J.K. Rowling is a never-ending vault of stories, so it’s no surprise that her fortune is similar. The beloved Harry Potter author has done her best to keep the details of her wealth under the invisibility cloak, but as of 2016, the New York Times estimated her net worth at $1.2 billion after taxes.
Rowling, who is known to be private when it comes to sharing financial details, has denied being a billionaire, and Forbes estimated her fortune to be around $650 million in 2017.
Since the series started in 1997, 500 million copies of Harry Potter books have been sold worldwide. The last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, broke records to become the fastest-selling fiction book of all time. By the New York Times’ estimate, the Harry Potter novels have racked in at least $7.7 billion, and if J.K. Rowling took a standard authors royalty cut of 15%, she would have made at least $1.15 billion, and that’s before accounting for the movie series, which have also grossed $7.7 billion, and if she received the standard 10 net percent participation, then she likely earned $770 million.
And 2017 seems to be her best year to date. 10 years after the final Harry Potter book and six years after the final film, Rowling was the highest paid novelist in the world, and Forbes ranked her as the third highest paid celebrity, earning an estimated $95 million that year. In 2018, she earned another $54 million, so it’s safe to say she hasn’t lost any steam.
Rowling kept her fans reading and watching with the production and script release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London and New York and the two Fantastic Beasts movies, and while the new films have grossed far less than the original series, the first Fantastic Beasts made a worldwide gross of $814 million. By Forbes’ estimate, Rowling still received 10 million for the less-loved spin-off.
Her magical wizarding world has also been expanded through Universal Parks and Resorts Harry Potter attractions in Orlando, LA, and Japan. Forbes estimates Rowling’s received low double-digit millions from the parks, and she’s released an entirely new book series under the author name Robert Galbraith. The first three Cormoran Strike books have sold 1.2 million copies, earning $9.9 million.
Additionally, Rowling launched her self-proclaimed “digital heart of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world” website, Pottermore, in April 2012. Pottermore brought in $19 million in revenue in 2016, through multiple partnerships to sell e-books and audiobooks.
Despite her huge success, Rowling’s path to a magical fortune took more than a snap of her fingers. In an interview, Rowling told Jon Stewart that she spent a few years living in the UK with government assistance as a single mother, barely avoiding homelessness. After her success, she says she’s now happy to stay in the UK and pay Britain’s top tax rate of 45%. Discussing taxes, Rowling said, “I’m indebted to the welfare state. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net was there to break the fall.”
Taxes aren’t the only way Rowling pays back. Her charitable donations over the years have reached at least $150 million. Rowling founded the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic at the University of Edinburgh with a $16 million contribution. The clinic’s named for her mother, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and passed away before Rowling became a published author. She’s founded an international children’s rights organization, the Lumos Foundation, as well as the Volant Charitable Trust to alleviate social deprivation across Scotland.
But it’s worth asking: how does the author treat herself?
Well, she owns homes in Edinburgh, Perthshire, and Kensington. Rowling sold her 19th century Victorian mansion in 2012 for over $3.6 million. She and her husband, Neil Murray, had two interlinked, Hogwarts-like tree houses for their children built in the yard of their Edinburgh home for about $330,000. The couple had to apply for planning permission in order to knock down a $1.3 million house next door to make room for the tree house.
And with countless movie premieres to attend, Rowling splurges on designer dresses, like this spring 2011 Oscar de la Renta gown. With a third Fantastic Beasts movie set for a 2020 release and surely more lucrative projects on the horizon, it seems J.K. Rowling and her fortune aren’t going to disappear.