10 of the Best-Selling Authors of All Time

Nomadsoul1/iStock via Getty Images
Nomadsoul1/iStock via Getty Images

A few months back, we brought you a list of some of the top-selling books of all time. Now, what about the best-selling authors?

As before, many disclaimers are required. For this list, the question of what counts as an "author" takes center stage. Both Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have written under pseudonyms (Richard Bachman and Robert Galbraith, respectively) and both were outed. While it seems reasonable to count books written under those pseudonyms within their respective author’s totals, some situations are not so cut and dried. The 18th-century work A General History of the Pyrates (a key source for information about the Golden Age of piracy), for example, is credited to one Captain Charles Johnson. However, historians have never been able to find evidence of a Captain Charles Johnson, so in 1932 one scholar decided that it was written by Daniel Defoe—and as a result the book is now frequently listed as one of his works. In the past few decades, though, that attribution has been doubted in favor of a journalist named Nathaniel Mist. So, should this best-seller’s numbers be credited to Defoe, Mist, or left off the list entirely?

Historians are also increasingly theorizing that Shakespeare wasn’t the sole author of many of his plays—according to The New Oxford Shakespeare, “His last three plays were all co-written with [John] Fletcher—who, in all three, seems to have written more of the surviving text than Shakespeare.” How then to deal with Shakespeare? Should his works be divvied up? Or should an asterisk be placed on the record? These questions can get into surprisingly deep philosophical territory.

With those caveats out of the way—and the further caveat that this list doesn’t include religious works, and is, with a few exceptions, steering away from authors who appeared on the best-selling books list; it’s also not complete, exhaustive, or a "top ten" list—here are some candidates for best-selling authors of all time.

  1. Mao Zedong // Untold billions

Mao Zedong appears on our best-selling books list for Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, but he’d likely still be on the list even without Quotations. According to sociologist Zhengyuan Fu, “The scale of the production and consumption of Mao’s icons and symbols is unprecedented in human history. During the ten years from March 1966 to August 1976, there were 1,820 ... state-owned printing factories that printed 6.5 billion volumes of Quotations from Chairman Mao (the little red book), 840 million sets of Selections of Mao Zedong’s Works (3.36 billion volumes), 400 million volumes of Chairman Mao’s Poems, and 2.2 billion sheets of Mao’s standard photo portraits, which came in five standard sizes.” As always when dealing with these kind of numbers, some sources go smaller, but the total is definitely immense.

  1. Agatha Christie // Estimated 2 billion books sold

According to Guinness World Records, Agatha Christie has the title of “world’s best-selling fiction writer,” with estimated sales of over 2 billion. UNESCO also lists Christie as the most translated author in history.

  1. Barbara Cartland // Possibly over 600 million

Romance novelist Barbara Cartland illustrates the inherent difference between best-selling authors and best-selling books. Sources differ, but it’s generally agreed she wrote around 723 books (over 600 of which were novels) with estimates for her total sales ranging from 600 million to a billion books. Doing some division shows that each book may have sold only a touch over a million copies, but her sheer output—she’s said to have, at times, written 20 books a year—makes her a best-selling author.

  1. Corín Tellado // Possibly around 400 million

According to her obituary in The Guardian, some erroneously believe that Corín Tellado was a publishing house rather than a person. Much like Barbara Cartland, Tellado wrote romantic novels, but a lot more—estimates put her total number of books at anywhere from 4000 to 5000 over a 63-year career; she is said to be the best-selling author in the history of the Spanish language, and on par with Miguel de Cervantes for readership. As an example of the number of books she could produce, she worked some of her career during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, when authorities would heavily censor her books and send them back; The Times of London reports, “In some months as many as four of her novellas might be rejected by the regime’s censors.”

  1. Dr. Seuss // Somewhere between 100 and 650 million

In 2001, Publishers Weekly did a survey to determine the best-selling children’s books. Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel wouldn’t enter the list until number 4 with Green Eggs and Ham at 8 million, but he had six of the top 20. Nowadays, The Washington Post says that Dr. Seuss has sold 650 million copies in 95 countries, with Green Eggs and Ham still leading the way at 17.5 million copies sold.

