Who are the Australian writers raking in the big bucks?

by |December 3, 2010

I’ve got a copy of BRW magazine on my desk, the boss just gave it to me.

In this months edition you can find a list of the…


Who tops the list is unimportant – it’s who’s missing that’s important – that’s the real story!

Authors are missing!

Which implies that authors aren’t very entertaining… dollar for dollar.

Wait, one Australian author is. Nup, it’s not Bryce, not Di, not even Timmo…

According to this list, Matty Reilly is the only really really really entertaining writer scribbling today – at least, the only one making millions, he comes in at no. 42 with $2.5 million.

Matthew Reilly is the popularly elected president of authors – elected unopposed for a term of one short year.

Matthew’s story seems almost designed to make aspiring writers salivate – failing to get his first book published he printed his own copies and went from book shop to book shop asking booksellers to put his paperback on their shelves. One of these self-published copies was picked up by Pan Macmillan Australia’s Cate Patterson who saw the potential in the little go-getting, wannabe author. He promptly showed her his second novel – which was bigger, better and errr… let’s be honest, awesomer. Thus begins the nice little rags to riches story which still has the power to make many writers cry into their pillows at night.

Matthew Reilly may be the only author on the list but he certainly isn’t the only writer.

What’s that, you say?

Well, Matthew Reilly is famous because of his writing – thus, he’s an author. The other success stories on the rich list have been allowed to write because they are good at something else.

However, a writer is a writer and if we can’t get real writers on the list we’ll take anything we can get. It’s supposed to be a literate country, in-it?

If we exclude The Wiggles machine which made $33.5 million all up, presumably including books – wake up Jeff, you didn’t write those kiddy books – the writer who tops the rich list in 2010 is promoter Michael Chugg who published a bestselling memoir this year, Hey, You In The Black T-Shirt: The Real Story of Touring the World’s Biggest Acts. What proportion of the $6.1 million he made this year came from sales of this book is unknown – I’d suggest it was a very small portion of the point one.

A memoir is no small feat, that’s real writing, so hats off to Michael Chugg, Australia’s most entertaining writer – dollar for dollar.

But then there’s… Oh crap – this can’t be happening –  surely Australia can produce a proper author who is more entertaining than Peter Andre?

Nope. There he sits at no. 21 with earnings of $5.7 million. Shame, Australia, shame. Bet you didn’t know he was a writer, too? Here’s a snippet from the book jacket of his latest production – My World: In Picture and Words…  Peter Andre is a national icon. Without doubt the sexiest man in pop, there are few red-blooded females who wouldn’t welcome the chance to get close to Peter Andre.

He writes – and thus he’s claimed – no matter how distasteful the idea is, he’s a bloody writer…

At this rate we’ll have the whole rich list filled up with writers… We’re a country of ruddy geniuses…

The next great Australian writer on the list is Miranda Kerr, sitting very pretty on no.29 with the relatively meagre sum of $4.3 million (well, when compared with AC/DC on $131.4 million). No wonder Miranda turned to the lucrative world of Australian publishing to top-up her funds.  Miranda’s new book, Treasure Yourself, has already made it’s début on the Booktopia Blog – click here for the full story. (Personally, an’ I mean no disrespect fer Miranda and all, but I’m waiting and saving my pennies for the volume of poetry no. 25, Jennifer Hawkins, has promised to publish.)

If Peter Andre is any indication of where things are heading, Dannii Minogue can look forward to eclipsing sister Kylie by this time next year – only twelve places and $2.1 million separate the sisters. Dannii is now an all-round entertainer who can now claim full status as a writer, too. Remember, we posted the book trailer for her memoir, My Story here, way back in… I forget when – click here.

Below Matthew Reilly on the list, at no. 45, is Curtis Stone – the ever authentic fella from the Coles ads. Although he hasn’t published a book this year, his books are still in print so we can claim him as another writer.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel – at no. 48 we find Hamish and Andy with $1.9 million. Now, I love these two but to claim either of them as writers is pushing it… However, looking into it more closely (desperately) Hamish kinda a qualifies with an assist – Textbook Romance : A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting the Guy. Claimed! Hamish is a writer, too.

So that’s that – we’ve found that the 50 RICHEST AUSTRALIAN ENTERTAINERS list for 2010 is largely made up of exceptional writers, not stupid actors, vacuous singers, grubby promoters and grasping chefs. Writing is not dead in Australia. Publishing is alive and viable. And the best will always rise to the top. (well, we didn’t prove the last, but the rest is all nearly true.)

The most shocking and probably saddest discovery in the BRW magazine this month is the exclusion of Rhonda Byrne from the 2010 rich list. Who? The genius behind the phenomenon that was – The Secret. Apparently Rhonda asked the universe for fame, riches and success but was only granted them on a temporary basis.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • December 3, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    LOL re Rhonda Byrne!! Damn that capricious universe.

    • Denyse Whelan

      December 5, 2010 at 2:23 am

      But Kylie, lovely, YOU have riches beyond the likes of Rhonda Byrne… Wit. Intelligence Sense of Humour
      And GET THIS…”Booktopia Favourite” on display, Left hand side..prominent & beautifully seductive!!
      After the Fall – Kylie Ladd… That’s YOU…xx

  • December 3, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Hi Everyone,
    Good luck to those Aussie authors pulling in the big bucks. Only wish I could do the same. I have ten novels published, one has recently won first prize in the historical romance section of an American competition. I received good reviews, but the money aint rolling in. Must be doing something wrong, but I don’t know what it is.



  • December 4, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I’m just glad to see any writers on the list! Though it would have been nice to see a few more. Like me 🙂

    • December 4, 2010 at 5:23 pm

      Exactly Kate,
      Wish it were me, well it is the season of good cheer, so I wish it were both of us.



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