The 50 Most Successful Book Authors of All Time

Most Successful Book Authors of All Time

They make us think with their stories. They can trigger feelings of both the greatest happiness and the most profound sadness in us. They invite us to travel to the unlimited worlds of fantasy right from our sofa: Cheers to the writers who fill all our lives with thousands of colorful stories! Below we have created a list for you, in which we would like to introduce you to the 50 most successful book authors of all time. You will find out which are the most successful titles of the respective writers, their incredible sales figures, and what makes the bestselling authors interesting as private persons. Many of the names of the successful writers will be instantly familiar to you, but for others, you may be surprised to learn that they are among the top twenty most successful book authors. Be curious! And now: Have fun browsing!

1st place: William Shakespeare

Book sales: 4 billion

Every one of us knows him from school lessons – after all, Shakespeare is the most famous writer of all time. Shakespeare’s works have been translated from English into all the world’s major languages and sold billions of copies.

Shakespeare was born in the small English town of Stratford. There he died also in the year 1616. According to tradition, the day of his death falls on his 52nd birthday. Shakespeare began his career as an actor, poet, and playwright in London as a young man. He soon made a name for himself in the English capital, and he performed his plays at the famous London Globe Theater. Even Queen Elizabeth I was an enthusiastic fan of Shakespeare’s works.

Shakespeare’s most successful works include the tragedies “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” and “Macbeth.” The most famous comedies written by William Shakespeare are “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” and “As You Like It.” In addition, Shakespeare wrote 154 sound poems, which are available today as an anthology.

2nd place: Agatha Christie

Book sales: 4 billion

English author Agatha Christie is a true master of crime fiction. One of the most famous characters from Christie’s detective stories is the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Christie tells his exciting investigation stories in the well-known novels “Death on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile,” among others. No less famous than Hercule Poirot is Christie’s character, Miss Marple. When Agatha Christie created Miss Marple, she was inspired by her grandmother’s personality. She describes Miss Marple as an elderly, somewhat quirky but highly perceptive lady who solves numerous criminal cases as an amateur detective.

In total, Agatha Christie wrote 66 detective novels and several short stories. Christie also wrote several stage plays, of which “The Mousetrap” is the most successful. More than 4 billion works by Agatha Christie have been sold worldwide, and many of her novels have been made into films. Due to her outstanding artistic achievements, Agatha Christie was raised to the peerage by the Queen of England in 1971.

3rd place: Barbara Cartland

Book sales: 1 billion

“Queen of romance” is what bestselling author Barbara Cartland is often called in her native Britain. Cartland is unbeatable at writing romantic romance novels at record speed. When Barbara Cartland published 20 novels in one year, she entered the Guinness Book of Records. In total, Barbara Cartland has written 724 novels, which have been translated into 38 different languages. The successful author herself made the covers of her romance novels. The love stories in Cartland’s stories are of kitschy beauty and take the reader into the glamorous world of the aristocracy.

Nobility also played a significant role in Barbara Cartland’s private life. For many years she lived on the princely estate of Camfield Place in southern England. She was the step-grandmother of Lady Diana. In 1991, Barbara Cartland herself was ennobled by the Queen of England and used “Dame Barbara” during her last years. A unique selling point of the eccentric romance writer was that she was always dressed all in pink.

4th place: Danielle Steel

Book sales: 800 million

U.S. writer Danielle Steel spent her teenage years in Europe. In 1977, the thirty-year-old wrote her first novel, “Farewell to St. Petersburg.” Petersburg,” which immediately became an international bestseller. A recurring theme in Steel’s stories is family drama and interpersonal relationships.

Danielle Steel has written over 60 books worldwide, circulation of half a billion. Danielle Steel’s most famous titles, which have also been made into films, include “Fathers,” “Under the Rainbow,” and “Message from afar.”

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Danielle Steel’s private life is turbulent: The author has been married five times and nine children’s mother. Steel’s book, “His Shining Light: The Story of My Son,” is particularly moving. The novel is about Danielle Steel’s son, Nick Traina, who suffered from manic depression and took his own life at a young age.

