Joanne Rowling
Novels, Films
Rank 2017
There seems no end to the passion for Potter. A West End production, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, opened last July and proved a huge hit with audiences. The show features a grown-up Harry and won a record nine Olivier awards last month, including best new play.
   Next month marks 20 years since the appearance of the first adventure featuring the world’s most famous wizard. Gloucestershire-born Rowling has sold more than 450m copies of the seven-volume series, which she began writing as a struggling single mother in Edinburgh in the 1990s.
   Further success has come with her forays into adult fiction, including detective novels published under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. In March she confirmed the title of her next book, Lethal White, after a fan correctly guessed it on Twitter. A conservative valuation of her £6.1bn sales suggests she has earned £900m from her craft over the years, based on the 15% cut that leading authors typically net from their books.
   The phenomenally successful series of Harry Potter films is thought to have added at least another £200m, with the new spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, released in cinemas last year. Rowling’s earnings from the Harry Potter Warner Bros studio tour in Hertfordshire have been put at as high as £80m.
   These numbers have led some observers to suggest that she has joined the ranks of Britain’s billionaires but caution is in order, partly because of the author’s generosity to worthy causes. These include her Volant Charitable Trust, named after her mother’s family, which funds Scottish-based organisations and projects aimed at helping women, children and young people. After a reappraisal of her finances this year we put Rowling, 51, a mother of three, at £650m, well short of wilder claims elsewhere.