It’s no shock to learn that globally acclaimed author Stephen King has sold over 350 million copies of his books, novels, and short stories. His literary work is so popular he has won some of the most prestigious awards in the industry and stands in the ranks of the richest authors in the world. As of 2024, Stephen King’s net worth is estimated at $500 million and growing.

Known as “the king of horror,” the author mostly focuses on that genre but has dabbled in a variety of other genres as well, including crime, suspense, fantasy, mystery, and science-fiction.

Let’s delve into the tale of how the author turned his writing skills into a business and earned half a billion dollars.

Stephen King’s Net Worth Breakdown:

Decades after his first published work, Stephen King is one of the richest authors in the world, standing in the ranks of J. K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, and James Patterson, the author of Along Came a Spider. His fortune has reached half a billion and is growing by the millions every year, marking a very profitable career that doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Since we can’t know the exact number of books sold or the proceeds he earns from each, we can only estimate King’s net worth based on publicly available information. After a thorough research of the author’s work over the years, we have a pretty good picture of what makes up his significant net worth. It’s important to note that this isn’t the family net worth i.e. the mutual fortune he shares with his wife, who is also a novelist.

Asset or Income Source Contribution to Net Worth
Carrie advanced payment $2,500
Carrie paperback rights sale $400,000
Earnings 2010-2019 $194 million
Average yearly earnings $20-22 million
Movie rights and royalties Undisclosed
Real estate $7+ million
Total Net Worth $500 million

Stephen King Net Worth: Early Life and Education

Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland, Maine on September 21, 1947. His father, Donald Edwin King, was a vacuum salesman who changed his last name from Pollock to King. Donald King abandoned the family when Stephen was only two years old, so he and his brother David were raised by their mother Nellie Ruth.

As a child, King moved around, first living in Chicago with his father’s family, and then in Croton-on-Hudson until the family finally settled in Durham, Maine. In Maine, he experienced a serious tragedy when his friend was hit by a train and passed away in front of his eyes and spent the entire day in shock, not able to tell his family. Following his accident, Nellie, his mother started working as a caregiver in a mental institution.

stephen king childhood
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King lived a very modest life, at times under great financial strain. He was interested in writing and horror from a very early age. At one point, he shared that he started writing when he was six or seven, “copying panels out of comic books and then making up my own stories”. He was also a big film fan and a voracious reader. He once shared:

I read everything from Nancy Drew to Psycho. My favorite was The Shrinking Man, by Richard Matheson — I was 8 when I found that

He especially liked horror stories and read EC’s comics, which published Tales from the Crypt. Once when he was browsing through the family home’s attic with his brother, he found a box of his father’s books, including an H.P. Lovecraft collection called The Lurking Fear and Other Stories (1947), strengthening his passion for this genre.

King’s Education

Stephen King studied at Durham Elementary School, followed by Lisbon Falls High School in Lisbon Falls, Maine. His first published story was titled I Was a Teenage Grave Robber, published over four issues of the fanzine Comics Reviews in 1965. He was also writing for Dave’s Rag, his brother’s newspaper, which was printed on a mimeograph machine and sold to friends and family. In addition to this, he worked as a sports reporter for Lisbon’s Weekly Enterprise.

When King graduated from high school, he enrolled in the University of Maine at Orono with a scholarship. He kept writing while in college, contributing to the student newspaper The Maine Campus, and working closely with his mentors Burton Hatlen and Edward Holmes.

“Burt was the greatest English teacher I ever had. It was he who first showed me the way to the pool, which he called ‘the language pool, the myth pool, where we all go down to drink.’ That was in 1968. I have trod the path that leads there often in the years since, and I can think of no better place to spend one’s days; the water is still sweet, and the fish still swim,” he later wrote about Hatlen in Lisey’s Story, one of his novels.

At one point, King participated in a writing workshop organized by one of his mentors, Burton Hatlen, which is where he met Tabitha Spruce, his future wife. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1970 and in that same year, had his first daughter with Tabitha King, whom they named Naomi Rachel. They also share two sons, Joe Hill and Owen King.

stephen king and wife
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Stephen King Net Worth: The Successful Career of the Renowned Author

Stephen King’s writing career took off slowly but steadily. He sold his first short story The Glass Floor to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967 while he was still at university. During the first years of his marriage, he continued to write and sell stories to magazines, many of which were gathered into the Night Shift collection after he gained fame and others appeared in anthologies.