5th place: Harold Robbins

Book sales: 750 million

Harold Robbins was born in New York City in 1916 as the son of Jewish immigrants and grew up in the borough of Brooklyn. He dropped out of school in the late 1920s. After that, she kept her head above water with temporary jobs. Eventually, Robbins moved to California, making a career at Universal Pictures. Harold Robbins began his success story as a book author in 1948, when his first novel, “Never Love A Stranger,” was published. Robbin’s best-known works include his third book, “The Merciless.” It tells the story of a teenager during the Great Depression in the U.S. “The Merciless” also served as a model for the successful musical “My Life is Rhythm,” Elvis Presley played the leading role.

A central theme that recurs in Robbins’ novels is American economics and finance. Harold Robbins’ books have sold over 750 million copies worldwide and published in 32 different languages.

6th place: Georges Simenon

Book sales: 700 million

Belgian-born author Georges Simenon became world-famous as the creator of the novel character “Inspector Maigret. Simenon wrote the 75 crime novels that tell of the investigations of the Paris police detective Maigret over 40 years. In his stories, Georges Simenon deliberately used easy-to-understand and straightforward language, with 2000 words. Simeon himself came from a modest background. At the age of 16, he became half-orphan, and he gained his first writing experience as a journalist with the local press. In the early 1920s, he moved to Paris and initially earned his living by writing dime novels, which he published under various pseudonyms.

7th place: Enid Blyton

Book sales: 600 million

For decades, children have grown up with the adventure stories of the “Five Friends,” the twin sisters “Hanni and Nanni,” and “The Black 7. These exciting series of books for young people all originate from the imagination of Enid Blyton, who is considered to be the most successful author of children’s and young adults’ books of the 20th century. The British book author discovered her extraordinary gift for telling exciting stories off the cuff early. Before bedtime, little Enid would regale her siblings with compelling bedtime stories. In adulthood, the children’s author wrote 12.000 words a day in her best times. Enid Blyton wrote over 750 novels, which have sold 650 million copies worldwide. Many of her adventure stories were also published as children’s radio plays or were made into movies.

8th place: Sidney Sheldon

Book sales: 600 million

Sidney Sheldon began his career in Hollywood, where he made a name for himself as a writer of musicals and film scripts. He won an Oscar for his screenplay for the Hollywood film “Love is not that simple.” Sidney Sheldon succeeded in the sitcom “Charmed Jeannie” and the crime series “Hart but Hart.” Until he was over 50, Sheldon wrote his first novel, “The Naked Face,” and promptly received the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award in the best first novel category.

Sheldon wrote 21 novels with a world circulation of over half a billion. In addition, Sheldon gained an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the most translated author. However, Sheldon could enjoy his outstanding professional success only moderately: The writer suffered from manic depression since he was a teenager.

9th place: J.K. Rowling

Book sales: 500 million

Her Harry Potter novels made J.K. Rowling world famous. Rowling came up with the idea for the seven-volume fantasy book series about teenage wizard student Harry Potter in 1990 while traveling by train from Manchester to London. The first volume, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” was published seven years later. The seventh and final volume Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, appeared in 2007. The magical adventures of Harry Potter are the best-selling books in the world after the Bible and the Mao Bible. The book series has been translated into numerous living languages and even Latin. All of the Harry Potter volumes have been made into films by Hollywood and have collectively grossed well over $4 billion at the box office. J.K. Rowling, who once had to rely financially on state support, can now count herself among the wealthiest people in the U.K.

10th place: Gilbert Patten

Book sales: 500 million

Gilbert Patten lived in the USA from 1866 to 1945 and was a highly successful dime novel. His works achieved sales figures of almost 500 million. Legendary is Frank Merriwell, which Gilbert Patten wrote under the pen name Burt L. Standish wrote. The 300 Frank Merriwell volumes are about a college student and great athlete who served as a role model for millions of young Americans.

11th place: Dr.Seuss

Book sales: 500 million

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is probably Dr. Seuss’s best-known tale in Germany. The real name of the U.S. children’s book author Theodor Seuss was Geisel. A large fan base has the so-called “Beginner Books,” which Dr. Seuss designed for first-time readers. These delight young readers with funny drawings and a simple vocabulary of no more than 250 words. These include “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Egg and Bacon: The Very Best.” In all, Dr. Seuss wrote and drew. Seuss has published more than 40 books and is one of the most successful children’s authors of all time.

