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The world's highest earning authors and their support of charity

Publishing success stories have been in the news following the runaway commercial success of EL James' 50 Shades of Grey and more recently, JK Rowling's first adult book, The Casual Vacancy,  becoming a best-seller before it was released.

It's no surprise that it is still possible to make big dollars in publishing and writing, despite the doom and gloom from the industry. And tensions remain between the artistic pursuit of writing and the commercial business of publishing, the fame notoriety or marketing of the author and the quality and value of what they actually write.

So who are the world's highest earning authors and, for a different perspective, what do they do with their wealth in terms of charitable giving?

Forbes magazine has a wide-variety of "rich lists" and these writers are named in their World's Top Earning Authors List. Forbes writer Jeff Bercovici says, "To generate our earnings estimates, we talk to authors, agents, publishers and other experts and review data including Nielsen BookScan sales figures."

The 14 top-earning authors in 2011 are listed along with a few details of how they use their wealth to help others. Click on the book covers to purchase their latest book.

Rick Riordan earned $13 million: Perhaps not as well known as other authors on the list, Riordan is a former San Francisco school teacher who is the bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Kane Chronicles, and the Heroes of Olympus. He is also the author of the multi-award-winning Tres Navarre mystery series for adults. In terms of charity, Riordan suggest supporting local charities like he does. On his blog, he says he supports San Antonia Youth Literacy, Child Advocates San Antonio and Camp CAMP (Children’s Association for Maximum Potential).
 
Ken Follett earned $14 million. Follett has just released the second book in his Century trilogy, Winter of the World to follow Fall of Giants. Meanwhile the $45 million TV miniseries based on World Without End will screen in a number of countries in late 2012. Follett made a successful move from war, thriller or crime novels to sweeping historical epics. Follett's charitable interests include being Chair of the National Year of Reading 1998-99, president of the charity Dyslexia Action for 10 years and " active in numerous Stevenage [his home town]charities".

Stephenie Meyer earned $14 million. There was a time in Australia when you could walk into a bookstore and the top three or four best selling novels were all by Stephanie Meyer. This success of her Twilight series was followed by the film adaption and now her stand-along 2011 novel, The Host, is also headed for the big screen. in 2010 $1 from each copy of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner sold in the US went to the American Red Cross while in April 2009, she took part in Project Book Babe, a benefit designed to help pay her friend Faith Hochhalter’s medical bills after Hochhalter was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has supported cancer charity auctions and MS research with signed books.

George RR Martin earned $15 million. Alongside Thomas Keneally, Martin has one of the best beards in books. The author of the Game of Thrones books continues to sell well with the recent release of A Dance With Dragons which is the fifth of the planned seven in the series. earlier this year he participated in the Weeklong Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary Charity Drive by giving away signed and inscribed hardcover copies of Dance With Dragons for those who made a $100 donation. He is also part of Worldbuilders charity drive through its 2013 Fantasy Pin Up Calendar (which is one of the stranger things I've seen recently...)

JK Rowling earned $17 million. And this is pre-The Casual Vacancy and post-Harry Potter so not bad going really. Her $8 million advance for Vacancy helped as did proceeds from online store Pottermore. She is likely to lift this figure in the coming year on pre-release sales alone.And that should make lots of charities happy as Rowling certainly has shared her wealth around. Charities which she has supported include: Book Aid International, Catie Hoch Foundation, Children with AIDS, Dyslexia Action, Gingerbread, Haven Foundation, Heifer International,Lumos, Make A Child Smile Appeal, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Raisa Gorbachev Foundation, Women's Fund for Scotland, and XP Support Group. Visit Look to the Stars to learn more about her generosity.

Dean Koontz earned $19 million. Koontz fans will be familiar with oddly intelligent dogs featuring in some of his books and so it is no surprise to learn that a dog charity benefits from his charitable endeavours. His first pet dog Trixie was an ex-service dog, a gift from Canine Companions for Independence for his gifts totalling $2,500,000 between 1991 and 2004. The author is an honorary board member and links to the charity from Trixie's website (yes, website). Koontz writes suspense thrillers and his two current hit series are Frankenstein and Odd Thomas - and this from an author who once did not believe in sequels...

Suzanne Collins earned $20 million. With a title like The Hunger Games the opportunity for joining forces with a food relief charity was obvious and "That’s why the Hunger Games [book and movie], the World Food Programme, and Feeding America have teamed up against hunger. For as little as $5, we can provide a child with a nutritious meal in school for an entire month. School meals mean that more kids – especially girls – are enrolled in school and stay in school." With two more films to follow, Collins' influence, fame and earnings will hopefully help even more people. The author is also a part of Scholastic's “Bookprint” at the online community, youarewhatyouread.com. For every Bookprint created, Scholastic Book Clubs will donate a new book to a child in need (up to one million books).

Danielle Steel earned $23 million. The romance novelist made $35 million last year so perhaps her fortunes are flagging, but lets hope the impact of charity lives on. The Nick Traina Foundation was founded in 1998 Steel as a legacy to her son who lost his life to manic-depression, when he committed suicide at 19. The mission of The Nick Traina Foundation is to make a meaningful contribution in the field of mental illness. His Bright Light, Danielle Steel’s book about her son’s life is available through Delacorte Press. All of the author’s proceeds and agent’s fees from this book will go to the foundation, which will also receive direct proceeds from the publisher for all copies sold. Through the foundation, Steel supports many other mental health organisations.

Nora Roberts earned $23 million. Nora Roberts is certainly a hard-working author has written more than 200 romance novels and also writes under the pen name JD Robb and has also written under the pseudonym Jill March. Additionally, some of her works were published in the UK as Sarah Hardesty. She was the first writer to be inducted into the Romance Writers Hall of Fame. Her foundation has possibly the world's worst website but she is reported to give millions to the foundation which is dispersed to support literacy, children's programs, arts organisations and humanitarian efforts, "with local organisations being its priority". Her next book is The Perfect Hope which is out in November. Click the book cover to pre-order.

Bill O'Reilly earned $24 million. I'll admit to being unfamiliar with Bill O'Reilly but as an American author who is also a Fox News host (The O'Reilly Factor), he has made a lot of money from historical books such as Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. He is a well-known conservative commentator in the US but one who supports gun control and opposes the death penalty. O'Reilly's charitable support includes St Francis Food Pantries and Shelters, The Doe Fund, Tuesday's Children, Wounded Warrior Project and Yellow Ribbon Fund.

Jeff Kinney earned $25 million. It is perhaps that most of us feel or have felt a bit wimpy as a kid that Kinney has done so incredibly well. His Cabin Fever instalment of the Wimpy Kid series, was the top-selling book of 2011, with 3.3 million copies sold. The movie version of Dog Days made $15 million at the box office in its opening weekend. Kinney started in 2004 with an online, daily-post version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid which was an instant hit. In 2009, Kinney was named one of Time magazine's 100 "Most Influential People" in the world. In terms of giving, Kinney has named Sight Savers America his “Charity of Choice” - there's a great story about how this came about here. Click on the book cover to pre-order the next Wimpy Kid book.

John Grisham, The Racketeer, new book, novel, charity, UbuntuJohn Grisham earned $26 million. The author of 24 novels, one work of non-fiction, a collection of stories, and three novels for young readers John Grisham is well known not only for his legal fiction but for his support for Ubuntu Africa. Nelson Mandela said of the word ubuntu: "Ubuntu [is] that profound African sense that we are only human through the humanity of other human beings.” Ubuntu Africa is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of HIV-positive children in under-served communities by establishing community-based programs that provide lifesaving health and support services.Grisham auctioned the rights to name a character after a loved one or friend in his next novel to raise funds for Ubuntu Africa. He also set the Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And he has built six Little League baseball fields on his property to serve local teams. His new book The Racketeer is out later this month - click on the cover image to pre-order.

Janet Evanovich earned $33 million. Evanovich began as a writer of romance novels but when she turned to the suspense dramas of Stephanie Plum - lingerie buyer turned bounty hunter - she hit bounty herself with 18 successful novels in the franchise and number 19 ready for pre-order (right). While she told Forbes that she finds the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon "strange" she is not a stranger to charitable giving. Her main area of support seems to be directed at student writers such as her involvement in the National Writers Series Annual Summer Scholarship Fundraiser Benefiting Student Writers.

Stephen King earned $39 million. Some of this $39 million came from the success of  time-travel book 11/22/63 and a new instalment of his Dark Tower series, and no doubt from a steady flow of royalties from his huge back catalogue and movie adaptations. He is reported to have established The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation to support artists impoverished by ill-health but it is now a private non-profit organisation that "promotes strengthening and supporting communities and draws upon the values and spirituality of the founders. The Foundation has a special interest in organisations and people who have less recourse to usual channels of resources, focusing on community-based initiatives in the State of Maine only." He has supported campaigns to heat homes during winter and letter-writing campaigns for Amnesty International.

James Patterson, new book, novel, bestseller, fiction The highest earning global author of 2011 is James Patterson with a massive $94 million. Forbes tells us he  earns nearly all his money from book sales and relatively little from TV and film royalties. This is only partly explained by his machine-like production of new books with no less than 14 new titles in 2011. He has a children's series as well as his adult thrillers and often co-writes with other authors. He finds time to support Feed the Children and Operation Gratitude and earlier this year donated 200,000 new hardcover books with his publisher through these charities to the United States Armed Forces. He is also passionate about encouraging both adults and children alike to read and so formed a partnership with the National Literacy Trust, an independent, UK-based charity that changes lives through literacy. On of his most recent releases is Zoo, reviewed here on Cread.

- Peter Hallett
Credit also to a blog post at Miratel Solutions for a similar story.

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