So winning the Booker is life-changing? Not compared with this lot

The sums earnt by the best-selling authors in the world are mind-boggling

Share

There’s nothing like reading the Forbes list of best-selling authors if you want to feel like you’ve wasted your life. As a writer, I’m used to being delighted by relatively small sums of money. But even my heftiest advances look like pure, dry-roasted peanuts when compared with the lowest-placed author on the Forbes top 10 (Stephen King, who typed his way to $20m last year).

He, meanwhile, must be looking at the authors above him on the 2012 earnings list, and wondering if he should turn his hand to a little light erotica, since E L James trounced him, earning an enormous $95m. Perhaps Fifty Shades of Green would be more accurate now. Still, she only just ended the year a nose (or whichever body part you prefer) ahead of James Patterson ($91m), which I find oddly reassuring. Almost as many of us like thrillers as enjoy light BDSM, which speaks highly of the reading public.

But I’ve spent this year doing more reading than writing: mostly literary fiction, for the Man Booker Prize, though we had plenty of genre fiction too. I’ve read thrillers, romances, sci-fi and spy novels, alongside the more ostensibly literary offerings. Not so much erotica, but perhaps the publishers heard I wasn’t a fan. This year’s longlist includes a couple of thrillers, one historical and one contemporary, which I hope prove here’s no disdain for a twisting plot on our judging panel.

But the great responsibility of judging this prize is the reputation it has for changing the life of the winner for ever. Plenty of people have told me that winning the Booker Prize is tantamount to becoming a millionaire. Not because of the prize money itself, which is a mere £50,000. Suzanne Collins (third in the Forbes list with $55m) can probably use that to line her cat’s litter tray. But the book sales, both in the domestic market and internationally, the increased advance on the next novel, the new-found interest in an author’s back catalogue: it all adds up. And though we’re reading the books for their literary merit alone, it’s hard not to be distracted occasionally by the prospect of awarding that life change to one writer over another.

Now, frankly, I realise I’ve been worrying over nothing. The literary lions of our time could produce mesmerising novels every year for the rest of their lives, and Danielle Steel (fifth place, $25m) could still trounce them all. Hilary Mantel could write a novel about Thomas Cromwell every 20 minutes and she’d still not come close to Dan Brown (ninth with $22m). So while I’m feeling a bit less successful as a writer, I’m happy to be feeling a lot less pressure as a reader. Maybe that’ll change when I get round to doing my accounts.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show  

When an Aussie calls you a ‘bastard’, you know you’ve arrived

Howard Jacobson
The number of schools converting to academies in the primary sector has now overtaken those in the secondary sector – 2,299 to 1,884 (Getty)  

In its headlong rush to make a profit, our education system is in danger of ignoring its main purpose

Janet Street-Porter
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee