THE BESTSELLER IN WORLD LITERATURE: PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE—FROM THE WORLD LITERATURE FORUM, ROBERT SHEPPARD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

THE BESTSELLER IN WORLD LITERATURE: PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE

 

Robert Sheppard, Editor-in-Chief, World Literature Forum

Robert Sheppard, Editor-in-Chief, World Literature Forum

 

by Robert Sheppard

Editor-in-Chief, World Literature Forum

 

 

 

Bestseller 7

 

 

All literary authors have a love-hate relationship with the institution of “The Bestseller,” ranging in serial mood swings from maddening envy to contemptuous disdain. Do they not belong to that category of “throw-away literature” that the stampeding lemmings “must have” this year and are mercifully forgotten the next? Are not the 80 million copies sold of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code living proof of the devil’s dilemma that bad writing in the dumbed-down demotic idiom of “Bestsellerese” spiced with a little cheap sensationalism will make the hottest commodity?——a fortiori the case of the 90 million copies sold of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, a work whose writing, plot and characters are so vapid as to even leave in despair any hope of rising the level of literary mediocrity? Mephistopheles as a literary agent remains heavily overbooked, and not a few authors of possible talent have exchanged the dream of the “Gadarene marketing moment” for that of the epiphany of the spirit.

Yet many books that proved to be part of the canon of masterpieces also attained remarkable sales: Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities sold 200 million copies, Tolstoy’s War and Peace 40 million, and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Orwell’s 1984 achieved 25 million each. That is not to mention the mega-distribution of the great religious scriptures with the Bible printed in over 5 billion copies and the Koran close behind at 4 billion. Such classics, however, rarely made the “Bestseller Lists” as they had rather the long-term staying power of the “slowseller,” the classical tortoise which eventually surpasses the exhausted hare of the bestseller sprint.

In the book publishing trade, however, the notion of the “Bestseller” usually is confined to fiction or non-fiction, with a special focus on the bestselling novel which attains a high volume of sales in a short period, perhaps in the corruption of language better described as a “Fastseller” or “Bigseller” than a single “Bestseller” per se. Indeed, the term “Bestseller” is a corruption in logic, as “best” implies only a single superlative book, whereas in the common idiom of the “Bestseller List” the status is conferred weekly or annually on at least ten books simultaneously.

Yet the phenomenon of “the Bestseller,” despite the common deficit of quality remains a category of great interest, presumed to conceal some long sought for “secret of success,” and moreover a very meaningful “snapshot of public consciousness,” which like the ever shifting Gallup polls gives insight into the shifting life of the public mind over time.  It is a key to the much beloved quest to “get rich quick.” It is also an x-ray or diagnostic photo of the commercial structure of the book industry including its evolving institutions of publicity, promotion, discount selling and pricing, pulp and paperback distribution, the movie-like “star system” of author personal branding,  the concentration of the publishing industry into oligopolistic mega-firms themselves part of diversified media and advertising complexes, and even most recently, with the rise of the Internet, the e-Book and viral marketing exemplified in such phenomena as “Fifty Shades of Gray,” a reflection of the changing core technology, concept and essence of “the book” itself.

 

Bestseller 5

 

THE BESTSELLER: A SNAPSHOT OF MASS CONSCIOUSNESS IN TIME

 

Of course authors for centuries have sought the key to the puzzle of what makes a bestseller. While there are some recurrk) patterns the answer remains elusive. Take the year 1923, the date of the emergence of James Joyce’s Ulysses, voted the greatest novel of the last hundred years by critics in 2000, alongside T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and D.H. Lawrence’s Aaron’s Rod. The Number One bestselling novel of that year, however, was far from any of those classics, but rather Black Oxen by Gertrude Atherton, a semi-sci-fi tech fantasy account of a women’s rejuvenation through a Viennese scientist’s then cutting-edge X-ray technology. This mythos of the eternally youthful beautiful woman was part of the “Roaring 20’s” cult of “the Flapper” or independent woman cut free from tradition, biology and time, itself a subset of the “Golden Youth” generation epitomized by Fitzgerald’s “be forever young or die now” novel The Beautiful and the Damned of the same year and The Great Gatsby published two years later. It was a forerunner of the later work After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, Aldous Huxley’s saga of an ageing California billionaire’s high-tech search for the biological secret of immortality. Black Oxen thus epitomized and gave expression to the “consciousness of the moment” and became “the book of the day” for its camera-flash moment, to be deservedly forgotten as that moment in history faded and passed away.

 

Statue of Liberty With Book

 

THE HISTORY OF THE BESTSELLER:   INVENTED IN AMERICA

 

The old Hollywood saw, that “show business” is half “show” and half “business” is equally valid for the literary scene, as the existence of the phenomenon of “the bestseller” is also a reflection of the evolution and pressures of book trade and book market as business as much as a reflection of the collective stream of human consciousness. The existence of any book is half the product of creative art and half the product of business. “Bigness” is synonymous with “Americanness.” In the book trade, it was in America that the market for books first grew to the Brobingdadian proportions which would make the blockbuster numbers of copies sold and the concept of “The Bestseller” possible.

But it was not only the demographics of shear numbers which made huge book sales possible, but also the quintessentially American democratic rise of mass literacy and middle-class incomes, coupled with a highly competitive book market which drove down the price of books to allow the public to make mass-volume purchases.

The dynamics of the literary marketplace and its practices also drive the quest for bestsellerdom. In traditional mass marketing for trade books there is a narrow “window of opportunity” for a new release novel. The practice of “remainder and return” allows book retailers in traditional marketing channels to bulk order, display the new release on the shelves and then, if the book does not sell, return the unsold books to the publisher without cost or for credit. Thus practically speaking a new release must get out of the gate running and “do or die” within a month or two. This encourages the retailer to take a chance on the book but also encourages it to pull the plug on the book. Thus, all new releases are forced to compete for “bestseller status” on penalty of marketing death, a “winner take all” form of capitalism that celebrates the bestseller winners but ignores the death of the much greater number of new releases without as efficient a marketing machine behind them.

 

Charles Dickens Complained Bitterly That US Law Did Not Protect Foreign Copyrights and His Books Were Mercilessly Pirated in America

Charles Dickens Complained Bitterly That US Law Did Not Protect Foreign Copyrights and His Books Were Mercilessly Pirated in America

 

AMERICA GETS ITS BESTSELLERS THE OLD FASHIONED WAY:  BY STEALING THEM

 

The achievements of American capitalism have always been ambiguous. The “Robber Barons” have shown the vicious side of capitalism alongside the “creative entrepreneurs” and innovative enterprisers. For the first one-hundred years of the history of the American publishing industry the “flag of free enterprise” was that of the Jolly Roger. Bestsellers were priced low enough to become accessible to the ordinary middle-class reader in significant part because most of the editions were pirated by virtue of the refusal of the US government until 1891 to join in the relevant international copyright conventions that were beginning to secure authors’ rights across Europe. The dominance of American publishing was built on blatant theft and piracy of famous works by European authors, a condition famously denounced by Dickens on his visits to America and hypocritically forgotten by those wishing to paint America as the eternal champion of intellectual property rights.  The scholar F.L. Mott in his seminal work “Overall Best Sellers in the United States” surveyed the history of book sales in the US for books which sold copies numbering over 1% of the total population in the decade of their publication, his working definition of “bestsellerdom.” He found that from 1776 to 1900 of the 124 “bestsellers” thus defined in America, 74 were of British origin and largely published in pirated American editions which paid no copyright to their authors, while another 15 were by other European authors, leaving native American authors who were protected by American copyright far behind. Thus the “Mother Country” continued to subsidize her rebellious American offspring and underwrite its literature far after political independence. The American book, piratically immune from the cost of copyright evolved as a radically less expensive book sold closer to production cost that ultimately was affordable to the common man. US book prices often being five to ten times less expensive than premium editions of the same book in Britain, a foundational fact which made the rise of the American bestseller possible. This piratical condition persisted until 1891 when the passage of the Chase Act in the US finally brought American law into accord with European copyright by recognition of the enforceability of foreign copyright rights within America.