This was the beginning of a very fruitful career which eventually led to him becoming the most popular horror author in the world. Let’s see how this helped him earn an estimated net worth of $500 million.

Early Career

When Stephen and Tabitha King married in 1971, he worked as a laborer in an industrial laundry and was earning some extra money from his story sales to men’s magazines such as Cavalier.

In fall of the same year, King landed a job at Hampden Academy to teach high school English classes. He worked in the mornings and wrote in the evenings and on weekends, continuing his literary career and expanding it to novel writing.

One of his first novels was the anti-war novel Sword in the Darkness, which remains unpublished to this very day. Between 1966 and 1970, he wrote this novel and the draft for The Long Walk, the latter being published in 1979 under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.

In 1973, he wrote Carrie, the novel that was accepted by Doubleday & Co. for publication. This was reportedly his fourth novel but the first to be published.

stephen king carrie poster
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Carrie was officially published in 1974. The book took over the horror genre almost instantly, becoming a highly acclaimed novel. When it was published, Doubleday paid King just $2,500 in advance payment for the book. Later on, the paperback rights for Carrie were sold for $400,000.

Many consider Carrie to be the novel that set King’s career in motion, especially after it was made into a movie starring Sissy Spacek in 1976. Fast forward to today, and King is one of the best storytellers worldwide.

Stephen King’s Early Novels

In 1973, the King family relocated to southern Maine to take care of Stephen’s mother, who was very ill. It was in North Windham during the winter they were there that King wrote his second published novel Second Coming (later renamed Jerusalem’s Lot and Salem’s Lot). He got the inspiration for Salem’s Lot from Dracula, which he taught to high school students. While they were there, his mother passed away from cancer, aged 59.

Soon after the death of his mother, the Kings left Maine and moved to Boulder, Colorado, where, inspired by a visit to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, he wrote yet another novel called The Shining. The book talks about a family that takes care of a hotel for a winter and an alcoholic writer and was later turned into an iconic movie starring Jack Nicholson.

stephen king the shining
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In 1975, the family once again returned to Maine, where they bought a home in the Lakes Region. In this house, Stephen King wrote The Stand, a brilliant epic about a global pandemic,  as well as The Dead Zone, his next novel. The Dead Zone is a story about a man gifted with second sight.

Two years later, the Kings spent a few months in England, after which they moved to Orrington, near Bangor, where King taught creative writing at the University of Maine. The courses he taught at the university ended up being the basis for the first nonfiction book King ever wrote, titled Danse Macabre.

Eventually, the family returned to Center Lovell in 1979 and, in 1980, they bought a home in Bangor, turning their Center Lovell property into a summer home.

In 1982, Stephen King wrote a collection of four dramatic novellas called Different Seasons. Three of the four novellas turned into movies in the following order:

  • The Body as Stand by Me in 1986
  • Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption as The Shawshank Redemption in 1994
  • Apt Pupil as Apt Pupil in 1998

The fourth of the novels wasn’t any less of a success. Titled The Breathing Method, this book won the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction in 1993.

stephen king different seasons
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These weren’t the only novels he published in this period. For most of the decade, King struggled with addiction and wrote several books under the influence of drugs and alcohol. In 1983, he published Christine, a book about a haunted Plymouth Fury and a 17-year-old Arnie Cunningham. That same year, he published Pet Sematary, though he wrote that book earlier in the 1970s.

Some other books he wrote in the 80s include:

  • Cujo (1981)
  • The Running Man (1982)
  • The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (1982), which was the first of eight books in a series, published between 1982 and 2012
  • The Talisman (1984)
  • Skeleton Crew (1985), a book of short fiction including The Mist and The Reach
  • It (1986), voted the best-selling hardcover novel of the year in the US
  • The Eyes of the Dragon (1987), a high fantasy novel written for his daughter
  • Misery (1987), which shared the Bram Stoke Award with Swan Song by McCammon
  • The Tommyknockers (1987)
  • The Dark Half (1989)

Books Published in the 90s and 00s

King’s writing career only continued to grow in the 1990s, writing popular novels such as the Four Past Midnight series, starting from 1990. The following year, he published Needful Things, and, in 1992, he published two books – Gerald’s Game and Dolores Claiborne.

Fast forward to 1996, and King published the first of a serial novel in six parts, a story of a death row inmate titled The Green Mile. At the same time, the series held six different positions on the New York Times paperback bestseller list and was depicted in a movie that featured Tom Hanks in the main role. The movie grossed over $290 million on a $60 million budget, but how much King got paid for this, and his other silver screen adaptations, has never been disclosed.

stephen king green mile movie poster
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Two years later, he published his first book with Scribner, writing about a widowed author, titled Bag of Bones, which won the August Derleth and Bram Stoker awards.

