Who Are The All-time Best-Selling Novelists?

By Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer, SVP

 

Which books are the all-time bestsellers?  Let’s preface the answer with this: no one really knows for sure. Why?  Sales records are quite poor and incomplete, and generally favor more recent books, where things are recorded meticulously.

Think about it. Books that were printed say, 150 years ago, were sold all over the place.  We didn’t have BookScan or some centralized source to identify book sales. In fact, because government records are also incomplete or get destroyed overtime, and because book sale income taxes weren’t collected until the past century – there really is no way to know how many copies of a book were sold. Unscrupulous publishers would print and sell more copies of a book than they told an author – dependent on royalties – had sold. Some books where copyrights don’t cover them, such as those of Shakespeare, The Bible, or Ben Franklin, allow for multiple publishers and multiple nations to print and sell books and no one is adding them all up. Let’s also not forget pirated book sales that continue today in places like China. No one is adding them up either. And what of books published under pseudonyms, where the author’s identity was never uncovered?

So, having said all of the above, there are some noble attempts to gather up sales figures and estimated sales of the all-time bestselling fictional books. One such effort was undertaken for an entry in Wikipedia.

An entry entitled “List of best-selling fiction authors” tries to gather up numbers for authors – not specific books – and it includes all languages.

The list looks to be vastly incomplete, as too many authors listed were ones who publish in English, while a few are sprinkled from Russia, France, Spain, China or Japan.  I’m sure many nations and languages have authors who should be on this list.

The list included authors that are believed to have sold at least 100 million copies of their books, based on approximate numbers repeated by reliable sources.  However, this list didn’t include EL James, author of the 50 Shades of Grey series, who has been publicly linked to sales of 125 million copies. Such an omission makes you realize that the list is not complete by any means.

Still, the list identifies at least 85 authors whom have each sold 100,000,000 copies of their books.  Who has sold the most?  William Shakespeare and Agatha Christie are each credited with a range of book sales from two billion copies to four billion copies. Barbara Cartland (500M to 1 billion), Danielle Steel (500M – 800M) and Harold Robbins (750M) round out the top five. Some names are still seeing soaring sales, such as Dr. Seuss, JK Rowling, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, James Patterson, Dan Brown, Anne Rice, and David Baldacci.

We’re a nation of numbers and lists, we like to recite factoids and want them to be accurate.  Unfortunately, trying to compile sales figure lists globally, of all-time, is an impossible taste.  But to know – or believe – that at least 85 authors each had 100M copies sold – is interesting.  Collectively, they’ve sold billions of books and have influenced countless numbers of people.

In a world of 7.2 billion people, it still amazes me that so few authors can crack 100 million copies sold.  If any author publishes books for 30 years and is successful, he or she should sell millions of copies each year. The more prolific you are, the likelier you’ll get to 100 million copies.

On the other hand, even the most successful writers have to keep on putting out quality books for a sustained period of time.  They can’t just rest with one wildly popular book. But, over time, authors will rack up millions of copies sold each year just of their backlist titles.

One day there will be an author that will overtake the sales numbers of Shakespeare and Christie simply because the population will grow so large that it’ll require only a tiny percentage of it to buy in.

 

Related: Author Q&A With Charles Morgan

 

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A Midwesterner’s Guide To Polite Persistence In PR

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By Emily Labes, Associate Publicist

 

I am from Cleveland. Anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes with me knows that. Typical of most Clevelanders, when people ask me where I’m from, I’m most inclined to talk about the erratic weather, the fact that our river has caught on fire multiple times (and how we pronounce “fire,” which is “fie-yur”), and/or Lebron James.

However, I have recently added a new talking point to my roster of Midwestern small-talk topics – the fact that, for the most part, our manners are beyond reproach. I may curse like a sailor when I’m in the company of family and trusted friends; but I always say “please,” and “thank you,” I always chew with my mouth closed and keep one hand in my lap while I’m eating, I never place my elbows on the dinner table, and I always, always look people in the eye when I am speaking to them.

Supposedly these are traits that are inherently present in most Americans who are over the age of five; but Midwesterners approach manners with an Emily Post-like reverence. I don’t know whether it’s more of a ritual or a compulsion, but it is as ingrained in us as our all-American accents.

Although I do not needlessly apologize nearly as much as my mom does, after almost two years at MEDIA CONNECT, I still find myself blurting out “Sorry to bother you, but…” upon entering my coworkers’ offices – even when I am there by appointment. Then I inevitably apologize for apologizing, and the cycle continues.

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MEDIA CONNECT Deskscape Series: What’s On Senior Partner David Hahn’s Desk?

The following article is a part of our Deskscape Series. Many of us spend up to eight or nine hours at our desks per day, making our “deskscapes” a creative reflection of the book publicity work we do for our clients every day.

