Thriller author James Patterson has topped a Forbes.com list of the world's best paid authors with an income of $70 million US last year.

Patterson, author of more than 50 bestsellers including the Alex Cross and Maximum Ride series, recently signed a deal to write 17 more books by the end of 2012.

 Top-earning authors (Forbes.com)
 James Patterson: $70M
 Stephenie Meyer: $40M
 Stephen King: $34M
 Danielle Steele: $32M
 Ken Follett: $20M
 Dean Koontz: $18M
 Janet Evenovich: $16M
 John Grisham: $15M
 Nicholas Sparks: $14M
 J.K. Rowling: $10M

Patterson, 63, came in ahead of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer with $40 million and horror master Stephen King with $34 million in income.

All three earned money from film and TV rights, gaming and other merchandise deals, as well as from their bestselling books.

Others in the multi-million dollar club included romance writers Danielle Steele, Nicholas Sparks and Janet Evanovitch as well as J.K. Rowling, whose Harry Potter series continues to be a money spinner.

Ken Follett, whose The Pillars of the Earth has been adapted for TV, earned $20 million while U.S. author Dean Koontz earned $18 million with The Husband, which was optioned for film.