 

Robber Barons at Work

Robber Barons at Work

 

ANTI-BESTSELLERISM IN BRITAIN:  CARTEL PRICE-FIXING UNDER THE “NET BOOK AGREEMENT” AND THE “TRADITIONAL MARKETING AGREEMENT” (NBA & TMA)

 

While freewheeling piratical capitalism drove down the price of books in the US and nurtured a book-buying middle class mass market, monopoly capitalism and price-fixing cartels in the UK drove the price up and resulted in a middle-class book-borrowing public who subscribed to commercial and public lending libraries to deal with the artificially high cost of books. A principal reason for this was the price-fixing system known as the “Net Book Agreement” whereby the top British publishers formed a cartel and a system of contractual controls over retailers and distributors forbidding “discounting” of books, or lowering the price below the high price fixed by the publisher—-forbidding any “sale” or promotion. Free market-minded violators would be subject to industry boycotts, reprisals and law suits and generally driven out of business by the ruling cartel. Adam Smith, often quoted as the father of the “free enterprise system” was nevertheless a canny enough observer of actual market capitalism to observe and warn: “Put any three members of the same profession in a room for fifteen minutes and you are sure to generate a conspiracy against the public.” In this the British publishing industry proved true to form in enforcing a high cost of books to the general public for their private profit through both the Net Book Agreement (NBA) and its twin pillar of monopoly cartelization, the Traditional Marketing Agreement (TMA). The results of this anti-competitive system were not all bad however, as protected publishers had the extra resources to develop new authors and talent as well as means of compensating authors well with royalties. The system also subsidized the smaller “highbrow” market for quality literary works with profits derived from the low and middle-brow mass markets. The system militated, however, against large “bestseller” sales comparable to the American market and encouraged library borrowing rather than individual consumer purchasing of high-priced books. The absence in Britain of the American practice of publishers accepting returns of unsold book inventories without cost to the retailer also discouraged bulk stocking and buying for resale and hence impeded large-volume bestseller marketing. The cartelized price-fixed structure of the British market under the Net Book Agreement continued until 1995 when it was abolished as incompatible with the free market and anti-monopoly principles of the European Union. Thereafter, under the pressures of free and fierce competition the American and British markets tended to merge into one Transatlantic market whose larger scale increased the scope for “bestsellers,” and indeed encouraged the movement towards Mergers & Acquisitions in which the large publishing houses swallowed up one another to become global conglomerates such as HarperCollins, often attached to larger media and multi-national marketing complexes. Such mega-firms looking to global markets increasingly raised the stakes in search of “blockbusters” or super-star global bestsellers, often squeezing out or buying out smaller rivals in a “winner takes all” literary marketplace.

The “Traditional Marketing Agreement” (TMA) was a parallel system for dividing the English-language publishing market into protected “spheres of influence” grounded in the geographical division of copyright rights transferred by authors to publishers. If you are an author who has dealt with a literary agent and publisher you may wonder why the copyright rights are divided into “American Rights” and “British & Commonwealth Rights” and sold separately. This derives from an imperial division of the global English-language book market between the American publishers and the British publishers after the accession of the US to international copyright protection in the 1890’s. That development might have resulted in global competition across national borders in a free for all that might have lowered the cost of English-language books for consumers worldwide. But, the big players in the industry had a “better idea.” Instead a delegation of British publishing magnates crossed the Atlantic and in New York negotiated the “Traditional Marketing Agreement” whereby the two publishing communities, American and British, agreed not to compete head to head but to confine themselves to protected spheres of influence. Copyright rights for the same book were negotiated separately for the American sphere of influence and the British sphere of influence, and if successful the book was sub-contracted for publication in the other’s sphere of influence to a leading status quo publisher there, rather than opening up head-to-head Transatlantic direct competition. The result was a global condominium of profits controlled by the big publishers in their respective domains. Like the Net Book Agreement these price-fixing and cartelization regimes continued until challenges from anti-trust authorities in the US and EU along with competitive and technological pressures resulted in their breakdown towards the end of the 20th Century, ushering in an era of globalized market competition and global industry consolidation.

In fact, the culture of the British publishing industry for the hundred years from the 1890’s to the 1990’s was hostile to the idea of the bestseller, with the more genteel and upper-class disdain for the “consumer stampede” by the masses in their millions for a mass-commodity. Even the practice of compiling “Best Seller Lists” as exemplified in the US by the New York Times Bestseller List, the “Bookman” List from 1895, the “Publisher’s Weekly” List from 1912 and others, was frowned upon in the UK as an American barbarism of Babbitian proportions, and it was only in the 1970’s  and the increasing Americanization and Thatcherization of the British publishing industry including the rise of the chain stores that “Bookseller” began to assemble such statistics for the UK trade and the Sunday Times began to make them available for the reading public.

 

A Special Relationship

A Special Relationship

 

THE UK-USA SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

 

Winston Churchill once famously quipped that America and Britain were two nations “divided by a common language.” That Churchill had an American mother and partnered with Franklin Roosevelt in saving the world from Fascism in WWII underscores the resilience of the “special relationship” which extends to the present not only in political cooperation but also through a shared literary and cultural community. Before 1776 America was decidedly junior in this relationship. As has been observed above, from 1776 to 1900, abetted by copyright piracy, British authors actually constituted the majority of bestsellers in America. With the loss of Empire and the foundational fact that the US had six times the population of the UK and commercial dominance after 1900 the American side of the partnership gradually became ascendant until the marketplace after the 1990’s merged into a common Transatlantic English-language publishing market. Even with the ascendency of the US the tradition of strong British literary influence and leadership continued, even as America found itself largely parochial and resistant to reading works from non-English outside authors. The bond of a common language and shared culture of ideas has proven resilient. The following table illustrates the continuing strong Transatlantic British literary influence over the past century:

 

ORIGIN OF BESTSELLERS ON US BESTSELLER LISTS 1900-2000 (%)

DECADE US BRITISH OTHER
1900-09 86 14 0
1910-19 76 23 1
1920-29 71 28 1
1930-39 68 28 4
1940-49 85 11 4
1950-59 82 11 7
1960-69 83 16 1
1970-79 71 27 2
1980-89 84 16 0
1990-99 94 6 0
TOTALS: 1900-2000 80 18 2

Reciprocally, leveraging the huge home market of American publishers along with the rise of globally recognized American authors allowed American books to heavily influence British and Commonwealth literature, just as Hollywood often dominated the English-language film market in Britain, the Commonwealth countries and Europe.

