The most successful authors in the UK: who is selling most?

JK RowlingDominic Lipinski/PA Archive/Press Association Images

There are no prizes for guessing which author has sold most books in the UK since records began. JK Rowling's Harry Potter titles are the runaway winners, selling an incredible £237.6 million - around twice her nearest rival.

But who are her closest challengers, who is the surprise in second place, and does this translate into endless riches?

The best

The list, put together by The Bookseller (the magazine for the book trade), named the author in second place as Jamie Oliver, who has sold £126.4 million books - starting with the Naked Chef, and moving on to campaigning and tours of the world.

It's an enormous achievement - putting him in the stratosphere ahead of his nearest chef rival, Delia Smith at number 10, with sales of £64.4million. She again is ahead of Nigella Lawson at number 19 and Gordon Ramsay at 45.

The first non-Brit in the list is detective novelist James Patterson, the American creator of forensic psychologist Alex Cross, at number three with sales of £100.7 million.

The rest of the top five is made up of comic fantasy novelist Terry Pratchet, and children's author Jacqueline Wilson (creator of Tracy Beaker and Hetty Feather), with sales of £93.5 million and £83 million.

The big blockbusting thriller writers Dan Brown and John Grisham are next, with sales of £82 million and £74.6 million respectively.

A surprise entry is at number 8, Richard Parsons, the writer of a number of GCSE revision guides, with sales of £69.5 million.

And the top ten is rounded off with comic writer Bill Bryson, whose books have sold £67.6 million.

Fame and fortune?

Other notable names on the list include Jeremy Clarkson at 24, EL James (the author behind the 50 Shades of Grey series) at 26, Andy McNab at 29, Enid Blyton at 37, Roger Hargreaves at 39, Alan Titchmarsh at 42 and Katie Price at 46.

So is becoming a best-seller your ticket to fame and fortune? The answer depends on the deal they have struck with their publisher, the number of books that have sold, and a professionally-negotiated deal for the film rights if a book is successful.

Clearly the top authors have earned an astonishing figure. JK Rowling is said to be worth £560 million - making her the world's richest author. However, she received an advance for the first book of just £1,300. Compare that to the reported £3 million advance she received for her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy.

Anyone in this list will have made a small fortune off the back of publishing. However, it doesn't necessarily mean that becoming an author pays well. Half of self-published authors make less than $500 from their efforts - which makes it possibly the worst-paid job in the world.

The top 20 most valuable authors

1. JK Rowling
2. Jamie Oliver
3. James Patterson
4. Terry Pratchet
5. Jacqueline Wilson
6. Dan Brown
7. John Grisham
8. Richard Parsons
9. Bill Bryson
10. Delia Smith
11. Julia Donaldson
12. Danielle Steele
13. Stephenie Meyer
14. Patricia Cornwell
15. Martina Cole
16. JRR Tolkien
17. Bernard Cornwell
18. Ian Rankin
19. Nigella Lawson
20. Alexander McCall Smith

The most valuable authors
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The most successful authors in the UK: who is selling most?

Author of the hugely successful Harry Potter series, Joanne Kathleen Rowling, has a net worth of £560 million – making her the world's richest author. Rowling wrote the first Potter books on a manual typewriter while a single mother living on benefits. The manuscript for the first Harry Potter novel was rejected by 12 publishers and when finally accepted, Rowling received an advance of just £1,500. Harry Potter is the highest-grossing film series of all-time and the brand has been estimated to be worth as much as £10 billion.


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