Famous writers, Writing

The top 20 bestselling fiction authors of all time

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned my children’s books much recently. This is a cunning ploy to distract you from the fact that I am not writing them at the moment.

I seem to have fallen into a mysterious trap; ‘Thou shalt not write any more picture books until you have heard back from all the agents you sent your last manuscript to.’  (Four agents…three rejections…one more to go.)

Do not ask me why I think this. (It’s nuts.) But I do.

Why waiting to hear back from one last agent should stop me from starting my next book or going back and improving a previous one, I’m not sure.

Maybe it’s a convenient excuse to put off that moment of sitting down in front of a blank page and coming up with the goods?

Whatever, I feel bad about it. So what better time to cheer myself up (beat myself up) by checking out the bestselling fiction authors of all time…

Did you know that only The Bible outsells Shakespeare? He tops the charts with an estimated 4 billion copies sold. Four billion!!

Here are the rest (with nationalities included so I can feel all smug about the number of British authors in this list):

  1. William Shakespeare (British), maximum estimated number of copies sold – 4 billion+ (Plays and Poetry)
  2. Agatha Christie (British) – 4 billion (Whodunits)
  3. Barbara Cartland (British) – 1 billion (Romance)
  4. Danielle Steel (American) – 800 million (Romance)
  5. Harold Robbins (American) – 750 million (Adventure)
  6. Georges Simenon (Belgian) – 700 million (Detective)
  7. Sidney Sheldon (American) – 600 million (Suspense)
  8. Enid Blyton (British) – 600 million (Children’s)
  9. Dr Seuss (American) – 500 million (Children’s)
  10. Gilbert Patten (American) – 500 million (Adolescent adventures)
  11. J. K. Rowling (British) – 450 million (Harry Potter)
  12. Leo Tolstoy (Russian) – 413 million (Anna Karenina, War and Peace, philosophy)
  13. Jackie Collins (British) – 400 million (Romance)
  14. Horatio Alger, Jnr. (American) – 400 million (Dime novels)
  15. R. L. Stine (American) – 400 million (Goosebumps series, Fear Street series, Horror, Comedy)
  16. Corin Tellado (Spanish) – 400 million (Romance)
  17. Dean Koontz (American) – 400 million (Horror, Thriller, Science Fiction)
  18. Alexander Pushkin (Russian) – 357 million (Plays, Poetry, Prose, Eugene Onegin)
  19. Stephen King (American) – 350 million (Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy)
  20. Louis L’Amour (American) – 330 million (Western)

Other famous writers who appear lower down in the list include John Grisham, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Jeffrey Archer – with 250 million sales each.

C. S. Lewis – 200 million
Beatrix Potter – 150 million
Catherine Cookson – 120 million

And bringing up the rear; Roald Dahl, Roger Hargreaves (Mr Men), Lewis Carroll, and Ian Fleming (James Bond) with a mere 100 million estimated sales each.

Pah! They should have pulled their finger out!

Source: Wikipedia

6 thoughts on “The top 20 bestselling fiction authors of all time”

  1. All those British writers … pah … just because you’ve had civilization and the inclination to write about things other than “The X qualities of successful Y” …

    Another fun pattern, if quality is considered, the balance is even more in the favor of the British.

    I completely understand the waiting-to-hear pattern. It’s hard to take a step when you’re unsure about the success of the previous step. It’s not logical, but then creativity itself is not always logical.


  2. No, no, no – you MUST carry on writing. (of course, you don’t have to do anything I say, but hear me out). While I completely understand the philosophy of waiting to hear back and its good not to have a plan B, you could be using this time to write an even better story. Just say you received an offer back from a publisher. Happy happy joy joy. Celebrate. you’ve made it, yay. Will you stop writing? NO. You will be buzzing, so will likely write more. Words will flow from your fingertips. Well, don’t wait for that. I speak from experience. It actually makes no difference once you get that offer. Once your book is published – you still need to write. It might be shit. That’s OK too. You are writing. And it is only through writing and writing that your craft gets better, and I don’t need permission – and neither do you !! :)


    1. Hey Christine, I totally agree, that is my aim (it’s just my mind likes to trip me up and tell me I must wait!). Good to hear from a published author like yourself – it gives me the kick up the arse that I need to keep writing and stop making excuses (like needing someone else’s approval or permission)! I’d love to hear more about your experience of being published – maybe you could share some of your story on my blog??


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