Money: The Supreme Fiction of Our Times

Money: The Supreme Fiction of Our Times

 

 

HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO SELL TO BECOME A “BESTSELLER?”

 

Of course there is no fixed rule for defining “bestseller” status. In any year the “Number One” on the relevant lists may sell from hundreds of thousands to millions of copies. As Einstein is reputed to have observed “everything is relative.” One measure used by the scholar F.L. Mott cited above was the criterion that the book sales attain 1% of the total population of the relevant market in the decade of publication. In an America of 300 million persons that would require sales of at least 3 million, with at least 1 million in the first year of publication. Just as movie box-office ticket and revenue numbers are constantly increasing with increased population and globalized markets over the years, so the quantitative definition of bestsellerdom is in constant flux. Nonetheless, in modern times first-year sales in excess of one million have become unexceptional for big-name authors and titles, a considerable shifting of the goalposts from a century before:

 

YEAR FIRST YEAR SALES AUTHOR &   TITLE—No. 1 Bestseller
1900 250,000 Mary Johnston, To   Have and to Hold
1910 250,000 Florence Barclay, The   Rosary
1918 500,000 Vincent Ibanez, The   Four Horsemen
1928 240,000 Thornton Wilder, The   Bridge at San Luis Rey
1936 1,000,000 Margaret Mitchell, Gone   With the Wind
1945 868,000 Kathleen Winsor, Forever   Amber
1951 240,000 James Jones, From   Here to Eternity
1958 421,000 Boris Pasternak, Doctor   Zhivago
1968 300,000 Arthur Hailey, Airport
1969 418,000 Phillip Roth, Portnoy’s   Complaint
1972 1,800,000 Richard Bach, Jonathan   Livingston Seagull
1976 250,000 E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
1977 1,000,000 J.R.R. Tolkien, The   Silmarillon
1978 851,000 James Michener, Chesapeake
1991 2,000,000 Alexandra Ripley, Scarlett (From Gone With the Wind)
1994 4,000,000 Robert James Waller, The   Bridges of Madison County

By the 1990’s first print runs of 1 million or more were routine for novelists such as Jean Auel, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, John Grisham and Danielle Steele. From 1986, the year that the hardcover went mass market Auel’s The Mammoth Hunters, Michener’s Texas and Garrison Keilor’s Lake Woebegon Days all sold more than one million expensive hardback copies in the first year. A first year sales volume of more than 1,000,000 in today’s enlarged market is far from exceptional for the “A-Listers.”

 

 

THE HISTORICAL EVOLUTION OF THE BESTSELLER

 

Tom Paine's Common Sense Sold One Book for every Five Men, Women and Children in 1776 in America

Tom Paine’s Common Sense Sold One Book for every Five Men, Women and Children in 1776 in America

 

In America perhaps the first acclaimed “bestseller” was not a work of fiction but rather the political tract “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine, a British author turned American citizen at the time of the American Revolution. In 1776 this book reportedly attained sales of over 500,000 copies at a time when the total population of the 13 American colonies totaled only 3 million, ensuring that distribution effectively reached every American family. This revolutionary work truly influenced World History as few have ever done, and is credited with turning the American people decisively towards the Declaration of Independence in 1776, as well as being a key document in catalyzing the French Revolution in its Declaration of the Rights of Man and the abandonment of the institution of monarchy in 1789. Indeed, many bestsellers connected with key social issues are intimately connected with the rise of democracy upon a tide of public consciousness, as for example the immense success of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin upon the upsurge of the Abolitionist Movement and the rise of Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath upon the upsurge of the Democratic Party and Roosevelt’s New Deal following the Great Depression.

 

Uncle Tom's Cabin---Bestseller of Social Conscience

Uncle Tom’s Cabin—Bestseller of Social Conscience

 

In Britain, Sir Walter Scott developed the mass market with his historical romances such as Ivanhoe, Rob Roy and the Waverly novels, a development that had worldwide influence. James Fennimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking novels such as The Last of the Mohicans and The Deerslayer were an Americanization of Scott’s formula, shifting the venue to the American frontier. So great was the influence of Scott’s historical romances that Mark Twain, in riposte to Abraham Lincoln’s famous greeting of Harriet Beecher Stowe with the observation “So you are the little lady that started the big war” blamed the excessive Romanticism in the pirated editions of Walter Scott, particularly in the American South, for the beginnings of the American Civil War.

Mass publishing developed further with the close nexus between novels and newspapers both in America and across Britain and Europe. One of the problems with estimating the extent of “bestsellerdom” from the 1830’s onward was the fact that many novels were first serialized either in newspapers or in pulp literary magazines before the chapters were bound together and published as complete books. Thus Dickens’ major novels such as Great Expectations and Oliver Twist achieved massive serialized publication that dwarfed the later sales of the books. In essence the serialized chapters were the equivalent of modern television series and dominated popular consciousness to such an extent as illustrated by the classic anecdote of the longshoremen in New York calling up to the British sailors on deck of the arriving oceanliners and asking on the gangplanks “Is Little Nell dead?” Similarly in France Dumas’ works such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo had immense serialized newspaper and magazine circulation in addition to the bound book sales. From the 1840’s in America many novels were given away or sold serialized as “Extras” or supplements within newspapers. Bestseller statistics often overlook this form of mass circulation of novels.

 

Gone With the Wind: From Blockbuster Bestseller to Immortal Cinema Classic

Gone With the Wind: From Blockbuster Bestseller to Immortal Cinema Classic

 

FROM BESTSELLER GENRE FICTION TO MOVIES & TELEVISION SERIES

 

Popular fiction after the Civil War also developed in the direction of “Pulp” or “Dime Novels” with such series as “Deadwood Dick,” “Nick Carter,” “Horatio Alger,” “Ragged Dick” and “Buffalo Bill Cody.” These were forerunners of genre fiction including, Westerns, Romance, Detective Stories, Melodrama and Horror which would sell millions of copies. Many of these fiction genres developed further to become the classical genres of movies and later television series, again exemplified by Westerns, Romance, Crime and Detective fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Thrillers, Gothic, Horror, Action and Adventure Films, Children’s stories and cartoons, Melodrama and “Soap Operas,” and situation comedies. For many of us we are more familiar with the movie and television adaptations than the original genre or bestselling books they are based on: Zane Grey’s westerns such as Riders of the Purple Sage, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes, Earle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason  series, Louis L’Amour’s Hondo, Max Brand’s Destry Rides Again and Doctor Kildare, Owen Wister’s The Virginian, and Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place, all of which sold millions of book copies before and after being transformed into movies or televisions series.

The first novel ever to be optioned and rendered as a movie was Thomas Dixon’s Ku Klux Clan epic The Clansman, a bestseller in 1905. D.W. Griffiths paid $2000 for the subsidiary rights to the book and rendered it in his “Birth of a Nation,” which despite its controversial subject matter for many years remained both the top-grossing film in cinema history and a touchstone for the development of the art of cinematic narrative.

