The SFF All-Time Sales List

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Werthead, Aug 29, 2013.

  1. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

    Jul 6, 2006
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    Details on the list: this was assembled based on Wikipedia details, sales figures via author blogs and websitse, or info released publicly by publishers. Some of these figures have not been updated since 2008 (when I assembled the last list) or earlier, due to figures not being updated. Some have required some speculative guesswork based on new information released, such as Robert Jordan and R.A. Salvatore's previously-published figures being for the USA alone, meaning that their worldwide sales are likely twice as large or even larger.

    If an author is not present, that's likely because official sales figures have not been released yet. Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss, for example, should definitely be on here but as they have no official figures, I can't place them. That's also true for older authors like Arthur C. Clarke and Philip K. Dick.

    The list seems broadly correct, but it is not 100% accurate due to the figures being given out by publishers being often rather vague.

    1) J.K. Rowling (c. 450 million)
    2) Stephen King (c. 350 million)
    3) JRR Tolkien (c. 300 million)
    [Dean Koontz (c. 200 million)]
    [Michael Crichton (200 million)]
    4) Anne Rice (136 million)
    5) CS Lewis (120 million+)
    6) Stephanie Meyer (116 million)
    7) Edgar Rice Burroughs (100 million+)
    8) Sir Arthur C. Clarke (100 million+)
    9) Andre Norton (90 million+)
    10) Sir Terry Pratchett (85 million+)
    11) Robert Jordan (80 million+)
    [John Saul (60 million+)]
    12) James Herbert (54 million+)
    13) Richard Adams (50 million+)
    14) Suzanne Collins (50 million+)
    [Dennis Wheatley (50 million)]
    [Jean M. Auel (45 million)]
    [Morgan Llywelyn (40 million)]
    15) Christopher Paolini (39 million)
    16) Michael Ende (35 million)
    17) Charlaine Harris (32.5 million)
    18) Stanislaw Lem (30 million+)
    19) R.A. Salvatore (30 million+)
    20) Sherrilyn Kenyon (30 million+)
    21) Robert Heinelin (30 million+)
    22) George R.R. Martin (28 million+)
    23) Kaoru Kurimoto (28 million)
    24) Terry Brooks (26.5 million)
    25) George Orwell (25 million+)
    26) Marion Zimmer Bradley (25 million+)
    27) Darren Shan (25 million+)
    28) Terry Goodkind (25 million+)
    29) Diana Gabaldon (25 million)
    30) Cassandra Clare (24 million)
    31) Kevin J. Anderson (23 million)
    32) Eoin Colfer (21 million)
    33) Isaac Asimov (20 million+)
    34) Margaret Weis (c. 20 million)
    35) Tracy Hickman (c. 20 million)
    36) Brian Jacques (c. 20 million)
    37) Kazumasa Hirai (c. 20 million)
    38) Raymond E. Feist (20 million+)
    39) Michael Moorcock (20 million)
    40) Mercedes Lackey (20 million)
    41) David Eddings (18 million+)
    42) Frank Herbert (18 million)
    43) Hideyuki Kikuchi (18 million)
    44) Anne McCaffrey (18 million+)
    45) Tad Williams (17 million)
    46) Larry Niven (17 million)
    47) Douglas Adams (16 million)
    48) Brandon Sanderson (15 million+) (12 million WoT)
    49) Rick Riordan (15 million)
    50) Philip Pullman (15 million)
    51) Yoshiki Tanaka (15 million)
    52) Timothy Zahn (15 million)
    53) Diana Wynne Jones (10 million+)
    54) Robert E. Howard (10 million+)
    55) Stephen Donaldson (10 million)
    56) Neil Gaiman (10 million + )
    57) Alice Sebold (10 million+)
    58) Madeline L'Engle (10 million+)
    59) Jerry Pournell (10 million+)
    60) Chris Bunch (10 million+)
    61) Allan Cole (10 million+)
    62) Peter Straub (10 million+)
    63) Frederik Pohl (10 million+)
    64) Cyril M. Kornbluth (10 million+)
    65) Gordon R. Dickson (10 million+)
    66) Ray Bradbury (8 million+)
    67) Christopher Golden (8 million+)
    68) F. Paul Wilson (8 million+)
    [Bernard Cornwell (7 million+)]
    69) David Weber (7 million)
    70) Orson Scott Card (7 million+)
    71) Roger Zelazny (6.5 million+)
    72) William Gibson (6.5 million+)
    73) Peter S. Beagle (6 million+)
    74) Gregory Maguire (6 million+)
    74) Laurell K. Hamilton (6 million+)
    76) Jim Butcher (6 million+)
    77) Jonathan Stroud (6 million+)
    78) Barbara Hambly (6 million+)
    79) L. Frank Baum (5 million+)
    80) Daniel Keyes (5 million+)
    81) Garth Nix (5 million)
    82) Robert R. McCammon (5 million+)
    83) Vonda N. McIntyre (5 million+)
    84) Audrey Niffenegger (5 million+)
    85) Sergei Lukyanenko (5 million+)
    86) Frank Schatzing (4.2 million+)
    87) Fritz Leiber (4 million+)
    88) Lian Hearn (4 million)
    89) David Drake (4 million)
    90) Veronica Roth (4 million)
    91) Tamora Pierce (4 million+)
    92) Aaron Allston (3.3. million+)
    93) Robert Harris (3 million+) (SF only)
    94) Alan Dean Foster (3 million+)
    95) Ursula K. Le Guin (3 million+)
    96) Guy Gavriel Kay (3 million)
    97) Lloyd Alexander (3 million)
    98) Dan Abnett (3 million+)
    99) John Ringo (3 million)
    100) Joe Abercrombie (3 million)
    101) Margaret Atwood (3 million+) (SF only)
    102) Robert Silverberg (3 million+)
    103) Eric Flint (3 million)
    104) Scott Westerfield (3 million+)
    105) Robert Asprin (3 million)
    106) Rick Hautala (3 million+)
    107) Brian Lumley (3 million+)
    108) Neal Stephenson (3 million+)
    109) Simon R. Green (2.7 million)
    110) Kim Stanley Robinson (2.5 million+)
    111) Harry Turtledove (2.5 million)
    112) S.M. Stirling (2.5 million)
    113) Michelle Paver (2.5 million+)
    114) Max Brooks (2.4 million+)
    115) James Dashner (2.3 million+)
    116) Susan Cooper (2 million+)
    117) Hans Dominik (2 million+)
    118) Peter F. Hamilton (2 million+)
    119) Brent Weeks (2 million)
    120) Andrzej Sapkowski (2 million+)
    121) Lois McMaster Bujold (2 million)
    122) Katherine Kurtz (2 million)
    123) Trudi Canavan (2 million+)
    124) Stephen Lawhead (2 million+)
    125) Robert Rankin (2 million+)
    126) Maggie Stiefvater (2 million+)
    127) Gregory Benford (2 million+)
    128) Greg Bear (2 million+)
    129) Jacqueline Carey (2 million+)
    130) Piers Anthony (2 million+)
    131) L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (2 million+)
    132) David Gemmell (2 million+)
    133) Justin Cronin (2 million+)
    134) Kevin Crossley-Holland (2 million+)
    135) Melanie Rawn (1.8 million+)
    136) Jennifer Roberson (1.7 million)
    137) Elizabeth Moon (1.5 million+)
    138) Deborah Harkness (1.5 million+)
    139) Susanna Clarke (1.5 million+)
    140) Markus Heitz (1.5 million+)
    141) Libba Bray (1.5 million+)
    142) Seth Grahame-Smith (1.4 million+)
    143) Dan Simmons (1.25 million+)
    144) Stan Nicholls (1.25 million+)
    145) Naomi Novik (1.2 million+)
    146) Jack Campbell (1.2 million+)
    147) Tanya Huff (1.2 million+)
    148) Iain M. Banks (1.1 million+) (SF only)
    149) Kelley Armstrong (1 million+)
    150) Samuel R. Delany (1 million+)
    151) Ed Greenwood (1 million+)
    152) Paul S. Kemp (1 million+)
    153) Connie Willis (1 million)
    154) Sara Douglass (1 million)
    155) Robin Hobb (1 million+)
    156) Steven Erikson (1 million+)
    157) Alastair Reynolds (1 million+)
    158) Jasper Fforde (1 million+)
    159) Ian Irvine (1 million+)
    160) Richard A. Knaak (1 million+)
    161) Katherine Kerr (1 million+)
    162) Dave Duncan (1 million+)
    163) A.C. Crispin (1 million+)
    164) Hugh Howey (1 million+)
    165) Joe Haldeman (1 million+)
    166) Glen Cook (1 million+)
    167) David Brin (1 million+)
    168) Henry N. Beard (1 million+)
    169) Douglas C. Kenney (1 million+)
    170) Alexey Pehov (1 million+)
    171) John Gregory Betancourt (1 million+)
    172) Jo Clayton (1 million+)
    173) Christie Golden (1 million+)
    174) Drew Karpyshyn (1 million+)
    175) David Mitchell (1 million+)
    176) Ransom Riggs (1 million+)
    177) Elizabeth Haydon (1 million+)
    178) Peter V. Brett (925,000)
    179) Chris Wooding (750,000+)
    180) William King (750,000+)
    181) Erin Morgenstern (650,000+)
    182) Janny Wurts (500,000+)
    183) Kevin Hearne (500,000+)
    184) Alison Croggon (500,000+)
    185) Michael Gerber (500,000+)
    186) Hugh Cook (500,000+)
    187) Gail Carriger (400,000+)
    188) Gail Z. Martin (400,000+)
    189) Lawrence Watt Evans aka Nathan Archer (400,000+)
    190) Ben Aaronovitch (400,000+)
    191) Lynn Flewelling (350,000)
    192) Kate Elliott (300,000+)
    193) Ernest Cline (300,000)
    194) Mark Smith aka Jonathan Wylie aka Julia Gray (300,000+)
    195) Julia Smith aka Jonathan Wylie aka Julia Gray (300,000+)
    196) Scott Lynch (300,000+)
    197) J.V. Jones (250,000+)
    198) Mark Lawrence (250,000+)
    199) Michael J. Sullivan (250,000+)
    200) Karen Miller (250,000+)
    201) Sharon Lee (250,000+)
    202) Steve Miller (250,000+)
    203) Karen Russell (210,000+)
    204) James Barclay (200,000+)
    205) R. Scott Bakker (200,000+)
    206) Paolo Bacigalupi (200,000+)
    207) Jaye Wells (200,000+)
    208) David Dalglish (175,000+)
    209) Daniel H. Wilson (160,000+)
    210) Adam Roberts (150,000+)
    211) Glen Duncan (150,000+)
    212) Glenda Larke (120,000+)
    213) James Lovegrove (100,000+)
    214) Tom Lloyd (70,000+)
    215) Russell Kirkpatrick (70,000+)
    216) Hannu Rajaniemi (40,000+)
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  2. John_PQ

    John_PQ Registered User

    May 18, 2010
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    A very interesting list. I think Rick Riordan's total will start to climb again with the new film.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2013
  3. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

    Jun 16, 2009
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    Moon's seems very, very low.
  4. Davis Ashura

    Davis Ashura Would be writer? Sure.

    Jun 24, 2002
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    Anne McCaffrey's seems very, very low.
  5. CodanOfCanada

    CodanOfCanada Lord of the Frozen Wastes

    Apr 19, 2010
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    Is George R.R. Martin's sales current? I would have figured sales would have skyrocketed in the last couple years.
  6. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

    Jul 6, 2006
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    If you've got harder figures or can find them, share! :)

    As for Martin, he was at (at absolute best) about 7 million in 2008. Going up to 25 million in five years is skyrocketing :)
  7. Redpred

    Redpred Registered User

    Apr 10, 2006
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    Threads like this always make me wonder, at what sales level is an author seen to have "Made it" so to speak. I noticed Mark Lawrence and Michael Sullivan are listed at 250,000+ sales, I find this hugely impressive for 2 fairly new (But highly regarded) authors (new in the sense of breaking out in the fantasy world anyway to clarify). Joe Abercrombie is at 3 Million again hugely impressive number for a young author. I'm sure GRRMs will continue to grow and grow, the TV Show has generated such interest in the books but it's possibly tainted a bit by the fact that he might never finish it, if he was writing a book every 2 years or so I think people would be even more excited!
  8. KatG

    KatG Fulgurous Staff Member

    Mar 22, 2003
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    I don't think this is a very accurate list, I've got to say.
  9. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

    Jun 16, 2009
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    I think Adam's aware of that. It's hard to be accurate when some publishers (particularly ones like Tor US/UK, Orbit US/UK, Baen, etc. - not so much Gollancz) don't really respond to fans too much, and on top of that some authors don't know their sales or the sales haven't been announced, or there's editions via multiple publishers, etc., etc. Adam told me on Twitter that his figures for Elizabeth Moon are based solely on the US copy of the Paks omnibus (the first one), hence why they're so low, as an example.

