Female writers tap a rich vein

With yearly estimated earnings of more than $US90 million, prolific writer James Patterson is by far the highest earning author in the world but women are gaining ground, according to Forbes.com.

Stephen King, author of 11/22/63 and numerous other books, came in a distant second on the Forbes.com list, earning $US39 million, followed by Janet Evanovich, who wrote the Stephanie Plum suspense books and was the best paid woman with a $US33 million income.

Legal thriller writer John Grisham was not far behind with $US26 million, while Jeff Kinney, who penned the Wimpy Kid series, completed the top five, with earnings of $US25 million.

Jeff Bercovici, of Forbes.com, said most of the names are the list are familiar ones, including Patterson.

"The thriller maestro, whose young-adult fantasy and sci-fi franchises also do brisk business, took in an astonishing $US94 million this year."

But he added that it was a trio of women, Suzanne Collins, E.L. James and J.K. Rowling, who made a big impact.

Collins, who ranked eighth, made most of her $US20 million salary thanks to the phenomenal success of her Hunger Game books, the first of which has been made into a film with more to follow.

Harry Potter author Rowling, who came in 10th with $US17 million in earnings, is branching into the adult market with The Casual Vacancy, due to be published in September.

James, the author of the Fifty Shades of Grey books, was estimated to be earning more than $US1 million a week for during the height of their popularity. She is not on the list year but Forbes.com expects her to be in next year's ranking.

Forbes.com compiled the estimated earnings from May 2011 to May 2012 and ranking by talking to experts including: publishers, agents and authors. They also reviewed data on book sales and Nielsen BookScan sales figures.