In 1999, Stephen King published The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

Following the success with these books, King started the new decade with a bang, publishing a mix of memoirs titled On Writing, which was described as “a one-of-a-kind classic” by The Wall Street Journal. That same year, he published a mass e-book called Riding the Bullet that quickly racked up 500,000 downloads.

Seeing how his first electronic book was a major success, King decided to write and publish an epistolary horror book in online installments called The Plant, which used the pay-what-you-want method. His idea was to charge $1 per installment and promised that he’d keep publishing if 75% of the readers chose to pay. However, he soon stopped publishing installments, but not because the series wasn’t successful. He told the public that he simply ran out of stories.

Some other books he published in this decade include:

  • From a Buick 8 (2002)
  • The Colorado Kid (2005)
  • Cell (2006)
  • Lisey’s Story (2006)
  • Duma Key (2008)
  • Just After Sunset (2008)
  • Under the Dome (2009) – debuted at number 1 on The New York Times bestseller list

King’s Books after 2010

Following the major success of Under the Dome, Stephen King started the new decade with a new masterpiece, the collection of four books about retribution called Full Dark, No Stars.

stephen king under the dome cover
Just one year later, he published a book about a time portal going back to 1958, called 11/22/63.

In 2013, he published two new books, Joyland, the second book for the Hard Case Crime, and Doctor Sleep, which is the sequel to the popular The Shining novel. The following year, he published a book he talked about since 2012, called Mr. Mercedes. This book won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel.

After he won the award, he announced that Mr. Mercedes would turn into a trilogy, with the sequel published in 2015, titled Finders Keepers, and the third book published in 2016, titled End of Watch.

Other books he has published since include:

  • The Outsider (2018)
  • Elevation (2018)
  • The Institute (2019)
  • If It Bleeds (2020) – a series of four novels
  • Fairy Tale (2022)
  • Holly (2023)
  • You Like It Darker (2024) – a collection of short stories

Other Novels, Pseudonyms, and Collaborations

Over the years, King has published over 60 novels, 200 short stories, and several nonfiction books. He has published five short novels under the same pseudonym, Richard Bachman:

  • Rage (1977)
  • The Long Walk (1979)
  • Roadwork (1981)
  • The Running Man (1982)
  • Thinner (1984)
stephen king the bachman books
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When asked why he used a pseudonym instead of his real name, he explained: I did that because back in the early days of my career there was a feeling in the publishing business that one book a year was all the public would accept…eventually the public got wise to this because you can change your name but you can’t really disguise your style.”

This wasn’t the only pseudonym he used. He wrote The Fifth Quarter in 1972 and published it under the name John Swithen, and Charlie the Choo-Choo: From the World of the Dark Tower in 2016 under the pseudonym Beryl Evans.

In addition to books under pseudonyms, Stephen King also co-wrote several books, including the two novels he worked on with Peter Straub, The Talisman, which we previously mentioned, and Black House, published in 2001.

In 2008, he co-wrote the book Throttle with his son Joe Hill and, in 2012, the two of them collaborated on In the Tall Grass. In 2020, it was reported that the novel would be turned into a feature film with the rights being purchased by HBO for an undisclosed sum.

stephen king hbo buys book
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With his other son, Owen, King wrote Sleeping Beauties published in 2018.

Theater

In addition to authoring books, the prolific American author has also collaborated on theater pieces, such as the musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which he co-wrote with John Mellencamp and T. Burnett.

Comic Books Authorship

In 1985, Stephen King was asked to write a few pages for Heroes for Hope Starring the X-Men of the benefit X-Men comic book. He also wrote the introduction to Batman No. 400.

stephen king x-men

Screenwriting and Adaptations

Stephen King’s creative business didn’t just stop at books. His work has been adapted in many popular horror films including The Shining, Carrie, Under the Dome, The Outsider, and It.

His first screenwriting gig was on Creepshow by George A. Romero in 1982, a movie in which he starred as well. Three years later, he wrote Cat’s Eye, another horror movie.

His career on the screen has been very successful, too. For instance, Rob Reiner, who adapted King’s The Body novel into a 1986 film called Stand by Me, named his production company Castle Rock Entertainment, inspired by the fictional town King created in his novel. It is this production company that produced the most adaptations of the novels of the prolific author, including Misery in 1990 and The Shawshank Redemption in 1994.

