Norwegian author Jo Nesbø sold 860,000 books printed in English for more than NOK 60 million last year, reports newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). The multi-talented Nesbø is best known as a crime writer, but now he’s earning millions as a children’s author as well.
Nesbø was once a talented football player for Molde, one of Norway’s top-league clubs. A knee injury ended his career, however, and he started working as an economist after graduating from Norway’s prestigious business school NHH.
He dabbled as a musician on the side, starting the pop band Di Derre in 1990 which sprang to national fame with a string of hit songs. Nesbø recently started performing again but has mostly concentrated on his writing. His debut crime novel in 1997, Flaggermusmannen, was a big hit and he’s since published 12 crime books, 10 of which feature the police officer character Harry Hole.
A later attempt at writing children’s book was also successful, with his Doktor Proktor series also turned into film production, as have his crime novels. DN reported that all told, Nesbø has sold around 26 million books worldwide, and won several prizes for his work.
He continues to decline comment on his sales figures, telling DN that “although they’re surely good,” he doesn’t want to be accused of being a “sourpuss when the day comes that they turn.”
Roughly a third of Nesbø’s sales are in the the US, and his books sold briskly in Great Britain last year as well. His last Harry Hole thriller, Politi, sold 109,000 copies while the English transation of Kakerlakkene from 1998 sold 85,000 copies. More than 41,000 of his Doktor Proktor books also sold in England, with all Nesbø sales generating NOK 23 million in 2014, reported DN.
His latest novel, Sønnen, has sold 62,000 copies in England and the US, and English versions of his books have also sold well in Australia, Spain, Ireland and Brazil. His books have also been translated into German and Dutch among other languages.
Nesbø’s sales agent Tor Jonasson of the Salomonsson Agency, thinks that part of the reason for Nesbøs success is his ability to steadily renew his work as an author. “Jo never compromises,” Jonasson told DN. “He’s developing all the time. Many authors stagnate. They get a best-seller, write three more books and begin to do it as a routine. Jo takes joy in telling a story, and he always wants to write his best book.”
The work is lucrative as well. According to DN, Nesbø reported income of NOK 153 million to tax authorities between 2004 and 2013. His personal fortune was listed at NOK 153 million.