“Hard-boiled” detective and private-eye fiction developed millions of readers before being transformed into the “noir” film genre epitomized by such classics as Dashiell Hammet’s Sam Spade thriller The Maltese Falcon later filmed by John Huston with Humphrey Bogart, Lon Chaney and Sidney Greenstreet. Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlow was introduced in 1938 with The Big Sleep, accompanied by such classics as James Caine’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and others of the noir genre.

Britain also had its parallel tradition, with Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes at the forefront, along with Sapper’s upper-class clubland thug Bulldog Drummond, Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, Leslie Charteris’ Simon Templar in The Saint, and of course the Queen of the Whodunit, Agatha Christie.

 

The Case of Agatha Christie: Over 2 Billion Books Sold But Never a Bestseller

The Case of Agatha Christie: Over 2 Billion Books Sold But Never a Bestseller

 

THE CASE OF AGATHA CHRISTIE—NOT A BESTSELLER?

 

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was never “Number One” on any bestseller list. She only came close in 1975 placing as No. 2 with Curtain and No. 2 in 1976 with Sleeping Murder. Yet her cumulative sales have been credited by the Guinness Book of Records as the very bestselling novelist ever, with a cumulative total, including translations into all major languages, of over two billion volumes—ranking with the Bible and Koran in mass distribution. This highlights an internal contradiction and conundrum in the very concept of “the bestseller” as the best selling genre novelist over half a century never attained the “fastseller” status of attaining the top spot on the lists, as had Margaret Mitchell with Gone With the Wind at over 1,000,000 first year sales or Harper Lee with To Kill A Mockingbird. Tellingly of the “bestseller” category, both Mitchell and Lee only wrote a single novel, a relative “flash in the pan” compared to the decades-long productivity of Christie. Similar conditions recur with genre-prolific writers such as Barbara Cartland and her 600+ romances, Georges Simenon, Louis D’Amour and others.

 

THE SEX NOVEL AS BESTSELLER

 

D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover

D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover

 

“Sex Sells” is a byword of popular advertising and a genre of the “sex novel” developed to prove its validity. Anita Loos pioneered this in the 20’s with her Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, later to be made into a classic movie starring Marilyn Monroe. Erskine Caldwell achieved similar success with steamy Southern sagas as God’s Little Acre and Tobacco Road, also rendered as hit films. Similar sexual supersellers include Harold Robbins, The Carpetbaggers, loosely based on the life of Howard Hughs, and Phillip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint. In the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960’s, coupled with the “Paperback Revolution” in lower-cost bestsellers, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover finally overcame legal persecution and suppression to become a bestseller and a popular film. Genre sexuality kept its momentum with Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place along with romances and “bodice rippers” such as Cartland, Danielle Steele and Jacqueline Suzanne’s The Valley of the Dolls (No. 1 in 1966).

 

RELIGIOUS BESTSELLERS

 

Charton Heston as Ben Hur in the Movie from the Bestseller by Lew Wallace

Charton Heston as Ben Hur in the Movie from the Bestseller by Lew Wallace

 

If the attractions of the flesh are always with us, so also is the call of the spirit, especially in religious America. The religious theme seems to be a recurrent niche in the domain of bestsellerdom, with such works as Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur, Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis, Lloyd Douglas’ The Robe and Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps attaining bestseller status and rendition in film. Tim La Haye gave this area a new twist with the Left Behind fictionalization of the Book of Revelation, as did Dan Brown in his Da Vinci Code.

 

Global Blockbuster Bestseller The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Global Blockbuster Bestseller The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

 

THE SPY THRILLER—-FROM ASHENDEN TO BOND TO CLANCY

 

Author Ian Fleming and His Cinema James Bond Superspy Heroes

Author Ian Fleming and His Cinema James Bond Superspy Heroes

 

Somerset Maugham established the genre of the MI6 spy thriller with his Ashenden in 1928, building on prior classics such as Conrad’s Secret Agent. John Buchan had already made significant headway in this area during the war years with Richard Hannay in The Thirty-Nine Steps, rendered in film by Alfred Hitchcock and Greenmantle.  The genre came into prominence after WWII with the epic James Bond series of Ian Fleming, complemented by Graham Greene and such masters as John Le Carre with bestsellers such as The Spy Who Came In From the Cold and The Honorable Schoolboy. Tom Clancy rendered the format in the American context of the CIA with his Jack Ryan series including Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October also rendered on the big screen.

 

Bond Franchise Bestsellers

Bond Franchise Bestsellers

 

SCIENCE FICTION BESTSELLERS

 

ET Bestseller Book & Blockbuster Movie

ET Bestseller Book & Blockbuster Movie

 

Ray Bradbury with novels such as Fahrenheit 451, his satire on philistine driven TV culture, broke out of the genre ghetto and began to attract a mass readership and critical acclaim. Epics such as Frank Herbert’s Dune became cult classics, as did Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy.  Michael Crichton’s technothriller The Andromeda Strain was the first Science Fiction work to break into the Bestseller ranks. Arthur C. Clarke’s novelization of Stanley Kubrick’s epic film 2001 A Space Odyssey (originally based on one of Clarke’s short stories) leveraged the cinema exposure to attain bestseller status. Similarly, such tie-ins as William Kotzwinkle’s novelization of ET: The Extraterrestrial and The Return of the Jedi Storybook achieved No. 1 Bestseller status.

 

CHILDREN’S BOOK BESTSELLERS

 

R.L. Stine's Goosebumps Franchise---Over 300 Million Copies Sold

R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps Franchise—Over 300 Million Copies Sold

 

Children’s books are often some of the highest selling publications, though not often as year to year bestsellers. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exuperay sold more than 140 million copies cumulatively  while C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sold over 85 million. Anne of the Green Gables, Charlotte’s Web and Black Beauty each achieved sales of 50 million. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter sold over 45 million copies. Some children’s’ series have achieved prodigious sales, such as R.L. Stine’s child-horror series which has had sales of over 300 million copies, and even such works as Clifford the Big Red Dog have reached sales of over 110 million copies.

 

 

FANTASY BESTSELLERS

 

Tolkien's Lord of The Rings Trilogy: Over 140 Million Copies Sold

Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings Trilogy: Over 140 Million Copies Sold

 

The father of the fantasy genre and a cult classic was J.R.R. Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings Trilogy, later rendered into Oscar-winning films. Sales of the Tolkien franchise reached over 150 million. That incredible volume was overshadowed by another Britisher, J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter franchise, which sold over 450 million.

 

J.K. Rowling and the HarryPotter Franchise: 450 Million Copies Sold

J.K. Rowling and the HarryPotter Franchise: 450 Million Copies Sold

 

 

WILL MY OWN NOVEL SPIRITUS MUNDI BECOME A GLOBAL BLOCKBUSTER BESTSELLER?

 

Spiritus Mundi by Robert Sheppard---Reportedly the Next Big Blockbuster!

Spiritus Mundi by Robert Sheppard—Reportedly the Next Big Blockbuster!

 

Yes, Yes, Yes!—–Everyone close their eyes and repeat after me: “I believe, I believe, I believe!” The “Big M”—-Momentum for Spiritus Mundi’s bestseller status is building even as we speak, and shortly, very shortly, the evidence of its sales potential for dwarfing “Fifty Shades of Grey” will become as apparent to everyone as the morning’s rising sun! One would be well advised to get your copy now before the global stampede carries away all available stock! I caution the big Hollywood studios to make their bids for the subsidiary film rights now before they are snatched away by the more farseeing masters of the big screen to whom the future belongs.  Yes, I know some have said Spiritus Mundi is of too high a literary quality and of too great a universal vision to fit into the traditional commercial genres and is really too good to become a bestseller, but remember Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities with 200,000,000 sales and Tolstoy’s War and Peace with 40 million! I would even settle for the 25,000,000 sales of Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby and Orwell’s 1984—-I’m not greedy, really—–You know I write to make our world and our literature richer and something as low-minded as fame, money and royalties hardly enters my mind—————much.  I know that God is just and His Eye watches over our earth and universe noting the fall of every sparrow, let alone the fate of works of genius and suffering writers—–and His loving Invisible Hand is at work as we speak!

 

THE FUTURE OF THE BESTSELLER IN THE AGE OF THE E-BOOK AND THE INTERNET

 

Bestseller 7

 

Whither then the Bestseller? Digitization has impacted every aspect of book publishing, even far beyond the rise of the e-Book and e-Commerce marketing platforms such as Amazon.com. The technological revolution has impacted composition, printing, inventory control, POS (Point-of-Sale) monitoring and marketing, generally reducing the cost of books and thus indirectly enabling the mass-volume sales at the heart of bestsellerdom. Even though the physical traditional may look the same the machinery behind it is half a millennium different.

Marketing and publicity channels have also been revolutionized, with author sites, reader networking sites such as Goodreads, publisher sites, e-Commerce sites such as Amazon.com and blogs exercising a profound influence alongside the “e-Word-of-Mouth” or “Word-of-Mouse” that has digitally supercharged the old channels of Word-of-Mouth and reviews that drove the emergence of traditional bestsellers. Viral marketing, the blogosphere, blogcrit, blogbuzz and bloghype magnify the old interpersonal interactions that have always been at the heart of the literary marketplace.

At the same time the rise of the Global e-Book has expanded the marketplace to worldwide proportions and multiplied potential buyers of books by millions across the globe, bypassing traditional distribution channels, customs control, copyright restrictions and logistical delays. All of this magnifies the potential for newer and greater bestsellers and sales volumes.

Some, nonetheless, have predicted that the Age of the Internet would spell the doom of the bestseller. The argument was that the Internet and e-Commerce would fragment the literary marketplace into a myriad of small niches and genre-specific networks, or result in data-mining and consumer profiling which would focus on the individual, precluding the common mass market on which the bestseller is predicated. In short, the argument was that the new e-Publishing marketplace would be less “List-Driven” and more “Web-Driven.”

The case of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” perhaps the first true “e-Bestseller” belies these conjectures and assures us that the stampede mentality and “Gadarene dynamics” are alive and well on the Web as well as in the traditional channels of “word-of-mouth” and consumer social dynamics. “Man is a social animal” as Aristotle is wont to observe, and the herd instinct and its excesses and irrationalities will probably always be with us no matter how digitized and computerized markets such as the literary marketplace or the stock market become. “Fifty Shades” is definitive proof that the e-Stampede of the consumer lemmings is alive and well in the Age of the Web as before it, and quite as potent in driving the public off the cliff of quality and into the abyss of mass-consumed vapidity.

Reading, it is safe to prophesy, will survive and thrive beyond any technological threshold it is called upon to transit in the course of history. The appetite for on-page (digital or print) fiction and imaginative experience looks to be as insatiable as it ever was, even in competition with its transformations into cinema, video and online media. In the Age of Globalization, which is also the Age of the Internet and Digitization, the literary marketplace seems set to go on expanding, and lowered costs of e-Books, along with rising incomes, higher-education and literacy rates and the continuing role of the English language as the international language of the world supplemented by ample resources for translation, augurs well for the rise of the consumption of literature, good and bad, as well as the periodic emergence of bestsellers and blockbusters across all of the new and old media within this vastly expended literary marketplace. The globalization of the literary marketplace also creates new opportunities for people of all nations and cultures to partake of other cultures and literatures as well as participate in the emergence of our emerging World Literature and of global consciousness shared by all citizens of the world generally. In theory, the marketplace and niche for quality literature should also expand as well as that for “e-Pulp and e-Pap.” We only hope that with time the taste and maturity of the reading public will improve and the quality of those future bestsellers along with it.

 

Bestseller 2

 

List of best-selling single-volume books

More than 100 million copies

Book

Author(s)

Original    language

First    published

Approximate    sales

A Tale of Two Cities Charles   Dickens English 1859 200 million
The Lord of the Rings (Sometimes considered a series.) J.   R. R. Tolkien English 1954–1955 150 million
Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) Antoine de Saint-Exupéry French 1943 140 million
And Then There Were None Agatha   Christie English 1939 100 million
紅樓夢/红楼梦 (Dream of the Red Chamber) Cao Xueqin Chinese 1754-1791 100 million
The Hobbit J.   R. R. Tolkien English 1937 100 million
She: A History of Adventure H. Rider Haggard English 1887 100 million

Between 50 million and 100 million copies

Book

Author(s)

Original    language

First    published

Approximate    sales

The Lion, the Witch and the   Wardrobe C. S.   Lewis English 1950 85 million
The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown English 2003 80 million
Think and Grow Rich Napoleon   Hill English 1937 70 million
The Catcher in the Rye J.   D. Salinger English 1951 65 million
O Alquimista (The Alchemist) Paulo   Coelho Portuguese 1988 65 million
Steps   to Christ Ellen   G. White English 1892 60 million
Lolita Vladimir   Nabokov English 1955 50 million
Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre (Heidi’s Years of Wandering and Learning) Johanna   Spyri German 1880 50 million
The Common Sense Book of   Baby and Child Care Dr. Benjamin   Spock English 1946 50 million
Anne of Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery English 1908 50 million
Black   Beauty: His Grooms and Companions: The autobiography of a horse Anna   Sewell English 1877 50 million
Il Nome della Rosa (The Name of the Rose Umberto   Eco Italian 1980 50 million
The Eagle Has Landed Jack   Higgins English 1975 50 million
Watership   Down Richard   Adams English 1972 50 million
The   Hite Report Shere Hite English 1976 50 million
Charlotte’s   Web E.B. White;   illustrated by Garth Williams English 1952 50 million
The   Ginger Man J.   P. Donleavy English 1955 50 million
The Bridges of Madison County Robert James Waller English 1992 50 million

Between 30 million and 50 million copies

Book

Author(s)

