Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins makes world's richest writers list

Word-of-mouth sensation has made the novelist $10m in the last year, outselling George RR Martin, but still earning a fraction of James Patterson’s $95m

Former financial journalist Paula Hawkins has become one of the world's highest-paid authors, leap-frogging Game of Thrones bestseller George RR Martin to claim a spot in Forbes's yearly ranking of the richest writers in the world.

Forbes's list, compiled using official book sales figures and analysis from experts, is topped for the third year running by James Patterson, who earned $95 million (€111 million) over the last 12 months.

The amount puts the thriller author comfortably at the top of the magazine's chart: second-placed Jeff Kinney, author of the Wimpy Kid children's books, earned a paltry-in-comparison $19.5m, with Harry Potter author JK Rowling in third place for estimated earnings of $19m.

Patterson is likely to continue to dominate Forbes’s in coming months: he recently launched a new line of novels, the short, low-priced, pitched as “pulse-pounding thrillers under $5 and 150 pages or less” which are “impossible to put down”.


Published in the US in June, the BookShot titles have already sold almost one million copies, according to the publishing website GalleyCat.

Hawkins, who was brought up in Zimbabwe and moved to London in 1989, enters the Forbes charts for the first time this year in joint ninth place, earning $10m over the last 12 months, level pegging with young adult authors Veronica Roth and John Green.

Hawkins shot to fame in early 2015 after her thriller, The Girl on the Train, broke sales records on both sides of the Atlantic and sold almost 2m copies in the first three months of its release.

11m sales

Forbes said that, in total, Hawkins's novel has sold 11m copies worldwide, and with a film adaptation starring Emily Blunt due for release this autumn, her sales are likely to continue to grow.

“I’d been worrying for so long about my financial situation, what I was doing with my life, so I felt relief, then fear, with the realisation that when something starts to do very well, lots of people are going to read it, and that makes you feel really quite vulnerable,” sain in an interview last year with the Guardian.

Martin in 12th

Martin, who celebrates the 20th anniversary of the release of his fantasy bestseller, A Game of Thrones, on Saturday, is in joint 12th place in the chart, earning $9.5m last year, the same amount as Dan Brown and Rick Riordan. Last year, Martin was in 15th place on Forbes's list, with earnings of £12m.

Andy Weir, author of the science fiction hit The Martian, just missed out on a place on this year's list, as did Dork Diaries writer Rachel Renée Russell, while Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, Hunger Games creator Suzanne Collins and mystery writer Janet Evanovich dropped off the list this year after they "all saw sales of their catalogues take a dive", according to Forbes. Last year, Flynn and Collins had been in joint 13th place, with sales of $11m, said the magazine, while Evanovich was in sixth with sales of $21m.

Forbes said the authors earned a combined $269m over the last 12 months.

Forbes’s highest-paid authors 2016

  1. James Patterson $95m
  2. Jeff Kinney $19.5m
  3. JK Rowling $19m
  4. John Grisham $18m
  5. Stephen King $15m
  6. Danielle Steel $15m
  7. Nora Roberts $15m
  8. EL James $14m
  9. Veronica Roth $10m
  10. John Green $10m
  11. Paula Hawkins $10m
  12. George RR Martin $9.5m
  13. Dan Brown $9.5m
  14. Rick Riordan $9.5m

-(Guardian service)