  1. Charles Schulz // Unknown, though at least 300 million

Newspapers create a fundamental problem for lists like this. If someone writes an article a day for a newspaper and the newspaper has a circulation of a million, it adds up quickly. Though few people buy a newspaper for one writer, Charles Schulz is special. According to a 1999 Wall Street Journal article, his books alone have sold 300 million copies. But it’s the comic strip, Peanuts, that truly shines. At one point it had 355 million readers, appeared in around 2600 newspapers in 75 countries, and according to the Washington Post, Schulz drew “every frame of his strip, seven days a week, since its inception in October 1950” until it ended in early 2000. Robert Thompson of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University proclaimed Peanuts was “arguably the longest story told by a single artist in human history.”

  1. Eiichiro Oda // 450 million

Eiichiro Oda is the mangaka (manga creator) behind One Piece, which has reportedly sold 450 million copies worldwide since 1997—though just 70 million of those have been outside Japan. In 2015, Guinness World Records recognized it as the "Most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author.”

  1. James Patterson // An estimated 300 million

Patterson is frequently thought to be the best-selling author in the world today, and has been since 2001. He’s also credited as the first author to sell 1 million e-books, and is generally listed as the author with the most New York Times bestsellers.

  1. Horatio Alger // Claims of up to 200 million

Horatio Alger was a 19th-century master of the dime novel. His books featured rags-to-riches stories of young boys in the rapidly urbanizing United States. Later on, he’d even shoehorn a presidential biography—Abraham Lincoln, the Young Backwoods Boy; or, How a Young Rail Splitter Became President—into his incredibly successful formula.

  1. Leo Tolstoy // Possibly over 400 million

As always, statistics are hard to come by for older authors, and Tolstoy has this problem in spades. The common internet assertion that he has sold over 400 million copies is based on a single throwaway line in a 1987 New York Times article on Pushkin. With such little evidence, why does he deserve his place on the list? For one, he has definitely sold a lot of books, even if not everyone claiming to have read him is telling the truth; a 2016 BBC survey found that Tolstoy had two of the top five books people most lied about reading (War and Peace at number 4 and Anna Karenina at number 5).

In addition, Tolstoy’s works have become surprise hits in the 21st century. In 2004 Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club picked Anna Karenina; The New York Times reported that, while ordinarily the publisher would be lucky to sell 20,000 copies a year, they upped their press run to 800,000 in preparation for the pick. Meanwhile, in 2016 War and Peace entered the UK Bookseller’s top 50 for the first time thanks to a BBC adaptation. No matter the accuracy of the 400 million number, Tolstoy has had a surprisingly good 21st century.

Turn Your LEGO Bricks Into a Drone With the Flybrix Drone Kit

Flyxbrix/FatBrain
Flyxbrix/FatBrain

Now more than ever, it’s important to have a good hobby. Of course, a lot of people—maybe even you—have been obsessed with learning TikTok dances and baking sourdough bread for the last few months, but those hobbies can wear out their welcome pretty fast. So if you or someone you love is looking for something that’s a little more intellectually stimulating, you need to check out the Flybrix LEGO drone kit from Fat Brain Toys.

What is a Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit?

The Flybrix drone kit lets you build your own drones out of LEGO bricks and fly them around your house using your smartphone as a remote control (via Bluetooth). The kit itself comes with absolutely everything you need to start flying almost immediately, including a bag of 56-plus LEGO bricks, a LEGO figure pilot, eight quick-connect motors, eight propellers, a propeller wrench, a pre-programmed Flybrix flight board PCB, a USB data cord, a LiPo battery, and a USB LiPo battery charger. All you’ll have to do is download the Flybrix Configuration Software, the Bluetooth Flight Control App, and access online instructions and tutorials.

Experiment with your own designs.

The Flybrix LEGO drone kit is specifically designed to promote exploration and experimentation. All the components are tough and can totally withstand a few crash landings, so you can build and rebuild your own drones until you come up with the perfect design. Then you can do it all again. Try different motor arrangements, add your own LEGO bricks, experiment with different shapes—this kit is a wannabe engineer’s dream.