    I'm sure it'd be appreciated by Adam if you found any and contributed them (I contributed Alison Croggon :D ), or had any corrections.
  10. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

    May 17, 2000
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    It is about as accurate as somebody not working in publishing is likely to cobble together, at least.
  11. KatG

    KatG Fulgurous Staff Member

    Mar 22, 2003
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    It's never really been a numbers and ranking industry. We don't have hard data on specific authors. There's no point in the industry in trotting it out since fiction authors don't directly compete with each other -- they don't steal readers from each other, so it doesn't particularly matter to the industry if one author has more sales than another, only in maximizing how many sales one particular author can get. We know that Rowling right now is the leading person on a lot of benchmarks and in the top ten sellers of all time, and that Stephen King is right behind her. We know Meyer got pretty high. But exact numbers are only going to be on their royalty statements, not counting the used book market.

    The consignment system for print -- copies printed, copies shipped (gross sales,) returns, net sales, means that the numbers you get may not be necessarily net sales numbers. Numbers get rounded up and rounded down. Copies printed info particularly gets inflated and quite often publishers report the number of copies printed and that gets mistaken for sales info. Older works may be in the public domain, which means anyone can print them, and this is often done for classics in the educational market, so that would be pretty impossible for one publisher to mention. Even a copyrighted author often works with multiple publishers in multiple countries and over time may be having those multiple editions. If Tor gave you sales figures on a number of authors they've published, it still wouldn't give you near the full count. And then they'd get sued by the authors whose royalty info they released.

    Frank L. Baum's books, for instance, including the Oz books, have sold way more copies. Every year, some of the books are in the educational programs of grade schools, universities and learning supplements, which is a huge market. And the books have been around over a century of this. The recent Oz movie just sold them many more copies. So it's clearly not 5 million. But it would be hard to determine exactly how many precisely because of how old the book is. The same probably goes for George Orwell -- millions of copies sold to high schools each year in the West alone.

    Anyone under 2 million copies shouldn't be on a top 100 sellers list at all, even one just for SFFH. Remember, with the wholesale market in the past, authors pulled in larger numbers in the 1960's, 1970's. It wasn't unusual for a mid-list to sell 25,000 copies as an average sale, in mass market paperbacks to grocery stores with no promotion. That's a very good sale today with skads of promotion. A sale of 100,000 might only get you to the mid-list and low rungs of bestsellers lists back then. So the older big authors simply outsell most of the newer ones, except for some like Rowling.

    We do know that Agatha Christie, Harold Robbins and Barbara Cartland all are in the top spots for bestselling fiction of all time, with numbers roughly in the billions. There are a number of authors like Enid Blyton who sold extraordinary numbers in the near billions but most people have no idea who they are today (although many still know some of her creations.) Tolstoy is up there too as is Dr. Seus and Danielle Steele. If you add in the children's authors, they will skew the list their way, as their books stay in print longer and sell regular amounts every year. There are Asian bestsellers written in China and India, for instance, whose sales figures go way beyond most of Western publishing.

    Limiting it to English, western "SFFH" gets problematic. The caveat was that older authors clearly might not be on this list, but there's also the issue of who counts and who doesn't. Authors whose works were only published with category specific publishers (which existed mainly in the last 80 years or so,) or authors also in general fiction like Orwell or Vonnegut after a bit? Authors who only wrote SFFH, or only wrote a few SFFH books like Sebold or Atwood? A lot of horror writers are missing -- Clive Barker and Dean Koontz, and Tom Clancy and James Patterson should be on the list. A lot of SF writers are missing, as noted. So the list is a bit of a hodgepodge. It is a list of various authors who have sold very well to average bestseller well and have written or sometimes written SFF books, not a top sellers of all time in SFF list.

    I do not think it is possible to compile such a list, but if you wanted to try, I would suggest that you make use of Michael Korda's compiling of the New York Times bestseller list, Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller 1900-1999, in which he provides the non-fiction and fiction top sellers for each year. That's just one list, but it was always the top list rubric in the U.S. That's just the U.S. and it doesn't give exact sales figures either, but it would at least tell you some of the authors you need to look at. Of course, there are the slow bestsellers who sell copies steadily each year, but don't hit the lists. But it's a start, as are the award winners and nom lists for the major awards. You would probably have an easier time trying to compile a list of the top bestselling SFFH books, as very famous books usually have some form of rough numbers trumpeted after them.