Senior Partner David Hahn shares some of his favorite parts of his deskscape:

 

My 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Schomborg, always greeted us with a boisterous “Happy Friday!” each and every Friday of the school year. I never quite understood the energy or broad smile that accompanied that statement at the time. But today – today being a beautiful summer Friday in the Big Apple – I fully appreciate that sentiment, having put in 2,000 or so (who’s counting) working Fridays since that time.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 11.05.51 AMAnd as such there is a carton of munchkins on my desk to be shared with the MEDIA CONNECT staff. Nothing pleases me more at work than a nice simple surprise, especially when it’s food. So assuming that everyone else feels the same way I do (don’t they?), I try to help relieve the weariness sometimes felt at the beginning of a Friday workday with this simple gesture. And isn’t that a very satisfying feeling when you pop one of those munchkins in your mouth, especially a fresh jelly one!

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 11.06.08 AMAlso on my desk is a mug created by the talented Arden potter, Alan Burslem. It serves as a fine pen and pencil holder. But it more importantly serves as a reminder of my roots, coming from this idyllic, unique pastoral small town to be found just north of Wilmington, Delaware.

Like most other boomers I know, I have an extremely fond memory of my childhood, especially in terms of the unfettered freedom we had to simply play. And playing in Sherwood Forest, on the Arden Greens, and riding bikes playing cops and robbers up and down Sherwood Road, Lovers lane and Miller Road will forever define who I am and what I hold dear. The mug reminds me of the importance of finding some sort of artistic grace in all that we do as well as the wonderful energy and creativity that can be found in simple play – as elusive as that may be.

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Business Book Authors: Every Business Event You Need To Know Thru December 2015

The following business events calendar appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

Every business author should be anticipating certain annual events during the year for possible tie in interviews. Bylined articles and op-eds could also be submitted around these events. Examples are Labor Day, the annual Berkshire Hathaway Stockholders Meeting, and the annual issue of Fortune’s Best 100 Places to Work. In addition, you can create your own tie in. While it sounds artificial, the media does respond to specific days and/or months that been given a specific theme. For instance, February is “Time Management Month”. April is “Workplace Conflict Awareness” month and so on. If you create an event with a specific theme and message and promote it properly, you may be surprised at the media attention you are able to garner!

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Related: MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Matt Holt, Publisher at Wiley

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Author Q&A: New York Times Bestselling Author Discusses the Miracle of Freedom

 

Chris Stewart, Co-author of the New York Times bestseller, The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points That Saved the World, has set out to help us understand the history of democracy, and to see that many historical events that led us to the freedom we enjoy today are inextricably linked.

The long march to freedom revolves around pivotal events spanning over thousands of years, which Stewart explores in his book, and discussed with us in the following Q&A:

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 11.00.01 AMMEDIA CONNECT: What is your book about?

Chris Stewart: It’s about the long and incredibly hazardous road that the world had to march in order to get to the day when many of us are able to enjoy the blessing of freedom. It’s about the long string that runs through word history that ties all of these events together, as if there was a sense of purpose to it all. It’s about the amazing conflicts and sacrifices that had to take place in order for freedom to develop and survive. It is an exploration of some of the most important events in world history – epic and world-changing events – which were indispensable stepping-stones toward the expanded freedom and democracy that we have today.

 

MC: Your bestselling book is now being released in paperback. Are you surprised at all of the positive attention your book has thus received?

CS: I don’t know if I’m surprised, but I’m certainly honored. At its core, this book is about freedom. It’s about the incredibly long and dangerous road that the world had to march in order to get to this point where so many people enjoy the miracle of freedom. That’s something that, on a gut level, many people understand and relate to. I think that helps explain why the book has done so well.

 

MC: When you originally published it a few years ago, you were not a member of Congress at the time. What inspired your recent run for office?

CS: People ask me that all the time. I was an air force pilot, successful writer and business owner. I’d never thought about running for office. But I felt like our nation was in trouble and I wanted to get into the fight. Writing this book reminded me of what an incredible blessing freedom is and how fragile that blessing is. That led me to want to get involved in a way that I hadn’t been before. It’s much like what happened to me when I was younger.  As a senior in college, I was on my way to law school when I suddenly decided that I wanted to serve in the military instead. I decided to run for congress for much the same reason. I thought I could help and I wanted to try.

 

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Matt Holt, Publisher at Wiley

HoltQ&A

The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

MEDIA CONNECT: Do you mind being approached by an author directly instead of through an agent?
Matt Holt: 
Direct communication with authors is welcome. Everyone is connected, it’s easy to get to an editor through another author, LinkedIn, or just an internet search.

 

MC: Do you need to see a whole book or do sample chapters work for you?
MH: 
We rarely need to see an entire book, unless it’s designed or visual or packaged in a way that helps us understand the project better.