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12th place: Eiichiro Oda

Book sales: 470 million

He is probably the most famous mangaka globally: Japanese manga artist Eiichiro Oda. His most famous manga, “One Piece,” has sold 450 million copies, making “One Piece” the most successful manga series of all time.

Eiichiro Oda knew early on where his path would lead him: At the tender age of 4, he announced that he wanted to become a manga artist because he didn’t want to look for a real job when he grew up. He pursued this plan consistently. Then, at the age of 17, Oda won with his manga short story “Wanted!” several prestigious Japanese competitions.

13th place: Leo Tolstoy

Book sales: 413 million

One of the great stars of world literature is Leo Tolstoy. His two classics, “War and Peace” and “Anne Karenina,” are masterpieces of realism. They take the reader on a truthful journey to 19th century Russia and the story of his early twentieth-century life.

Tolstoy himself belonged to the Russian nobility. He lost both parents in early childhood and grew up with relatives. Tolstoy married young and fathered 13 children. In middle age, Leo Tolstoy fell into a terrible crisis of mind. He strove for religious depth as well as social justice. At the same time, the book author harshly criticized tsarist Russia. While Leo Tolstoy was celebrated abroad, he increasingly fell out of favor in his own country. Several of his books were banned in Russia. The Catholic Church excommunicated Leo Tolstoy after publishing his novel “The Resurrection” in 1901.

14th place: Corín Tellado

Book sales: 400 million

Corín Tellado is considered the most widely read Spanish author of our time. She inspires especially women from Spain and Latin America with her romantic love stories. The 4000 novellas penned by Corín Tellado are written in an easy-to-understand style and are usually sold in booklet form. In this way, Corín Tellado succeeds in awakening enthusiasm for reading even among people from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.

Tellado’s romance stories have sold more than 400 million copies in total. Tellado worked hard and disciplined for her great success: she often started writing before sunrise and finished her working day late at night. In 2009, the bestselling author died in the Spanish coastal city of Gijon at the age of 81.

15th place: Jackie Collins

Book sales: 400 million

Jackie Collins is the little sister of Denver Clan star Joan Collins. Before Jackie Collins discovered her literary vein, she earned her bread and butter as an actress in various British films. Collins made her debut as a book author in 1968. Her first novel, “The World Is Full of Married Men,” immediately made it onto the U.S. bestseller lists.

In her life, Collins filled 30 more books with exciting stories full of scandal, intrigue, and sparkling eroticism. Full of passion, she takes her readers into the world of the rich and beautiful. Her stories are available in 40 different languages. In total, 400 million copies of Collins’s books have crossed the counter.

16th place: Horatio Alger

Book sales: 400 million

The famous American dream is the central theme of the over 100 dime novels that Horatio Alger wrote toward the end of the 19th century. Stine wrote in the early twentieth century. His stories are told of poor young men who climb the social ladder thanks to their honesty, hard work, and heroic deeds. During Horatio Alger’s lifetime, his books were absolute bestsellers and were virtually devoured by the American masses. However, instead of living a life of luxury himself, Alger used the proceeds from selling his books to help homeless young people.

17th place: R. L. Stine

Book sales: 400 million

R. L. Stine is the Stephen King of young adult literature. Discovered his love of storytelling by R. L. Stine already early. He typed his first stories on his parents’ typewriter as early as elementary school. Like hardly any other book author in the world, R. L. Stine managed to combine humor and the creepy factor in his stories in a suitable way for children. Stine’s first significant book success came in the late 1980s with the “Fear Street” book series. The stories about the eerie events that happen to the teenagers in the fictional town of Shadyside have been sold over 80 million copies. With the “Goosebumps” book series, R. L. Stine has topped his first success: “Goosebumps” is one of the most famous children’s book series of all time and has been translated into 30 different languages. So far, 350 million copies of “Goosebumps” have been sold. The Goosebumps stories about the creepy ventriloquist’s dummy Slappy, vampires and werewolves were also made into a T.V. series and even made it to the big screen.

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18th place: Dean Koontz

Book sales: 400 million

Bestselling author Dean Koontz had a difficult start in life: He grew up in an uneducated home and suffered from his alcoholic father’s violence. Little Dean escaped from his dreary everyday life early on into the colorful world of books. The little boy taught himself to read. Dean Koontz then started his writing career at elementary school age. He invented his own stories and sold them in the neighborhood. Dean Koontz has remained faithful to story writing throughout the rest of his life, but his reading audience has multiplied a millionfold since elementary school.

