patterson is an American popular fiction novelist best known for his Alex Cross series (first published in 1976) about a psychologist. He’s a masterful storyteller who has spawned his talent of spinning tales to other genres, including non-fiction, young adult and romance novels.
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2. JK Rowling (Net worth: $1 billion)
The controversial British author and movie producer is well-known for the Harry Potter series, making her one of the wealthiest private British citizens. What is less known about Rowling is that before she became one of the richest authors, she was first a researcher and English teacher. Rowling applied for welfare before purportedly conceiving the magical world on a train ride in 1990. The Harry Potter movies alone have grossed billions of dollars (not including merchandising).
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1. MacKenzie Scott (Net worth: $32 billion)
This American novelist is partly known for being the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (who himself became the richest person on the planet in 2018). However, the California-native has won accolades for her writing in her own right; an American Book Award in 2006 for The Testing of Luther Albright. She also wrote Traps. Her divorce settlement was finalized in April 2019. She got $35.6 billion in Amazon stocks. The settlement instantly boosted Scott to the top of this list and made her one of the richest women in the world since the split.
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