It’s hard to say which story is more layered: J.K. Rowling’s, or the one she wrote about a boy wizard that would make her a household name and one of the richest people in the world. Harry Potter didn’t just change her life—it changed the lives of millions of young readers across the globe, some of whom had never enjoyed reading until they picked up one of her books. When it was decided that the series would be adapted into films, even more lives were influenced, especially three unknown child actors named Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson.
The road to international fame and literary stardom was a long one for Rowling, whose life pre-Potter was anything but glamorous. Joanne (before she was known by her pen name, J.K.) grew up in England with her sister Dianne and spent her time reading and writing stories. Her young life took an unfortunate turn when her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and a rift formed between Rowling and her father, whom she would be estranged from as an adult. Her mother passed away while Rowling was writing Harry Potter, and the guilt Rowling felt for not telling her mother about the story would haunt her for years to come.
While living in Portugal and teaching English as a second language, Rowling met a journalist named Jorge Arantes with whom she would later have her first daughter, Jessica. A year later, Rowling divorced Arantes after suffering domestic abuse and moved to Edinburgh, where her sister lived. In this lowest point of her life, Rowling was on welfare and plagued by depression and thoughts of suicide. The only things that got her through were her daughter and the story pouring out of her.
Rowling finished her first novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, in 1995. It was unanimously rejected at first, but was ultimately picked up by Bloomsbury, a London publishing house. When the book was published in 1997, Rowling was told to get a day job just in case she didn’t have any success with her new children’s book. Little did she and her publisher know that their lives were never going to be the same.
What is J.K. Rowling’s Net Worth?
These days, Rowling’s legacy has been soured over her ongoing transphobic comments. This is doubly because Rowling, one of the world’s most popular literary figures, is also one of its most financially powerful.
The Harry Potter books have sold over 500 million copies and been translated into 65 languages around the world. Their collective book sales have totaled over $7.7 billion while the eight film adaptations have grossed another $7 billion worldwide, Business Insider reports. Combined with the book sales from Rowling’s other novels, which include The Casual Vacancy and the Cormoran Strike series, both written under her pen name Robert Galbraith, Rowling is worth a whopping $1.2 billion. This number also includes the money she made from both Fantastic Beast films, which she wrote the screenplays for.
Is Rowling the Richest Author in the World?
While Rowling has been referred to as the wealthiest author of all time, it’s actually not true. She’s in second place, followed by James Patterson ($560 million), Stephen King ($400 million), Nora Roberts ($390 million), and Danielle Steele ($310 million). In first place is French author, philosopher, and historian Élisabeth Badinter, who is worth $1.7 billion.
Rowling has denied being in the Billionaire’s Club, and based on the handsome charitable donations she’s known for making, she might be telling the truth. More important than the size of her bank account is the imprint she’s left on the world, which will be felt by fans of her books and the films they inspired for generations to come.