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The Richest Crime & Mystery Authors

How much do your favorite writers make to keep you at the edge of your seat?


Though they’re not as glamorous as movie stars, our favorite authors still make the big bucks to bring us the best books out there. From legal thrillers to psychological suspense, there’s something for every taste down the aisles of the crime and mystery section at your bookstore. These 10 richest authors have managed to turn their passions into highly lucrative careers, all while benefiting you, the reader. 

James Patterson

2016 profit: $95 million

Net worth: $700 million

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For the past three years, Patterson has topped Forbes’ list of highest paid authors. Though he is best known for his Alex Cross series, which currently contains 22 books, Patterson also writes outside the crime genre—penning books for children and teens under his own imprint, JIMMY Patterson, which invests all proceeds from sales into pro-reading initiatives. 

Stephen King

2016 profit: $15 million

Net worth: $400 million

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Though mostly known for his bestselling horror books like The Shining and Carrie, King also writes crime and suspense books—including the Bill Hodges trilogy, which began with Mr. Mercedes in 2015. On a personal level, King is known for his love of Maine, where he owns two houses, and for his corgi, Molly—known to his Twitter followers as The Thing of Evil. After being struck by a car while walking, King announced in 2002 that he would stop writing due to his injuries, which made sitting uncomfortable. Luckily for us, he has since resumed writing but maintains that he will be moving at a slower pace.  

John Grisham

2016 profit: $18 million

Net worth: $300 million

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If you’re a fan of legal thrillers, then books with John Grisham’s name on the spine likely occupy your home bookshelves. His best-known works include The Rainmaker (adapted into a 1997 film starring Matt Damon and Danny DeVito) and The Runaway Jury (another adaptation starring John Cusack). Before his writing career, Grisham practiced law in Mississippi. His “big break” didn’t come until 1984, when he overheard the story of a horrific case that inspired his novel A Time to Kill, which was soon followed by his bestselling book The Firm. 

Tom Clancy

Net worth: $300 million

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Known for his Cold War espionage thrillers, Tom Clancy carved out his place in the crime genre with his first book The Hunt for Red October, which was published in 1984 and adapted into a film starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin in 1990. Notably, the book features the first appearance of Jack Ryan—a character who would go on to appear in nine of his own books. Though Clancy passed away in 2013, books are still being written in the universe he created.

Dan Brown

2016 profit: $9.5 million

Net worth: $140 million

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Dan Brown is best known for his 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, as well as the other books in the Robert Langdon series. Although The Da Vinci Code is the second book in the series, it was the first to be adapted into a film starring Tom Hanks—followed by Angels & Demons, the first in the book series, and Inferno, the fourth. 

A major theme of his series is ciphers and codes, which Brown has been interested in since he was young. Brown and his siblings would spend hours working on anagrams and crossword, even going on elaborate treasure hunts created by his father. Brown’s far from done with the Robert Langdon series. The most recent book featuring Langdon, Inferno, was published in 2013, and the fifth book in the series, Origin, is due out in October 2017.  

Mary Higgins Clark

Net worth: $140 million

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Queen of suspense Mary Higgins Clark is the author of over 50 bestselling books. Higgins Clark started her professional career as a radio scriptwriter and soon moved on to writing novels. Though her first novel, Aspire to the Heavens (historical fiction later republished as Mount Vernon Love Story) did not sell well, she persisted and returned to the suspense stories she loved as a child, penning Where are the Children? That book’s paperback right sold for $100,000, putting her on the map. 

Janet Evanovich

Net worth: $120 million

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Though she started off as a romance writer, Janet Evanovich is best known for her Stephanie Plum series, which follows a female bounty hunter. Plum has been featured in 27 novels and shorts and was played by Katherine Heigl in the 2012 adaptation of the first book in the series, One for the Money. The successful author has been writing professionally since 1987, when she sold her first romance novel for $2,000, and continues to write today. Her 24th Stephanie Plum novel, as aptly named as its predecessors, Hardcore Twenty-Four, will be published in November 2017. 

Honorable Mentions

Paula Hawkins

2016 profit: $10 million

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Though Paula Hawkins is relatively new to the writing scene, her debut novel The Girl on the Train took thriller readers by storm when it was released in early 2015. With an adaptation starring Emily Blunt quickly following in 2016, Hawkins raked in $10 million last year. Although that doesn’t compare to some of the others earning nine figures on this list, it’s a pretty good start for someone who has only published one novel! Her second psychological thriller, Into the Water, was released in May 2017.

Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling

2016 profit: $19 million

Net worth: $1 billion

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Though J.K. Rowling is far and away the author with the highest net worth on this list, most of that comes from her wildly successful Harry Potter series. However, Rowling hasn’t stopped writing since she penned her last Potter novel in 2007. In 2013, The Cuckoo’s Calling was released under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith—who was revealed to be J.K. Rowling in quite scandalous fashion (linguistic analysis was involved). The Cuckoo’s Calling is the first in the Cormoran Strike series, which currently contains three novels and follows private investigator Strike and his assistant Robin as they investigate different crimes together.

J.D. Robb, aka Nora Roberts

2016 profit: $15 million

Net worth: $350 million

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Nora Roberts is best known for her romance novels, of which she has written more than 200. However, she also writes the …in Death series under the pen name J.D. Robb. The series contains 55 police procedural novels that take place in the future and follow NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas’ investigations. Roberts manages to bring a good amount of romance into the series, as Eve’s relationship with her first suspect, Roarke, in Naked in Death, eventually turns into marriage. The author has released 55 …in Death novels. The 56th, Secret in Death, is scheduled to be released in September 2017. 

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