Original    language

First    published

Approximate    sales

The Tale of Peter Rabbit Beatrix   Potter English 1902 45 million
Harry Potter and the Deathly   Hallows[32] J. K.   Rowling English 2007 44 million
Jonathan Livingston Seagull Richard   Bach English 1970 40 million
A Message to Garcia Elbert   Hubbard English 1899 40 million
Sofies verden (Sophie’s   World) Jostein   Gaarder Norwegian 1991 40 million
Flowers in the Attic V. C.   Andrews English 1979 40 million
Angels   & Demons Dan Brown English 2000 39 million
Как закалялась сталь (Kak   zakalyalas’ stal’; How the Steel Was Tempered) Nikolai Ostrovsky Russian 1932 36.4 million copies in USSR
Война и мир (Voyna i mir; War   and Peace) Leo   Tolstoy Russian 1869 36.0 million copies in USSR
Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia   di un burattino (The Adventures of Pinocchio) Carlo   Collodi Italian 1881 35 million
You Can Heal Your Life Louise Hay English 1984 35 million
Your Erroneous Zones Wayne Dyer English 1976 35 million
The Late, Great Planet Earth Hal   Lindsey, C. C. Carlson English 1970 35 million
Kane and Abel Jeffrey   Archer English 1979 34 million
In His   Steps: What Would Jesus Do? Charles M. Sheldon English 1896 30 million
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee English 1960 30 million
Valley of the Dolls Jacqueline Susann English 1966 30 million
Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell English 1936 30 million
Het Achterhuis (The Diary of a Young Girl, The   Diary of Anne Frank) Anne Frank Dutch 1947 30 million
Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) Gabriel García Márquez Spanish 1967 30 million
The Purpose Driven Life Rick   Warren English 2002 30 million
The   Thorn Birds Colleen McCullough English 1977 30 million
The Revolt of Mamie Stover William Bradford Huie English 1951 30 million
Män som hatar kvinnor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) Stieg   Larsson Swedish 2005 30 million
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle English 1969 30 million

Between 20 million and 30 million copies

Book

Author(s)

Original    language

First    published

Approximate    sales

Молодая гвардия (The Young Guard) Alexander Alexandrovich Fadeyev Russian 1945 26 million copies in USSR
Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson English 1998 26 million
The   Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald English 1925 25 million
The Wind in the Willows Kenneth   Grahame English 1908 25 million
Nineteen Eighty-Four George   Orwell English 1949 25 million
The 7 Habits of Highly   Effective People Stephen   R. Covey English 1989 25 million
Поднятая целина (Virgin Soil Upturned) Mikhail Sholokhov Russian 1935 24 million copies in USSR
The Celestine Prophecy James   Redfield English 1993 23 million
The   Hunger Games Suzanne   Collins English 2008 23 million
Дядя Степа (Uncle   Styopa) Sergey   Mikhalkov Russian 1936 21 million copies in USSR
The Godfather Mario Puzo English 1969 21 million
Love Story Erich   Segal English 1970 21 million
狼图腾 (Wolf Totem) Jiang   Rong Chinese 2004 20 million
The   Happy Hooker: My Own Story Xaviera Hollander English 1971 20 million
Jaws Peter   Benchley English 1974 20 million
Love   You Forever Robert   Munsch English 1986 20 million
The Women’s Room Marilyn   French English 1977 20 million
What to Expect When You’re   Expecting Arlene Eisenberg and Heidi   Murkoff English 1984 20 million
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain English 1885 20 million
The Secret Diary of Adrian   Mole, Aged 13¾ Sue   Townsend English 1982 20 million
Kon-Tiki:   Across the Pacific in a Raft Thor   Heyerdahl Norwegian 1950 20 million
Osudy dobrého vojáka Švejka za   světové války (The Good Soldier Švejk) Jaroslav   Hašek Czech 1923 20 million
Where the Wild Things Are Maurice   Sendak English 1963 20 million
The Power of Positive Thinking Norman Vincent Peale English 1952 20 million
The Shack William   P. Young English 2007 20 million
The Secret Rhonda   Byrne English 2006 20 million
Fear of Flying Erica Jong English 1973 20 million

Between 10 million and 20 million copies

Book

Author(s)

Original    language

First    published

Approximate    sales

Goodnight   Moon Margaret Wise Brown English 1947 16 million
Die unendliche Geschichte (The Neverending Story) Michael   Ende German 1979 16 million
Guess How Much I Love You Sam McBratney English 1994 15 million
Shōgun James   Clavell English 1975 15 million
The Poky Little Puppy Janette Sebring Lowrey English 1942 15 million
The Pillars of the Earth Ken   Follett English 1989 15 million
How to Win Friends and   Influence People Dale   Carnegie English 1936 15 million
Das Parfum (Perfume) Patrick Süskind German 1985 15 million
The Grapes of Wrath John   Steinbeck English 1939 15 million
The Horse Whisperer Nicholas   Evans English 1995 15 million
La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind) Carlos Ruiz Zafón Spanish 2001 15 million
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the   Galaxy Douglas   Adams English 1979 14 million
Tuesdays with Morrie Mitch   Albom English 1997 14 million
God’s Little Acre Erskine   Caldwell English 1933 14 million
Va’ dove ti porta il cuore (Follow Your Heart) Susanna   Tamaro Italian 1994 14 million
The Old Man and the Sea Ernest   Hemingway English 1952 13 million
The Outsiders S. E.   Hinton English 1967 13 million
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl English 1964 13 million
Life   After Life Raymond   Moody English 1975 13 million
ノルウェイの森,   Noruwei no Mori (Norwegian Wood) Haruki   Murakami Japanese 1987 12 million
Peyton Place Grace   Metalious English 1956 12 million
Dune Frank   Herbert English 1965 12 million
La Peste (The Plague) Albert   Camus French 1947 12 million
人間失格 (No   Longer Human) Osamu   Dazai Japanese 1948 12 million
The   Naked Ape Desmond   Morris English 1968 12 million
Ein Psychologe erlebt das   Konzentrationslager (Man’s Search for Meaning) Viktor   Frankl German 1946 12 million
Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy) Dante   Alighieri Italian 1304 11-12 million (during 20th   century)
Things Fall Apart Chinua   Achebe English 1958 11 million
The Prophet Khalil   Gibran English 1923 11 million
The Exorcist William Peter Blatty English 1971 11 million
The   Gruffalo Julia   Donaldson English 1999 10.5 million
Catch-22 Joseph   Heller English 1961 10 million
Eye of the Needle Ken   Follett English 1978 10 million
A Brief History of Time Stephen   Hawking English 1988 10 million
The Cat in the Hat Dr. Seuss English 1957 10 million
The   Lovely Bones Alice   Sebold English 2002 10 million
Wild Swans Jung Chang English 1992 10 million
Santa   Evita Tomás Eloy Martínez Spanish 1995 10 million
Un di Velt Hot Geshvign (Night) Elie   Wiesel Yiddish 1958 10 million
The   Kite Runner Khaled   Hosseini English 2003 10 million
于丹《论语》心得 (Confucius from the   Heart) Yu Dan Chinese 2006 10 million
The Total Woman Marabel   Morgan English 1974 10 million
知価革命 (Knowledge-value   Revolution) Taichi Sakaiya Japanese 1985 10 million
中国社会主义经济问题研究 (Problems in China’s Socialist   Economy) Xue Muqiao Chinese 1979 10 million
What Color is Your Parachute? Richard Nelson Bolles English 1970 10 million
The   Dukan Diet Pierre   Dukan French 2000 10 million
The   Joy of Sex Alex   Comfort English 1972 10 million
The Gospel According to Peanuts Robert   L. Short English 1965 10 million
A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L’Engle English 1962 10 million
Life of Pi Yann   Martel English 2001 10 million

No reliable sales figures

Note: These books do not have reliable sales data; however, there is evidence that they have sold at least 10 million copies, and therefore belong on this list.

