BookWatch: John Grisham reveals his biggest money mistake
It’s of little surprise that the consistently best-selling John Grisham regularly lands on lists of the highest paid authors. But the feat becomes particularly impressive when you consider he probably could have earned millions more if not for an early career decision to listen to his agent instead of his instincts.
“Oh huge, huge, huge mistake,” Grisham said of the decision in a recent interview with MarketWatch on the occasion of the release of his latest book, “The Rooster Bar.”
After Grisham’s second book, “The Firm,” debuted to much acclaim in 1991, fans began searching for his first novel “A Time To Kill.” Grisham and his reps begged his small publisher at the time to print more copies, but the company was on the precipice of bankruptcy and so couldn’t afford to pump more out.
They offered to sell the rights to “A Time To Kill” back to Grisham for what he described as “almost nothing.” The book, which was later made into a movie and Broadway show, chronicles the efforts of a southern lawyer to defend a black father accused of killing two white men who raped his daughter.
Grisham said he wanted to buy the rights, but got talked out of the decision by his agent at the time. Though that agent had consistently given him good advice, Grisham said “I knew in my gut it was not the right decision.”
His publisher, Doubleday, bought the rights instead a few months later and started printing paperback, hardback and other versions of the book, Grisham said. “They’re still printing ‘A Time To Kill,’” he said. “I don’t even want to think about how much money that cost me, but it was millions and millions.”
Still, Grisham one of the best-known and wealthiest authors around — he brought in an estimated $14 million last year, according to Forbes — admits “I can’t complain.”