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  1. #1
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    The SFF All-Time Sales List

    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 by Werthead; October 11th, 2013 at 11:38 AM.

  2. #2
    A very interesting list. I think Rick Riordan's total will start to climb again with the new film.
    Last edited by Rob B; September 3rd, 2013 at 11:06 AM. Reason: Mod Note: No need to quote the entire lengthy post when you are the first responder, makes reading the thread a painful scroll ;)

  3. #3
    Registered User Loerwyn's Avatar
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    Moon's seems very, very low.

  4. #4
    aka Radone Davis Ashura's Avatar
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    Anne McCaffrey's seems very, very low.

  5. #5
    Lord of the Frozen Wastes
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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. #6
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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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. #7
    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. #8
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I don't think this is a very accurate list, I've got to say.

  9. #9
    Registered User Loerwyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    I don't think this is a very accurate list, I've got to say.
    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 ), or had any corrections.

  10. #10
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    I don't think this is a very accurate list, I've got to say.
    It is about as accurate as somebody not working in publishing is likely to cobble together, at least.

  11. #11
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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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. #12
    Registered User Loerwyn's Avatar
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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. #13
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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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.

    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!
    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.

    I think you would have an easier time with a "best known" SFFH authors list. That one would be fairly easy to do.
    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. #14
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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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. #15
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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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.

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