For the more advanced STEM learners out there, Flybrix lets you experiment with coding and block-based coding. It uses an arduino-based hackable circuit board, and the Flybrix app has advanced features that let you try your hand at software design.

Who is the Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit for?

Flybrix is a really fun way to introduce a number of core STEM concepts, which makes it ideal for kids—and technically, that’s who it was designed for. But because engineering and coding can get a little complicated, the recommended age for independent experimentation is 13 and up. However, kids younger than 13 can certainly work on Flybrix drones with the help of their parents. In fact, it actually makes a fantastic family hobby.

Ready to start building your own LEGO drones? Click here to order your Flybrix kit today for $198.

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6 Things We Know About the Game of Thrones Prequel Series, House of the Dragon

HBO
HBO

By the time Game of Thrones wrapped up its record-breaking eight-season run in 2019, it was a no-brainer that HBO would be producing another GoT series to keep the success going. The first announced show in the works, which was reportedly picked from a few prequel ideas, was going to chronicle a time thousands of years before the start of GoT, and was set to star actress Naomi Watts. Unfortunately, that project was eventually scrapped after the pilot was shot—but a new prequel series, House of the Dragon, was announced in October 2019. Here's what we know about it so far.

1. House of the Dragon will be based on George R.R. Martin's book Fire & Blood.

George R.R. Martin's novel Fire & Blood, which tells the story of House Targaryen, will serve as the source of inspiration for the plot of House of the Dragon. The first of two volumes was published in 2018, and takes place 300 years before Game of Thrones.

2. House of the Dragon will likely chronicle the Targaryen family's tumultuous past.

Game of Thrones showed that the Targaryen family has a long-standing history of inbreeding, secrets, betrayal, war, and insanity. Fire & Blood covers topics like the first Aegon Targaryen's conquest of the Seven Kingdoms and his subsequent reign, as well as the lives of his sons. Seems like we'll probably be meeting Dany's ancestors, and Martin confirmed there will definitely be dragons present—maybe even Balerion the Black Dread, the biggest dragon in all of Westerosi history.

3. George R.R. Martin and Ryan Condal are co-creators of House of the Dragon.

Co-Executive Producer George R.R. Martin arrives at the premiere of HBO's 'Game Of Thrones' Season 3 at TCL Chinese Theatre on March 18, 2013 in Hollywood, California
George R.R. Martin
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Martin shared on his blog that he's been working with writer and producer Ryan Condal (Rampage, Colony), on the show. "Ryan Condal is new to Westeros, but not to me," the acclaimed author wrote. "I first met Ryan when he came to New Mexico to shoot a pilot for a fantasy western that was not picked up. I visited his set and we became friendly ... He’s a terrific writer … and a fan of my books since well before we met." In another blog post, Martin said that the show's script and bible were "terrific, first-rate, exciting." Sounds like we'll be in good hands.

5. A Game of Thrones director is returning for House of the Dragon.

Per a tweet from the Game of Thrones Twitter account announcing the show, Miguel Sapochnik, who directed many of the original HBO series' biggest episodes, such as "Battle of the Bastards" and "Hardhome," will be returning for House of the Dragon as showrunner alongside Condal. Sapochnik is also known for directing a handful of other notable shows, such as True Detective, Masters of Sex, and Altered Carbon.

6. House of the Dragon could be coming in 2022.

HBO ordered 10 episodes of House of the Dragon, and HBO president of programming Casey Bloys said he thought that the show would debut "sometime in 2022." However, with the film industry facing major delays due to safety concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, there's no word on when the show will begin filming.

Meanwhile, Martin revealed that he won't be writing any scripts for House of the Dragon until he finishes The Winds of Winter, which has been in the works since A Dance With Dragons, his most recent book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, debuted in 2011. The good news, however, is that Martin says he has been "writing every day" while keeping indoors and social distancing, leaving fans with the hope that The Winds of Winter will come soon.