    I think you would have an easier time with a "best known" SFFH authors list. That one would be fairly easy to do.
  12. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

    Jun 16, 2009
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    It's a bit of fun that satiates (to some degree) people's curiosity, and helps give the idea that - actually - books don't sell too many copies in general. It would be better if it showed how many books those authors wrote, but with authors like King and Weber, it would be a job on its own to get those figures.
  13. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

    Jul 6, 2006
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    I've taken a break from this for a few days as keeping trach of all the info was getting overwhelming. Will probably get back to it in a day or two.

    It varies, but in general most authors don't sell many copies and don't make much money. There was a story a few years back about a paranormal romance author whose books hit the 30s on the NYT bestseller list every year, but then fell out very quickly and she didn't make much money (she was still eligible for food stamps, apparently).

    Sales in the 10,000+ range are apparently decent for a debut author (Scott Lynch sold 15,000 copies of his debut novel in hardcover and tradeback in its first year on sale in the UK alone and that was considered quite successful). The authors selling hundreds of thousands of copies per book are quite rare. People have been saying that the Steven Erikson (actually one of the more accurate figures on the list, straight from his publishers and less than two years old) figure is shockingly low, but he sells approximately 100,000 copies of each novel, guaranteed, and his overall sales profile is rising slowly but steadily. That's actually extremely healthy. It's not GRRM or Robert Jordan shifting two or three million copies of one book alone in its first year on sale, no, but it's still much better than most authors have achieved, or ever achieve.

    As the list shows, there's a lot names in it (and even quite high up) that no-one has ever heard of. That might because they're foreign authors but it might just be authors who are very popular in certain quarters but don't get discussed in the usual SFF blogosphere circles. I've had people saying Scott Lynch must have sold more based on how often he's talked about, but that's simply not the case. He only had two books out and then lost momentum, and a lot of people are steering clear until the series is done (this is exasperated by discussions of Lynch's problems being right there on both the UK and US Amazon pages).

    The list is not accurate in precise figures, but in both general content (these are the biggest-selling authors in the field) and general ranking, it seems to be reasonably accurate. I agree it goes too vague and unreliable once you drop below a million, but there's a surprising number of often-discussed authors in that sales bracket whose figures - however rough - people will want to know.
  14. KatG

    KatG Fulgurous Staff Member

    Mar 22, 2003
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    Again, Wert, I don't think these sales figures are reasonably accurate or that you do in fact have the top sellers in the field. The bottom levels of the list should simply not be there and authors who should be on the list are not, apparently simply because you couldn't get sales figures for them. James Patterson outsells the bottom two thirds of your list and most fiction authors in general. Barker and Koontz hold records. Leaving off Arthur C. Clarke doesn't make much sense. Why are Kim Harrison, Kelly Armstrong and Jim Butcher missing, but you've got Lynch and Scott, who are quite clearly just past being mid-list authors? Why include Sebold but not Michael Chabon?

    And as schoolteachers repeatedly explain, while Wikipedia can be useful as a general reference tool, when it comes to factual figures, it is not a reliable source in the least to be cited. Nor, frankly, are sales figures from authors, barring a few who have released their royalty statements to help other authors with information (and even they aren't giving you their full sales picture.) And publishers seldom release net sales info. They are more likely to list copies shipped or even copies in print. This is a random list of random authors with random guesses about their sales figures, as you yourself explain in the OP. The top five are logically correct, though their sales figures may not be. Pratchett and Jordan obviously are up there. So you can make some reasonable guesses even without sales figure estimates, which might make more sense because Anne Rice is up there but your guestimate is clearly low. I'm glad if Abercrombie is doing well, but there is no way that he has as yet outsold David Gemmell. This list is not a list of the all time top SFF sellers. It's not even a list of the current top sellers. Although I give it points for including a lot of the YA authors.

