Number of writers and authors in the U.S. 2011-2018

In 2018, there were over 45.2 thousand writers and authors working in the United States, down slightly from the previous year but still markedly higher than the figure recorded back in 2011. Many changes have occurred for employees in this sector over the last few years, and it is a truth universally acknowledged that writing for a living is no mean feat. In fact, a 2018 survey revealed that just 21 percent of full-time published authors made one hundred percent of their income from books. The majority of professional U.S. writers admitted that they pursued other writing-related activities on top of their book writing work in order to earn money. Additionally, median royalty income for authors who were traditionally published by a commercial or academic publisher dropped by one thousand U.S. dollars between 2013 and 2017. By contrast, self-published authors saw an impressive increase in their royalty income, and along with romance/romantic suspense authors were the only ones to see a positive change in this regard. On the other side of the spectrum are the few globally renowned authors who got their big break, and who make millions of dollars per year.

Who is the richest author in the world?

As of June 2018, the wealthiest author worldwide was James Patterson. Whilst Patterson has received mixed reviews from his critics and peers alike, he has seen incredible success throughout his prolific career. His income was last recorded as being 86 million U.S. dollars, far outperforming ‘Harry Potter’ author J.K. Rowling as well as horror writer Stephen King, the latter of whom is one of Patterson’s biggest critics.

Some of Patterson’s books have been (loosely) adapted into film. The first was 1995 novel ‘Kiss the Girls’, which inspired the 1997 movie of the same name starring Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, and Ashley Judd. The movie was poorly received, and 2001 release ‘Along Came A Spider’ did not fare much better.

Other wealthy authors include ‘The Da Vinci Code’ writer Dan Brown as well as novelist John Grisham, both of whom have also had their work adapted into feature films.

Number of writers and authors in the United States from 2011 to 2018

Number of employees
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Release date

March 2019


United States

Survey time period

2011 to 2018

Special properties

excluding self-employed workers

Supplementary notes

Figures for periods other than 2018 come from previous publications.

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Statistics on "Book authors"

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