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I know you’ve gone far with writing that mystery novel. Don’t quite your day job just yet though ’cause it’s hard out there for a starving novelist.  On an average, authors in the UK earn about 6000 dollars annually. Yup! But then there are always exceptions to the norm of writing in the midst of poverty. It’s the millionaire’s club of novel authors. Just to give you an idea: The mommy porn, Fifty Shades of Grey , written by E. L. James has sold over ten million copies since it was first published in its present form in 2011. I’m stunned. The numbers do not even sound right. 10 million copies in less than two years? Anyway, here are the names of other high-earners.

A Million Sold (68 in all)

Joanne Harris’s Chocolat (1999)

Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper (2003)

John Boyne’sThe Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2006).

J K Rowling (Harry Potter),

Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones)

Kate Mosse (Labyrinth)

The Inner Circle

These lucky authors have published over a million for more than one book.

Rowling (eight books have topped a million sales), Dan Brown (five), Stephenie Meyer (four), Stieg Larsson and Philip Pullman (both three), Julia Donaldson, Khaled Hosseini and Fielding (both two)… Continue Reading 

Penniless Hype

Most of these novels are pop-fiction, with E. L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy taking the cake both for copies sold and for being the pop of all pop. Most of the authors featured in certificate exams, college classrooms, and academic journals don’t appear here. Then again, they probably don’t care much for money and are anti-fandom. For them, it’s all about connecting with the spirit of the letter, upholding the eternal truth of literature, giving voice to the voiceless, exposing the wounds in the depths of human history, etc etc. Phew! Simply reeling that off was a tad exhausting. I guess it’s safe to say their millions are of a less tangible nature, more spiritual if I may.


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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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