Fifty Shades of Pay: EL James tops 2013 list of highest earning authors

The woman behind Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey's love affair beats off competition from James Patterson and Suzanne Collins

As stories go, this one comes as no surprise… EL James, author of the best-selling “mommy porn” Fifty Shades of Grey novels, has topped the list of the highest paid authors in 2013.


The British writer became the world’s top earning author after pulling in an estimated £61.4 million fortune in the 12 months between June 2012 and 2013 thanks to sales of her 2011 novel and 2012 follow-ups Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

James – who lives in London – is making her debut on the writers’ rich list this year after becoming a sales phenomenon both in the UK and abroad, according to data collected by Forbes. Her books centre around a steamy affair between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, with a film adaptation planned for next year. 

Knocked off his top spot by our own Erika Leonard James is American author James Patterson whose earnings total almost £60 million from works including his Maximum Ride and Witch & Wizard series. Patterson is so popular in the States that one in every 17 hardcovers sold is written by him, with Forbes already predicting his return to no.1 next year. 

Suzanne Collins, the woman behind teen franchise The Hunger Games, completes the top three, with earnings of £35.5 million in the last 12 months. Not only are her books mid-way through a blockbuster trilogy, but she also has steady earnings from her other five-book series The Underland Chronicles. 

Rounding off the top five are Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy author Bill O’Reilly at £18 million, followed by long-term literary heavy-hitter Danielle Steel at £16.8 million. 

Other notable authors featuring in the top ten are The Da Vinci Code and Inferno author Dan Brown on £14.2 million and Stephen King, whose popularity has seen a resurgence following CBS’s Under the Dome TV series and the promise of a long-awaited follow up to The Shining, which have helped ensured earnings of £12.9 million. 

Here is the list in full: 

1. E.L. James (£61.4m)

2. James Patterson (£58.9m)

3. Suzanne Collins (£35.6m)

4. Bill O’Reilly (£18.1m)

5. Danielle Steel (£16.8m)

6. Jeff Kinney (£15.5m)

7. Janet Evanovich (£15.5m)

8. Nora Roberts (£14.9m)

9. Dan Brown (£14.2m)


10. Stephen King (£12.9m)