Book

Author(s)

Original    language

First    published

Notes

Don   Quixote Miguel de Cervantes Spanish 1605
Harry Potter and the   Philosopher’s Stone J.K.   Rowling English 1997
Harry Potter and the Chamber   of Secrets J.K.   Rowling English 1998
Harry Potter and the   Prisoner of Azkaban J.K.   Rowling English 1999
Harry Potter and the Goblet of   Fire J.K.   Rowling English 2000
Harry Potter and the Order   of the Phoenix J.K.   Rowling English 2003
Harry Potter and the   Half-Blood Prince J.K.   Rowling English 2005
Twilight Stephenie   Meyer English 2005
New   Moon Stephenie   Meyer English 2006
Eclipse Stephenie   Meyer English 2007
Breaking   Dawn Stephenie   Meyer English 2008

List of best-selling book series

At least 100 million copies

Book    series

Author

Original    language

No.    of installments

First    published

Approximate    sales

Maigret Georges   Simenon French 75 novels + 28 short-stories 1931-1972 853 million
Harry   Potter J.K.   Rowling English 7 + 3 supplements 1997-2007 450 million
Goosebumps R. L.   Stine English 62 + spin off series 1992–1997–present 300 million
Perry Mason Erle Stanley Gardner English 82 1933 — 1970 300 million
Berenstain   Bears Stan and Jan Berenstain English over 300 1962 — present 260 million
Choose Your Own Adventure various authors English 185 1979 — 1998 250 million
Sweet Valley High Francine   Pascal and ghostwriters English 400 1983–2003 250 million
Noddy Enid   Blyton English 24 1949–present 200 million
Nancy Drew various authors as Carolyn   Keene English 175 1930 — present 200 million
The Railway Series
(spawned Thomas the Tank Engine &   Friends)
Rev.   W. Awdry, Christopher Awdry English 41 1945–2011 200 million
San-Antonio Frédéric Dard French 173 1949–2001 200 million
Robert   Langdon Dan Brown English 4 2000–present 200 million
The Baby-sitters Club Ann   Martin English 335 1986 — present 172 million
Star Wars various authors English over 300 1977 — present 160 million
Peter   Rabbit Beatrix   Potter English 6 1902–1930 150 million
Chicken Soup for the Soul Jack   Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen English 105 1997 — present 130 million
Frank   Merriwell Gilbert   Patten English 209 1896 – 125 million
Dirk Pitt Clive   Cussler English 19 1973 — present 120 million
宮本武蔵 (Musashi) Eiji   Yoshikawa Japanese 7 1935–1939 120 million
American Girl various authors English 1986 — present 120 million
The Chronicles of Narnia C. S.   Lewis English 7 1949–1954 120 million
Mr. Men Roger   Hargreaves, Adam Hargreaves English 43 1971 — present 120 million
Twilight Stephenie   Meyer English 4 + 1 Novella + 1 Guide 2005–2011 120 million
Clifford the Big Red Dog Norman   Bridwell English 1963 — present 110 million
James Bond Ian   Fleming English 14 1953–1966 100 million
Martine Gilbert   Delahaye, Marcel Marlier French 60 1954 — present 100 million

Between 50 million and 100 million copies

Book    series

Author

Original    language

No.    of installments

First    published

Approximate    sales

Fifty Shades of Grey E. L.   James English 3 2011–2012 90 million
Nijntje (Miffy) Dick Bruna Dutch 119 1955 — present 85 million
Fear   Street R. L.   Stine English 114 1989 — present 80 million
The Vampire Chronicles Anne Rice English 12 1976-2003 80 million
Pippi Longstocking Astrid   Lindgren Swedish 3 + 3 picture books 1945-2001 80 million
OSS 117 Jean Bruce French 265 1949–1992 75 million
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Jeff Kinney English 8 2007–present 75 million
Winnie-the-Pooh A. A.   Milne; illustrated by E. H. Shepard English 2 1926–1928 70 million
Magic Tree House series Mary Pope Osborne English 43 1992–present 70 million
Left Behind Tim LaHaye,   Jerry B. Jenkins English 16 1996 — 2007 65 million
A Series of Unfortunate Events Lemony   Snicket aka Daniel Handler English 13 1999–2006 65 million
Little House on the Prairie Laura Ingalls Wilder English 12 1932–2006 60 million
Jack   Reacher Lee Child English 16 1997–present 60 million
Millennium Trilogy Stieg   Larsson Swedish 3 2005–2007 60 million
Discworld Terry   Pratchett English 39 1983–present 55 million
Where’s   Wally?[174] Martin   Handford English 13 1987–present 55 million
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from   Venus John Gray English 15 1992–present 50 million
The   Hardy Boys various authors as Franklin W. Dixon English 190 1927–present 50 million
The Bobbsey Twins various authors as Laura   Lee Hope English 72 1904–1979 50 million
Tarzan Edgar Rice Burroughs English 26 1914–1995 50 million
The Hunger Games trilogy Suzanne   Collins English 3 2008–2010 50 million

Between 30 million and 50 million copies

Book    series

Author

Original    language

No.    of installments

First    published

Approximate    sales

A Child’s First Library Of   Learning various authors English 29 1980 – 45 million
Junie   B. Jones Barbara   Park English 30 1992 – 44 million
The Wheel of Time Robert   Jordan, Brandon Sanderson English 14 1990 – 2013 44 million
Harry   Bosch Michael   Connelly English 15 1992 – 42 million
Harry Hole Jo Nesbø Norwegian 9 1997–present 40 million
连环画 铁道游击队 (Picture-and-story book Railway Guerilla) original author: Liu   Zhixia Chinese 10 1955–1962 36.52 million
Paddington   Bear Michael   Bond English 70 1958–present 35 million
The Inheritance Cycle Christopher Paolini English 4 2002–2011 33 million
徳川家康 (Tokugawa   Ieyasu) Sohachi Yamaoka Japanese 26 1950–1967 30 million
Ramona Beverly   Cleary English 8 1955–1999 30 million
The Dark Tower Stephen   King English 8 1982-2012 30 million
The Destroyer Warren   Murphy and Richard Sapir, various authors English 150 1971–present 30 million