    I guess it doesn't matter, as folks don't really care, but you might want to at least rethink the bottom part of the list. (Without me withdrawing my cheering fandom of Lynch, etc.)
  15. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

    May 17, 2000
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    I thought the disclaimer of the list being an estimate based on the data available to Adam and not fully exhaustive was sort of an understood things.
  16. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

    Jul 6, 2006
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    But I do. And certainly I see nothing questionable about the Top 10 (except that Tolkien might have outsold King, just possibly and the Koontz/Crichton argument). The further it goes down, the more unreliable things get, as I believe I have said several times.

    If I can't get figures for them, where should I put them then? Best guesses? Make them up?

    Or are you saying that such a list shouldn't be attempted? Because the reaction to the list has been overwhelming positive across more than a dozen different sites and forums. Even taking the huge number of caveats on board, people are actually grateful to get a list like this - correct in every precise detail or fairly vague - because things like it simply do not exist from official sources.

    His SFF work is a tiny fraction of his overall sales (it's restricted to one YA series, right?) and they're not written by him anyway, so no, they're not going on there.

    Does Clive Barker hold records? If so, I'd like to see them because he's one of the authors I spent some time looking up figures for and they just weren't easily accessible. Kontz is (200m, allegedly) but separating out his fantasy and non-supernatural horror seems to be impossible.

    It does when I have no figures for him.

    That's why I looked at the citations for each figure where they were given.

    But that is only a problem for low-level authors, where the publisher might have printed 15,000 copies and the author sold 300, meaning it's bombed but still registering as selling 15,000. That's why I don't go below 100,000. At the level of millions, you're looking at the in-print copies accounting for tiny amounts of the total figures, and millions of copies are printed generally because millions of copies have already been sold. So the print run/sale correlation is there.

    I said it's a list with figures where they are available. The caveats speak for themselves: it's not an exhaustive, pinpoint-accurate list (and it's still a work in progress), but such a list is impossible unless someone goes around each publisher inspecting their figures going back a century. That is never going to happen. This - or something like it - is the only approach that's ever going to work.

    Apparently it's too high. I've found quite a few other sources saying she's sold 'only' 80 million books.

    There very clearly is. Gemmell's sales of a million books was mentioned very, very loudly when he died in 2006. If he'd sold more his publishers would have said that. He may have sold more by now, but probably not a lot more. During his lifetime it was often reported that Gemmell sold okay-to-good, but not outrageously so, and he survived from book deal to book deal. He was never able to stop writing or slow down his writing as he wrote to live. The reason for this is extremely simple: whilst a household name in British SFF circles, he never broke the States. And without breaking the States, it's very hard for an English-language author to achieve his full sales potential. Pratchett is the only author I know who became massive English-language phenomenon without breaking America, and he eventually did get across there much later on in his career.

    Abercrombie was published in the States from the off, benefitted immensely from his big online push and has also benefitted from being bigged up by numerous big American fantasy authors (including GRRM and I believe Rothfuss and Sanderson). He has hit both the UK and US bestseller lists (Gemmell would sometimes hit the Top Ten of the UK Times bestseller list, where in a slow week you only need 500 or so hardcover sales to get on). He's benefitted from the ebook revolution. Him outselling Gemmell is quite credible.

    No. But it's the best we are likely to get.
  17. Davis Ashura

    Davis Ashura Would be writer? Sure.

    Jun 24, 2002
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    I saw an interview with Jim Butcher from 2011 in which it stated he'd sold 6.5 million books. Is that a legitimate citation?
  18. KatG

    KatG Fulgurous Staff Member

    Mar 22, 2003
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    Wert, you are calling this the SFF All-Time Sales List while fully admitting that it is not a SFF All-Time Sales List and that it is very incomplete. If you wanted to call it a list of some of the leading authors in SFF, then yeah, the list is a list and best guesses on those whom you've been able to find some possibly partially solid sales info on. But the title of the list is hyperbole.

    You've admitted the sales figures aren't necessarily accurate but the best you can do. So I don't think you feel the figures are that accurate either. King and Rowling are roughly accurate, although Rowling's is a bit low for other figures I've seen. And yes, whether Tolkien or King has sold more has been a question for a long time. Together with King, Koontz and Barker dominated horror in sales of mass market paperbacks, and Peter Straub was up there as well. Butcher, Harrison and particularly Armstrong have been on the top rungs of the lists for dozens of books over the past decade, which means quite large numbers, especially with e-book sales too. So if you are going to have an All-Time Sales List, they would have to be on it for it to be an All-Time Sales List. Ditto Clarke.