The first time King directed a movie was in 1986 with an adaptation of a story he wrote called Trucks. He was the director of Maximum Overdrive, which was not a success, with him ending up nominated for Worst Director at the Golden Raspberry awards.

In 1996, a short film starring Michael Jackson, directed by Stan Winston and written by Mick Garris and Stephen King, appeared on the screens. The short movie was based on a story co-written by Jackson and King. The movie wasn’t a success, though.

@lesliecyoungblood

Stephen King’s Forgotten Michael Jackson Movie Explained BY MICHAEL KENNEDY PUBLISHED JUL 31, 2020 In 1996, Stephen King, the king of horror. n 1996, Stephen King, the king of horror, teamed up with Michael Jackson, the king of pop, to create a music video/short film called Ghosts. Of all the people in pop culture for King to work with, Jackson seems kind of out of left field, at least on paper. The two don’t exactly seem like they would’ve run in the same social circles. Yet collaborate they did, at least to an extent. Sadly, they didn’t write a book together, although that would probably have been quite interesting too.—screenrant

♬ Thriller (Tribute To Michael Jackson) – Ab Fab

In 1999, the author wrote his first mini-series Storm of the Century. In 2002, he wrote the mini-series Rose Red.

Stephen King’s Earnings Over the Years

Seeing as how Stephen King has written so many novels and collaborated on so many profitable projects, it is impossible to pin down his exact earnings from each published work. However, we do have some general idea of what his work in the horror genre has earned him in the period between 2010 and 2019, which according to Statista, is $194 million! Some of these earnings certainly went to publishers, advertising, and other costs but King likely took home a the lionshare of the funds.

stephen king statista earnings
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Generally speaking, the author seems to be earning over $15 million per year from book royalties alone. His book sales top 350 million units worldwide and his movies have generated over $1.7 billion at the box office, contributing even more to his significant net worth.

Stephen King Net Worth: Other Assets, Ventures, and Investments

For the most part, Stephen King’s net worth is sourced from his writing career. However, he has also dabbled in entrepreneurship while in college.

Entrepreneurship

To pay his college tuition, Stephen King became an entrepreneur, starting his business for term papers, which he sold to other students. If a paper earned the student an A grade, it cost $20. A B grade paper got him $10, and if a paper didn’t earn at least a C, he would pay the customer $20.

“I made sure I would never have to pay because I couldn’t afford it,” King explained his business plan.

These days, for Stephen King and his family, writing is a full-time job. He even inspired his wife and his children to become writers too.

Real Estate

In addition to his authorship, Stephen King’s net worth comprises his rich and versatile real estate portfolio.

Stephen and his wife Tabitha King spend their time switching between their three homes. The Victorian home in Bangor, Maine, was the family’s main residence for several years. However, they decided that this Victorian home would now become a writer’s retreat and a museum. The former main residence of the Kings and today’s writer’s retreat is most likely worth around $800,000 now.

stehen king bangor home
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In addition to this property, the family owns the summer home in Lovell, Maine, located near the New Hampshire border. They also reportedly own a waterfront mansion in Sarasota, Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico. We don’t know the value of this property.

The Kings’ waterfront mansion on Casey Key was worth $8.9 million when they acquired it, a record price for a house in the area.

Philanthropy

King and his wife Tabitha are important philanthropists. Every year, the author donates around $4 million to schools, libraries, and organizations that fund the arts. He and his wife created the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, one of the top six charities in Maine, with an average annual giving of over $2.8 million per year.

What Can We Learn from Stephen King’s Story?

Stephen King’s journey from a humble, even difficult upbringing, to becoming one of the wealthiest writers in the world is truly inspiring and educational.

For starters, the author faced numerous rejections in his writing career, especially in the beginning, but never gave up. His determination eventually led him to the publication of Carrie, which catapulted him to fame.

While King is best known as a novelist, he has also explored other avenues such as screenwriting, directing, and music. Diversifying his skills expanded his creative horizons, but also increased his earning potential, teaching us the importance of diversifying one’s sources of income.

Over the years, King has adapted to changes in the publishing industry, exemplified by the time he started publishing online and wrote his first electronic books. He even experimented with innovative pricing models, demonstrating a willingness to adapt to new technologies and trends.

Despite his immense success, King remains grounded and is committed to giving back to his community through philanthropy, teaching us the importance of doing good in the world, especially if you have the power, fortune, and opportunities to do so.