 

MC: What types of business books do you specialize in?
MH: 
We specialize in mostly in books written by practitioners, books that teach something to someone, solve a problem and deal with a pain point.

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Ellen Kadin, Executive Editor at AMACOM

KadinQ&A

The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

MC: Do you mind being approached by an author directly instead of through an agent?
Ellen Kadin: 
Not at all.

 

kadinquoteMC: Do you need to see a whole book or do sample chapters work for you?
EK: 
Sample chapters work well. I usually like to see the introductory chapter and at least one chapter from the meat of the book. In some cases though, it’s actually better for the author to have completed only sample chapters; if, say, we have a different vision for the structure or contents of the author’s book, and the author ends up publishing with us, it’s better for the author not to have invested all the time and effort it would have taken to complete the manuscript.

 

MC: What types of business books do you specialize in?
EK: 
In addition to publishing books on General Business and Entrepreneurship topics, I specialize in Business Self-help; Career; and Marketing.

 

MC: What are some of your recent successes?
EK: 
We just came out with the paperback edition of one of my all-time favorite books, Mark Goulston’s JUST LISTEN: Discover the Secret to Getting through to Absolutely Anyone, whose hardcover edition has been one of our best sellers for years. The book recently passed the 100,000-copies-sold mark.

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Tom Miller, Literary Agent with Sanford J. Greenburger Associates

millerQ&A

 The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

MEDIA CONNECT: What information do you need from an author on their initial contact with you?
Tom Miller: 
I prefer to get queries by email first. In that query, the author should briefly include the proposed title of the proposal, the subject of the book, the main audience/s for the book, the author’s credentials, and the author’s marketing/publicity platform. The author should also say whether or not he or she has a full proposal and/or a partial or full manuscript. By the way, for an agent, having a proposal and one or two sample chapters is preferable to getting a full manuscript.

 

millerquoteMC: Do you consider content or platform first?
TM: Business books are business propositions. Content is crucial, and it’s very important that the author’s proposed book has a clear subject, a sharp focus, a defined market and audience, and, ideally, a strongly articulated promise and benefit for the intended audience. The book should have a fresh new hook — something that seems new and different from what’s already on the shelf.

Regarding platform, the most successful business authors are regarded as thought leaders in their fields. Thought leaders almost always have big platforms. With all commercial nonfiction, which business books almost always are, an author’s platform is just as important as the content. When a project’s author doesn’t have a good platform, a publisher will often turn down the project even if the content is excellent.

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Donya Dickerson, Executive Editor At McGraw-Hill

donyaQ&A

The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.

MEDIA CONNECT: Do you mind being approached by an author directly instead of through an agent?
Donya Dickerson:
 I do take unsolicited manuscripts as long as they are in the business category.

 

donyaQuoteMC: Do you need to see a whole book or do sample chapters work for you?
DD: 
Definitely sample chapters but the most important piece is the proposal. People will sometimes send a whole book without an actual proposal. I’m not going to look at any sample materials before reading the proposal first.

 

MC: What types of business books do you specialize in?
DD: 
High-level business books that cover topics such as management, leadership, strategy, and culture. They need to be books that help people be more successful. I’ve worked on several books about leading global companies, like Starbucks, Caterpillar, The Ritz-Carlton, and more. I also acquire books on sales and marketing as well as critical business skills.

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MEDIA CONNECT Deskscape Series: What’s On Digital Publicist And Social Media Strategist Anna Patrick’s Desk?

The following article is a part of our Deskscape Series. Many of us spend up to eight or nine hours at our desks per day, making our “deskscapes” a creative reflection of the book publicity work we do for our clients every day.

Digital Publicist and Social Media Strategist Anna Patrick shares some of her favorite parts of her deskscape:

ME1

I like to think of my office space as a creative and productivity haven – somewhere I can feel at home in and draw inspiration from, somewhere that’s fun to arrive at every morning. For that reason the vibe is consistent, in many ways, to my home environment – black and white, cozy but with a creative element, candles, flowers, photos of family and friends, and – of course – overflowing with books.

ME2

I love to add a little light to my spaces, and I’m a firm believer that Christmas twinkly lights are appropriate indoors at any time time of year! I always keep a candle lit in that corner as well. Both highlight the beautiful painting that Mr. Finn made, which has a calming deep blue that sets the tone for the rest of the office.

The quotes above my computer say: “Life is better with a book,” “Good vibes only,” and a Gandhi quote that says, “Be truthful, gentle and fearless.” The latter is a card my mom sent me back in college, I’ve hung onto it ever since. It’s my digital PR strategy mantra of sorts.

ME3

One of my favorite parts of my office is, of course, my bookcase. I love looking over and seeing all of the books of the authors I’m working with, and ones from past publicity campaigns as well.

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