    You are already making it up by saying the list is an All Time Sales list when it is not and cobbling together a possible sales figure for them and ranking those estimates. Doing a different kind of list could provide the same information as best estimates, rather than implying these figures are facts and that Scott Lynch has outsold authors like C.J. Cherryh, Jim Butcher and Eddings to be in the top 100 SFF sellers of all time.

    I'm saying that the form of the list you've used basically offers misinformation by basically guessing about the sales figures of only one group of authors and declaring those to be sales record holders in the field. With good intentions, but misinformation.

    Why? So they can have author races? They aren't going to be able to tell who won when many of the top sellers aren't even on the list. The top ten or so have reasonably accurate figures released and have appeared on numerous lists. The rest, though, are much harder for anyone to calculate. If someone wants to know how much a particular author has sold, the author/estate has the most accurate info from all their publishers. But they have very good reasons for not releasing that exact info. They tend to round upwards when they do release information. That information, if released, is readily available on the Web. It's as good a guess as any. Call them top sellers -- they are. But the all-time top sellers is a misnomer. If you can't get the data, ranking them numerically is misleading.

    No, Patterson writes some books by himself and has for years and he writes others with co-authors as also a book packager. SFF he's written himself include the bestselling When the Wind Blows duology, the bestselling Maximum Ride series (which is the YA series you are thinking of and so is as like to be included as Riordin,) and the fantasy horror novels Virgin and Cradle and All. He is co-author on several more SFF series or novels, and co-authorships actually do count as sales. Or are you going to subtract the sales numbers for The Talisman with Peter Straub from Stephen King's total? Asimov collaborated a number of times with his wife and Robert Silverberg but he's on the list for total sales. (And how many of those sales include his non-fiction and his non-SFF mystery stories as well?) Sebold only wrote one fantasy novel. Chabon wrote several SFF works and has quite likely outsold her. Salman Rushdie has written several fantasy novels and outsold them both. Why is Sebold ranked All-Time and Chabon or Rushdie is not? Tom Clancy's SF makes him up there. And if we bounce off all of those on one grounds or another, you still have Butcher, Armstrong and Harrison, etc. missing.

    Barker, Koontz, and King were the big three of horror in the times when mass market paperback bestsellers sold millions of copies and horror was the bestselling fiction category, yes. Barker is not as prolific as the other two and so would be lower down, but he's definitely outsold numerous people currently on your list. And he's still publishing. Koontz published fantasy horror but also science fiction horror and science fiction thrillers. The majority of his work is in SFF. If you have other authors who did non-SFF such as Asimov, Orwell, Lewis, King, Rice, Galbadon, Sebold, Atwood, etc. and don't have their sales totals separated out, why is it required for Koontz or Crichton for that matter, since Crichton wrote again mostly SFF and is certainly up there in the top twenty fiction sellers? From 1986-1996, American bestseller lists were dominated by the big six: Tom Clancy, Danielle Steele, Stephen King, John Grisham, Dean Koontz, and Michael Crichton. They wrote 63 of the 100 top bestsellers of that decade. And that again was when the wholesale market sold millions of the top sellers in mass market paperbacks. You had to sell that high often to get on the top of the list, and you usually had to sell over 200,000 to get on the top of the hardcover list. So if Koontz, Crichton and Clancy, who all worked mostly in SFF, are major record holders along with Stephen King, how do you have an All-Time list without them?

    So if you have no sales figures for him, Clarke is no longer one of the all-time bestselling SFF authors? The godfather of science fiction whose work has been in print for decades, whose work is studied in universities on a regular basis and has been published all over the world? What you are saying is that you will give us a list of the 100 All-Time top selling SFF authors, while at the same time saying that you can't actually do that because you don't have the data to do the actual list. So again, it is a list of random bestselling authors with best guess sales figures with a reasonably sound top five sellers.

    If you want to have a list of All Time bestsellers, you shouldn't be going below 1 million or at least 500,000. If you give an author who only sold 150,000 copies a slot, while ignoring authors who have sold higher because you can't get data on them, then again, it isn't a list of the All-Time bestsellers. Because of the problems you have to make your list, you can't actually make that particular list. You can make a list of top sellers that is incomplete, not an all-time list.

    Not really, no, if you are trying to rank them numerically, which is what you are doing. If the amount bandied around is say "over 45 million" and it's actually 30 million, then their ranking on your list would drop. And that does happen, those general numbers.

