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PublishingThe Highest-Paid Authors

Dirk Smillie,

Times may be tough for book sellers, but for Stephen King, James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer, the money keeps rolling in.


Publishers are feeling the heat, with hardcover sales weak and the rise of e-books promising to upend their business models. But the world's 10 top-earning authors are making out just fine, earning a combined $270 million over the 12 months to June 1.

James Patterson's $70 million in earnings vaults him to No. 1 on our list, up from second place two years ago. The prolific thriller writer's latest deal, signed last fall, involves penning a carpal tunnel-risking 17 books by the end of 2012 for an estimated $100 million.

In Pictures: The 10 Highest-Paid Authors

Patterson's literary empire includes television, comic book and gaming deals. His foreign sales alone bring in well over $10 million a year. Patterson's e-books are posting respectable numbers, too. I, Alex Cross alone has sold 160,000 units digitally. Ironic, given that there's no computer in his home office--Patterson writes all his novels in longhand. To date he has published 51 New York Times best sellers.

Vampire romance author Stephenie Meyer ranks second this year. Her Twilight series has become such a juggernaut that despite not releasing a new title in 2009, she earned $40 million over the year. About $7 million of that came from the movies adapted from the Twilight series. In June the third Twilight installment pulled in $175 million in its first six days, the most successful first week of any movie of 2010.

The bad climate for brick and mortar bookselling hasn't hurt prolific horror maven Stephen King, either, who placed third on our list with a take of $34 million, $8 million of which we estimate came from backlist sales. His 51st novel, Under the Dome, was released in November, selling 600,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan. It was optioned by DreamWorks TV.



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reading this was a double edged sword for me, because its good to know that digital books haven't overtaken the publishing industry completely, and I would like to think of myself as a better writer than Stephenie Meyer, but also this makes me nervous, will I be able to make my living off of my books once I start publishing? (Rhetorical question of course)

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The delivery system (paper,

The delivery system (paper, eBook, movie, TV,) doesn't really matter. They all need the initial product - your story. You write a story which people want to experience, and you will sell it.