Between 20 million and 30 million copies

Book    series

Author

Original    language

No.    of installments

First    published

Approximate    sales

ノンタン (Nontan) Sachiko Kiyono Japanese 25 1976–2006 28 million
Curious   George Hans   Augusto Rey and Margret Rey English 58 1941–present 27 million
グイン・サーガ   (Guin   Saga) Kaoru   Kurimoto Japanese 118 1979–2009 26 million
Captain Underpants Dav Pilkey English 1997–present 26 million
三毛猫ホームズシリーズ (Calico Cat Holmes   series) Jirō   Akagawa Japanese 43 1978–present 26 million
Rich Dad, Poor Dad Robert   Kiyosaki Sharon Lechter English 18 1997- 26 million
Kurt   Wallander Henning   Mankell Swedish 10 1991–2002 25 million
Sagaen om Isfolket (The Legend of the Ice People) Margit   Sandemo Norwegian 47 1982–1989 25 million
The Sword of Truth Terry   Goodkind English 12 1998–2007 25 million
鬼平犯科帳 (Onihei Hankachō) Shōtarō Ikenami Japanese 24 1968–1990 24.4 million, only bunkobon
The Shadowhunter Chronicles Cassandra   Clare English 8 + 1 supplement + 2 tie-ins (at   least 13 + 2 supplements planned) 2007–present 24 million
Brain Quest series various authors English 1992–present 23.7 million
かいけつゾロリ (Kaiketsu   Zorori) Yutaka   Hara Japanese 41 1987–present 23 million
South   Beach Diet Arthur   Agatston English 6 2003–present 22 million
竜馬がゆく (Ryoma ga Yuku) Ryōtarō Shiba Japanese 5 1963–1966 21.5 million
Artemis Fowl Eoin   Colfer English 8 2001–2012 21 million
ズッコケ三人組 (Zukkoke Sanningumi) Masamoto Nasu Japanese 50 1978–2004 21 million
Shannara Terry   Brooks English 20 1977–present 21 million
Redwall Brian   Jacques English 22 1986–present 20 million
Malazan Book of the Fallen Steven   Erikson English 10 1999 – 2011 20 million
Maisy Lucy   Cousins English 23 1990–present 20 million
Dragonlance various authors English more than 150 1984 — present 20 million
幻魔大戦 (Genma   Taisen) Kazumasa Hirai Japanese 20 1979–1983 20 million
青春の門 (The Gate of Youth) Hiroyuki Itsuki Japanese 1970–present 20 million
The Foundation Trilogy Isaac   Asimov English 3[214] 1950–1953 20 million
Horrible Histories Terry   Deary English 24 1993–present 20 million
Rainbow   Magic Daisy   Meadows English 80+ 2003–present 20 million
Morgan   Kane Louis   Masterson Norwegian 90 1966– 20 million
The Southern Vampire Mysteries Charlaine   Harris English 13 2001–2013 20 million

Between 15 million and 20 million copies

Book    series

Author

Original    language

No.    of installments

First    published

Approximate    sales

科学のアルバム (Kagaku no album) various authors Japanese 1970–present 19 million
剣客商売 (Kenkaku Shobai) Shotaro   Ikenami Japanese 18 1972–1989 18 million
Erast   Fandorin Boris   Akunin Russian 12 1998–present 18 million
吸血鬼ハンターD (Vampire   Hunter D) Hideyuki   Kikuchi Japanese 17 1983–present 17 million
涼宮ハルヒシリーズ(Haruhi   Suzumiya Series) Nagaru   Tanigawa Japanese 11 2003–present 16.5 million
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the   Galaxy Douglas   Adams, plus a final book by Eoin   Colfer English 6 1979–2008 16 million
Bridget   Jones Helen   Fielding English 2 1996–present 15 million
The Riftwar Cycle Raymond   E. Feist English 25 1982–present 15 million
Percy Jackson & the Olympians Rick   Riordan English 5 2005–2009 15 million
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Alexander McCall Smith English 9 1999–present 15 million
ぼくらシリーズ(Bokura series) Osamu Soda Japanese 36 1985–present 15 million
His Dark Materials Philip   Pullman English 3 1995–2000 15 million
銀河英雄伝説 (Legend of the Galactic Heroes) Yoshiki   Tanaka Japanese 14 1982–1989 15 million
Der Regenbogenfisch (Rainbow Fish) Marcus   Pfister German 1992–present 15 million
A Song of Ice and Fire George R. R. Martin English Currently 5; 7 Planned. 1996–present 15 million

MOST PRINTED BOOKS:

Book

Author(s)

Original   language

First   Published

Approximate   copies printed

The Bible Authors of the Bible Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek 223 CE (Compiled) 5 billion+
The   Holy Quran Verbally revealed from God to Prophet   Muhammad through the Archangel Gabriel Arabic 609 CE – 632 CE 4 billion+
Quotations from Chairman Mao Mao Zedong Chinese 1964 800 million
新华字典 (Xinhua   Zidian)   Dictionary Ministry of Education of China Standard Chinese 1953 400 million
A Tale of Two Cities Charles   Dickens English 1859 200 million
Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) Antoine de Saint-Exupéry French 1943 200 million
Book   of Mormon Joseph   Smith English 1830 150 million copies by 2011
The Lord of the Rings J.   R. R. Tolkien English 1954–1955 150 million
The Hobbit J.   R. R. Tolkien English 1937 100 million
紅樓夢/红楼梦 (Hóng Lóu Mèng; Dream of the Red Chamber) Cao Xueqin Chinese 1759–1791 100 million
And Then There Were None Agatha   Christie English 1939 100 million[

About robertalexandersheppard

Robert Sheppard , Author, Poet & Novelist Pushcart Prize fof Literature 2014 Nominee Professor of World and Comparative Literature Professor of International Law Senior Associate, Committee for a Democratic United Nations (KDUN) E-mail: rsheppard99_2000@yahoo.com Robert Sheppard is the author of the acclaimed dual novel Spiritus Mundi, nominated for the prestigious 2014 Pushcart Prize for Literature in two parts, Spiritus Mundi the Novel, Book I and Spiritus Mundi the Romance, Book II. The acclaimed “global novel” features espionage-terror-political-religious-thriller action criss-crossing the contemporary world involving MI6, the CIA and Chinese MSS Intelligence as well as a "People Power" campaign to establish a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly on the model of the European Parliament, with action moving from Beijing to London to Washington, Mexico City and Jerusalem while presenting a vast panorama of the contemporary international world, including compelling action and surreal adventures. It also contains the unfolding sexual, romantic and family relationships of many of its principal and secondary characters, and a significant dimension of spiritual searching through "The Varieties of Religious Experience." It contains also significant discussions of World Literature, including Chinese, Indian, Western and American literature, and like Joyce's Ulysses, it incorposates a vast array of stylistic approaches as the story unfolds. Dr. Sheppard presently serves as a Professor of International Law and World Literature at Peking University, Northeastern University and the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of China, and has previously served as a Professor of International Law and MBA professor at Tsinghua University, Renmin People’s University, the China University of Politics and Law and at the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in Beijing, China. Having studied Law, Comparative Literature and politics at the University of California, Berkeley (Ph. D.Program in Comparative Literature), Northridge, Tübingen, Heidelberg, the People’s College and San Francisco, (BA, MA, JD), he additionally has been active as professor of International Trade, Private International Law, and Public International Law from 1993 to 1998 at Xiamen University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Graduate School (CASS), and the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. Since 2000 he has served as a Senior Consultant to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Beijing and has authored numerous papers on the democratic reform of the United Nations system.
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