    Then don't give the list a title you can't deliver on and don't rank the authors numerically when the rankings don't really mean anything. Because the caveats aren't in the title, and despite you listing the caveats, what's going to happen is a lot of people will quote items off your list as fact or pass the whole list along as fact. Look, I wasn't going to make a big deal about this. All I said at first was, it's not a very accurate list (as an all-time list,) and I wasn't the first to say it either. There is a difference between a Working List of Top Sellers in SFF, which is what you have, and The SFF All-Time Sales List, which is what you are calling it and what you don't have. It's not a matter of being pinpoint-accurate as an All-Time list because the list isn't even vaguely accurate as an All-Time list beyond the tippy-top. And as you have outlined, there are real, hard reasons why it would be difficult to be accurate and name all of the all-time top sellers. That doesn't mean you can't compile data on sales. But it isn't hard data, it's limited data, and so you might want to reterm the list so that it is less likely to be misquoted. Or at least do so next time you update it.

    Given her dominance on the lists in the 1990's, that seems unlikely.

    Gemmell wasn't in the tippy-top ranks in the U.S. but he was a lead title bestseller in the U.S. some twenty years ago. The figure for Britain for Gemmell is 1.5 million. I have no idea if that's anywhere near accurate or not. But Gemmell did sell widely in other countries, including the U.S., which would then be added on to 1.5 million. And he produced an awful lot of books and did so in part back when there was a big wholesale market. He was a working author like Glen Cook, but by sheer mass, he sold a lot of copies. (And number of copies are what you are measuring, not the amount of money from those copies. Prices now are higher, so monetarily a more modern author can get more money for fewer copies sold.) Abercrombie didn't break the major lists in the U.S. until Red Country and only in the lower ranks. He's done really well and will continue to do well, but he also is much better known in Britain, where the market is smaller as you note, and his number seems pretty inflated. (On the other hand, if he comes in and says Germany went crazy for him and pushed his sales numbers up, yay!)

    So it's again a list of top sellers in SFF, not the SFF All-Time Sales List.

    And yet the title of the list doesn't make room for disclaimers. And SFF fans have a habit of quoting best estimates as facts, especially when they are listed numerically that way. That's why Adam is having trouble getting accurate sales data in the first place. So it's top sellers with reasonable estimates for those particular, selected top sellers. Rowling may be #1, logically, but Hugh Howey (as impressive as he is,) is not the 68th bestselling SFF author of all time. (Yet.) But Hugh Howey will get quoted as being in the top 100 bestselling SFF authors of all time because that's where Adam put him on his widely passed around list. We all know this happens.

    Adam agrees that his list isn't accurate and that he can't make it accurate and include authors who should be there. You agree the list isn't accurate. Everyone agrees the list isn't accurate. There are disclaimers -- if folk pay attention to them -- that the list is not accurate. So why is it a problem if I say that the list is inaccurate as an All-Time list when everyone agrees that's the case? I am also pointing out that some authors for whom he can possibly get the same sort of estimates he's using for those already on the list -- Koontz 200 million, Patterson somewhere between 250-280 million -- have been selected out for reasons that are not consistent with other authors included in the list -- Sebold, Atwood, etc. And that the contemporary fantasy side of the list seems a bit short (Harrison, Butcher, etc.,) though that may simply be that Adam can't get the info.
  19. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

    Jun 16, 2009
    Likes Received:
    How can Adam put Clarke in if there's no figures for Clarke? That would just be an assumption, and you'd drag him over the coals for that.

    And Adam isn't saying X author is the Y best selling author, what he's saying is that with the data he has, he's ranking the data he has in order by minimum confirmed sales figures. So yes, some authors will be lower than they are. He can't be accurate because no accurate figures exist at that size - audio deals, translation deals, giveaway copies, box sets, etc., etc., and when you're talking a career as long as Barker, King, etc., that's just an enormous amount of data. If you asked the author or their agent, chances are they wouldn't know, either.
  20. AmethystOrator

    AmethystOrator Registered User

    Sep 4, 2010
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    I'm very much in support of Kat G in this.

    It would be great if we could have a reasonably accurate list to look at, but we don't and it sounds like we can't, at least for now. This attempt could be 5% correct, or 17% or who knows? But it seems to be nothing close to 100%.