This is How Much the Best-selling Authors Earn Per WORD


This is How Much the Best-selling Authors Earn Per WORD


Whether it’s a classic novel or recent release, we all have our favourite books to read. But do you realise just how much money you may be gifting the authors by buying one of their books? If it’s one of the best-selling authors of all time, you could be making them billionaires!

Interested in discovering just how much the biggest authors earn, The Knowledge Academy set to find out.

The study

We firstly collated a list of the best-selling novels of all time. Assuming authors receive 10% of the price of the novel as royalties, we calculated how much the author would get per book sold. Taking the approximate number sold worldwide, we then calculated how much they have earned to date – we’ve broken these figures down into earnings per page and even per word!

Which are the best-selling books of all time?

Considering living authors only, we narrowed down the top 20 selling books as:

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (J. K. Rowling) – 120million copies

  2. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) – 80million copies

  3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J. K. Rowling) – 77million copies

  4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J. K. Rowling) – 65million copies

  5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J. K. Rowling) – 65million copies

  6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J. K. Rowling) – 65million copies

  7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J. K. Rowling) – 65million copies

  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J. K. Rowling) – 65million

  9. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) – 65million

  10. Fifty Shades of Grey (E. L. James) – 54million

  11. The Eagle Has Landed (Jack Higgins) – 50million

  12. Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Richard Bach) – 44million

  13. Sophie’s World (Jostein Gaarder) – 40million

  14. Angels & Demons (Dan Brown) – 39million

  15. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer) – 37million

  16. Fifty Shades Darker (E. L. James) – 37million

  17. Fifty Shades Freed (E. L. James) – 33million

  18. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) – 31.5million

  19. The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown) – 30million

  20. Twilight (Stephenie Meyer) – 30million


But as pricing and page numbers differ from book to book, the highest earning authors per page and word changes slightly.


The following books made the richest authors:

this is how much the best-selling authors earn per word


Perhaps unsurprisingly, in first place is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. But what is surprising is that the cult best-seller earns J. K. Rowling a staggering £429,955.16 per page, and £1,563.47 per word - that’s more than many Brits earn in one month!

The second highest earning book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The beautifully written allegory novel spoke true to many people with a staggering 65 million copies bought, which means the book earns Coelho a whopping £356,785.71 per page, and £1,297.40 per word.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets makes it to third place, adding onto J. K. Rowling’s impressive haul and righteous title as one of the best female authors of all time. The sequel to Harry, Ron and Hermoine’s antics has sold so many copies that it generates £245,111.55 per page and £891.32 for every word written.

Another renowned book series is Robert Langdon’s adventures. It seems sequels are almost as lucrative as original stories, with the second book in the Langdon series, The Da Vinci Code, claiming fourth place. Dan Brown earns an impressive £147,075.66 per page and £534.82 for every word read – maybe it’s time to learn some new skills and try our hand at book writing!

In fifth, sixth and seventh place are Follow Your Heart (Va’ dove ti porta il cuore) by Susanna Tamaro, Fifty Shades of Grey (E. L. James) and The Eagle Has Landed (Jack Higgins), with each author making £536.68, £495.87 and £464.36 per word, respectively.

Other iconic books to make the top ten highest earning include:

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling - £434.15 per word
  • Kitchen (キッチン) by Banana Yoshimoto - £430.14 per word
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach - £367.36 per word

How much do the best-selling authors earn in the US?


We were also interested to see how much our favourite authors earn per page and per word across the pond in America, too. It comes as no surprise that the Harry Potter books are popular globally, with six of J.K. Rowling's books featuring in the top 20! 

While many of the famous authors are also high earners in America, some new entries can be seen. The novel inspiring the famous Twilight movies that catapulted Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart to stardom enters at 14th place. The first book in the series earns Stephenie Meyer $101,736.53 per page and $369.94 per word!

Additionally, The Fault in Our Stars claims 19th place, with the heartbreaking tearjerker earning author John Green $347.10 per word. Psychological thriller The Girl on the Train also features, earning Paula Hawkins $358.04 per word to date!

Regardless of genre, finding the hook to create a great novel may just reward you nicely for it. Now might be time to consider enrolling on that creative writing course you keep putting off...



The collated list of best-selling novels of all time were considered from living authors only. The Knowledge Academy researched and found that authors receive an average of 10% of the price of a novel as royalties and used this to calculate earnings.

By taking the number of approximate copies sold worldwide per book, firstly the earnings to date for each author was calculated. Then, using the number of pages per each book and the average number of words per page as 275 (research suggests it is anywhere between 250-300), the total earnings per page and word was calculated.

Feature image credit: Bignai / Shutterstock


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