Oline Cogdill


John Grisham is one of those authors who is indeed a household name. Beginning with The Firm, Grisham gave the legal thriller a much needed vitamin shot. And while not all of his novels have kept those high standards, he is indeed a most readable author.

Grisham's first baseball novel Calico Jack is now No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List.

Grisham also is high on another list—he's No. 8 on Forbes’s annual ranking of the world’s top-earning authors. His estimated earnings are $18 million. The list comes out each April.

But Grisham's $18 million pales next to the No. 1 author, James Patterson at $84 million. No. 2 is Danielle Steel at $35 million. No. 3: Stephen King, $28 million. No. 4: Janet Evanovich, $25 million. No. 5: Stephanie Meyer, $21 million. No. 6: Rick Riordan, $21 million. No. 7: Dean Koontz, $19 million. No. 8: Grisham. No. 9: Jeff Kinney, $17 million. No. 10: Nicholas Sparks, $16 million. No. 11: Ken Follett, $14 million. No. 12: Suzanne Collins, $10 million. No. 13: JK Rowling, $5 million.

I find it interesting that mystery/thriller writers dominate the list. Patterson, Grisham, Evanovich, King, Koontz and Follett are mainstays in the genre. We can even count Rick Riordan in the mix because he started out writing superb private detective novels before switching to the most lucrative Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles novels for young adults.

Grisham and Patterson also write novels for both adults and young adults.

Naturally, each of these authors spent years taking small advances and, during those years, the closest they would come to a bestsellers list is reading one in the newspaper.

That certainly happened to John Grisham, which he discussed in a recent Newsweek interview titled "My Favorite Mistake."

Back in the 1980s, Grisham was trying to sell his first novel, A Time to Kill. Only 5,000 first-editon copies of the novel had been printed and Grisham had 1,500 copies that he stored in his small law office in Southaven, Mississippi.

That's a lot of books. So why does Grisham call this his "favorite mistake?"

Here's why:

“We stacked them in the reception area, around my secretary’s desk, in the hallways, in my office. We couldn’t move but for all the copies of A Time to Kill,” Grisham said in the Newsweek interview.

“The boxes were everywhere, and I would just give them away. If one of my clients wanted a book, I’d try to sell it. If not, I’d give it away. I’d sell them for 10 bucks, 5 bucks. I used them for doorstops. I couldn’t get rid of these books.”

Today, on the used-book website AbeBooks.com, a signed first edition of A Time to Kill might fetch as much as $4,000, according to Newsweek.

“That’s about $6 million, the way I do the math,” Grisham told Newsweek. “We had no way of knowing then, but I sure wish I had some of those books back. I blew it.”