A decade after she first topped Forbes’ list of the world’s best compensated authors, “Harry Potter” writer JK Rowling again reclaimed the place recently. The 52-year-old made $95 million this year till May 31, more than anyone else. Rowling is the only woman to crack the 2017 index’s top five.
Her re-ascendance to the post is due to two big hits – the script of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” an on-stage production, sold over 2 million copies in North America within 48 hours of its release last summer. And Rowling also made bank from the on-screen success of “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them,” which grossed $814 million at the global box office.
The business magazine pegs Rowling’s net worth at $650 million. Apart from her cut from the seven books in the blockbuster “Harry Potter” series, which have sold close to half a billion copies, Rowling’s fortune is also padded by a share of proceeds from nine movies and royalties from theme parks.
James Patterson, who previously topped the magazine’s list, was snapping at Rowling’s heels. Patterson, who has been criticized for reducing the literary arts to a factory production, is known for producing over a dozen books in a year. Most of these books are co-written and jointly developed with him. He made $87 million last year and has an upcoming thriller with former President Bill Clinton.
Not a cakewalk:
Life, however, was not a cakewalk for Rowling, who was born on July 31, 1965 at Yate, England, United Kingdom.
A graduate of Exeter University, Rowling moved to Portugal in 1990 to teach English. There, she met and married the Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes. The couple's daughter, Jessica, was born in 1993. Her marriage ended in divorce that year. Rowling moved to Edinburgh with her daughter to live near her younger sister. There she struggled to support Jessica and herself on welfare. Even in such miserable condition, Rowling did not stop working on the books, the idea for which had occurred to her while she was travelling on a train from Manchester to London in 1990. After a number of rejections, she finally sold the book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. The word "Philosopher" was changed to "Sorcerer" for its publication in America, for the equivalent of about $4,000.
Rowling came from a humble economic background. She was going through severe financial stringency before writing children's fantasy novel – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
By the summer of 2000, the first three Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban earned approximately $480 million in three years, with over 35 million copies in print in 35 languages. In July 2000, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire saw a first printing of 5.3 million copies and advance orders of over 1.8 million. After a postponed release date, the fifth instalment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, hit bookstores in June 2003. The sixth instalment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, sold 6.9 million copies in the United States in its first 24 hours, the biggest opening in publishing history. Prior to its July 2007 release, the seventh and final instalment in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was the largest ever pre-ordered book at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores, and at Amazon.com.
A film version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, directed by Chris Columbus and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, was released in November 2001. In its opening weekend in the U.S., the film debuted on a record 8,200 screens and smashed the previous box-office record, earning an estimated $93.5 million. It is $20 million more than the previous record holder, 1999's The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It ended the year as the top-grossing movie of 2001.
Rowling after 'Harry Potter':
Britain's 13th wealthiest woman, Rowling—wealthier than even the Queen—does not plan to write any more books in the series.
It is said that Rowling is now working on a new Harry Potter-related book. On her website, she announced that she will write "an encyclopaedia of Harry's world" and the royalties from this volume will be donated to charity.
In 2014, Rowling published a short story about grown-up Harry Potter and a Hogwarts school reunion on her website Pottermore. Since the site launched, she’s added more stories and information about all things related to Harry Potter.
The author continues to work on more written works. The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a collection of five fables mentioned in the Harry Potter book series was released in November, 2008 at a tea party for 200 schoolchildren at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. Rowling donated all royalties from the book to Lumos, a charity, co-founded by her.
Rowling's first book aimed at adults, The Casual Vacancy, was published in September 2012 received mixed reviews. In 2013, Rowling broke into a new genre: crime fiction. But this new work involved a mystery all of its own. She published the mystery novel Cuckoo Calling that April under the pen name Robert Galbraith. In its first few months of release, the novel had modest sales and received positive reviews. Sales for the work skyrocketed in July when its author's identity was discovered.
Rowling supports a number of causes and organisations through her charitable trust, Volant. She is also the founder and president of the international children's charity Lumos, a non-profit organisation she founded that has a mission to support orphanages.
She was a patron of the Maggie's Centres for Cancer Care for several years. Maggie’s Centres are a network of drop-in centres across the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, which aim to help anyone who has been affected by cancer.