James Patterson is top-earning author

image captionJames Patterson published 14 new titles last year

Thriller writer James Patterson was the highest-earning author of the past year, according to Forbes magazine.

The 65-year-old American earned an estimated $94m (£60.3m) from the 14 new titles he published in 2011 - 2012.

The amount dwarfs that of the second author on the list, Stephen King, who earned $39m (£25m) thanks to a new instalment of his Dark Tower series.

Forbes said its list was based on figures from Nielsen BookScan, authors, agents and publishers.

Number three was the highest-earning female writer, Janet Evanovich - author of the Stephanie Plum suspense series - with $33m (£21.1m).

John Grisham was next at four with $26m (£16.7m). His baseball novel Calico Joe helped prove he could write a bestseller away from his usual legal thrillers.

Children's author Jeff Kinney was fifth after Cabin Fever, the latest book in his Wimpy Kid series, was the top-selling book of 2011 with 3.3 million copies sold.

However part of his $25m (£16m) earnings come from film royalties - the movie version of fourth book Dog Days made $15m (£9.6m) in its opening weekend at the US box office.

Other authors to feature in the top 15 include Danielle Steel at eight and Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins at nine.

With film royalties from the Hollywood blockbuster released earlier this year and two more films still to come, Collins is expected to rise up the list next year.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling was at 11 on the list with a large portion of her earnings coming from the $8m (£5.1m) advance for her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, due for release next month.

Twilight writer Stephenie Meyer also features on the list at 13, still riding on the success of the film franchise.

Forbes said it expected Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James to feature highly on next year's list.

The erotic novel sold 20 million copies in the first four months of release and at its peak, the trilogy earned James more than $1m a week.

She had also picked up an estimated $5m (£3.3m) for the film rights.

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