American author James Patterson has topped a Forbes magazine list of the world's highest paid authors for the second year, earning $84 million US from May 2010 to April 2011.

That's more than twice the take of his nearest competitor —romance novelist Danielle Steel, who earned $35 million with bestsellers such as 44 Charles Street and Family Ties.

 World's top-earning writers
 James Patterson, $84 million 
 Danielle Steel, $35 million
 Stephen King, $28 million
 Janet Evanovich, $22 million
 Stephenie Meyer, $21 million
 Rick Riordan, $21 million
 Dean Koontz, $19 million
 John Grisham, $18 million
Jeff Kinney, $17 million 
Nicholas Sparks, $16 million
Source: www.forbes.com

Patterson, 64, signed a 17-book deal in 2009 with his publisher Hachette Book Group, and keeps up his prodigious output with the help of writing associates.

He released 10 books in the past year and has branched into young adult and teen books in the past few years, a lucrative segment of a market that is otherwise in decline. In addition to his murder mysteries, he created new books in his Maximum Ride and Witch & Wizard franchises.

Patterson told Forbes he also has moved into e-books, considering it a wave of the future in the face of declining book sales.

While sales of adult hardcover books fell 23 per cent in the first half of 2011, many of the authors who are among the top 10 on the Forbes list wrote for young adults — among them Stephenie Meyer, Rick Riordan and Jeff Kinney.

Meyer, author of the Twilight series, benefited from the release of Eclipse, the third movie based on her vampire novels and also sold 2.3 million copies of a spin-off novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. However her 2010-11 income decreased to $21 million from $41 million the previous year.

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Riordan is author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series and Kinney of 2010 hit Diary of a Wimpy Kid, both of which had film spinoffs as well as an extended life online. Kinney is a game designer as well as writer and producer.

Suspense writer Stephen King was third highest earner with $28 million coming in, followed by romance novelist Janet Evanovich.

Forbes compiles its list using sales figures supplied by Nielsen Bookscan, year-end sales totals submitted by publishing houses to Publishers Weekly, and input from numerous agents, managers and editors.