In more than 100 books, mainly in the genres of horror, thriller, and science fiction, he skillfully plays with the fears of his enthusiastic readers. 14 of his books have made it to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. More recently, Dean Koontz became the talk of the town when theories arose that he had predicted the Corona Pandemic as early as 1981 in his book “The Eyes of Darkness.”

19th place: Nora Roberts

Book sales: 400 million

Nora Roberts had an extraordinary and, at the same time, straightforward motive to start writing: Boredom. In 1979, the then 28-year-old housewife was snowed in for days at a time at her home in the U.S. state of Maryland. When she ran out of reading material during this time, she began writing her novel. With her romantic first novel “Red Roses for Delia,” she took the hearts of her readers by storm. In the following years, Roberts wrote 200 more novels, which made it onto the New York Times bestseller list almost without exception. Nora Roberts also has a loyal fan base in Germany. Her books have sold 25 million copies in the Federal Republic of Germany. Anyone who buys one of Roberts’ great love stories believes the promise of a happy ending at the same time. A tragic end to her stories is an absolute no-go for the successful American author.

20th place: Alexander Pushkin

Book sales: 357 million

Pushkin is to Russia what Goethe is to Germany. Undisputedly, he is the most critical poet in Russia and is considered the founder of the modern Russian literary language. This is especially interesting because Pushkin spoke French better than Russian in his childhood. Alexander Pushkin’s masterpiece “Eugene Onegin” from 1833 is world-famous. On the surface, “Eugene Onegin” seems to be a love story. On closer reading, however, the world classic turns out to be a critical social novel. Due to his socially non-conformist behavior in tsarist Russia, Pushkin was exiled to the Caucasus after his studies. His experiences during this time were written down in the book “The Prisoner in the Caucasus.”

Places 21-50 of the most successful book authors of all time:

Place:Author:Sales figures:Genre/Known Works:Number of books:
21.Stephen King350 millionHorror, science fiction, fantasy, It, The Shining, The Stand, Pet Sematary, Salem’s Lot, The Green Mile77
22.Paulo Coelho350 millionThe Alchemist28
23.Jeffrey Archer330 millionSaga, Thriller, Short stories, Kane and Abel, The Clifton Chronicles33
24.Louis L’Amour330 millionWestern101
25.Jirō Akagawa330 millionMysteryOver 500
26.René Goscinny325 millionComics, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Iznogoud108
27.Alder Stanley Gardner325 millionMystery, Perry Mason140
28.Edgar Wallace300 millionDetective175
29.Jin Yong300 millionWuxia15
30.Janet Dailey300 millionRomance93
31.Robert Ludlum290 millionEspionage, Jason Bourne40
32.Akira Toriyama287 millionManga, Dr. Slump, Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Super66
33.Osamu Tezuka276 millionManga, Astro Boy, Black Jack, Buddha62
34.James Patterson275 millionThriller, Alex Cross98
35.Frédéric Dard270 millionDetective, San Antonio300
36.Stan and Jan Berenstain260 millionStories from the bear countryOver 300
37.Roald Dahl250 millionChildren’s literature50
38.John Grisham250 millionLegal thrillers22
39.Zane Grey250 millionWestern
40.Irving Wallace250 millionDrama
41.J. R. R. Tolkien250 millionThe Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Fantasy36
42.Masashi Kishimoto235 millionManga, Naruto72
43.Karl May200 millionWestern, Adventure80
44.Carter Brown220 millionDetective
45.Mickey Spillane200 millionDetective, Mike Hammer
46.C. S. Lewis200 millionThe Chronicles of Narnia, Fantasy38
47.Kyotaro Nishimura200 millionMysteryOver 400
48.Mitsuru Adachi200 millionManga, Touch, H2, Slow Step, Miyuki
49.Rumiko Takahashi200 millionManga Urusei Yatsura, Ranma ½, Inuyasha, Maison Ikkoku, Rin-ne
50.Gosho Aoyama200 millionManga, Detective Conan (Case Closed), Yaiba, Magic Kaito

Whether they have written sophisticated world literature, simple dime novels, exciting adventures for young people, or romantic love stories – the 50 most successful book authors of all time have one thing in common: they have managed to captivate millions of readers with their stories!

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