Explore the top 10 best selling authors of all time to see where your favorites rank and get the best book recommendations for what to read from each popular author.
The range includes mostly deceased British and American writers and, while some of the best selling authors of all-time wrote fairly few works during their lifetimes to reach this highly coveted status, many have written several hundreds of works their readers devoured (and continue to devour) in record numbers.
We’ll take a trip through Shakespeare’s emotional tragedies, Agatha Christie’s crafty mysteries, J.K. Rowling’s fantasy books, and beyond.
You’ll learn how many books each of the best selling authors of all-time has sold, plus a bit about their lives and biggest accomplishments, as well as the top books you should consider reading from each of their catalogs.
Top 10 Best Selling Authors of All-Time
Below are the all-time best selling authors listed in rank from #10 to the #1 bestselling author of all-time.
#10: Eiichiro Oda
- Sales Numbers: 516.5 million copies
- Most Successful Works: One Piece
Biography and Impact: Eiichiro Oda (1975-present) is the best selling writer of Japanese manga (comic books/graphic novels), including the famous One Piece series, which remains ongoing and follows Monkey D. Luffy and his pirate crew as they try to find the ultimate treasure known and become the king of pirates.
In fact, it’s so popular, particularly as its popular adaptation furthers its reach and dedicated fan base, that Oda holds the Guinness World Record for the most copies published in the same comic book series by a single author.
(I can attest that his fan base is one of the most passionate that I hear from in running this website.)
Oda’s awards are too numerous to list, but notably, he’s also won the Sondermann Award and the Cartoomics: Gran Guinigi Award.
#9: Sidney Sheldon
- Sales Numbers: 370-600 million copies
- Most Successful Works: The Naked Face, The Other Side of Midnight
Biography and Impact: American Sidney Sheldon (1917-2007) is one of the best selling novelists of 21 suspenseful crime and thriller books. He is known for writing strong and independent female characters, which was fairly uncommon in thriller books at the time.
A man of many talents, he also found success on Broadway (where he received a Tony Award for his musical Redhead), in film (winning an Academy Award for his Original Screenplay for The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer), and on television (by which he was nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on the classic sitcom I Dream of Jeannie).
In literature, he was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America in the category of Best First Novel for his book, The Naked Face.
Among other accolades, Sheldon was also inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988. What a career!
#8: Enid Blyton
Biography and Impact: British writer Enid Blyton (1897-1968) is one of the top selling authors of children’s literature and mysteries. Some of her most famous works include the books in the Noddy series about a wooden boy who lives in Toyland.
While her imaginative books have inspired generations of children to date, Blyton is not without controversy, particularly in her portrayals of gender, race, and class, which have been called both outdated and problematic.
#7: J.K. Rowling
- Sales Numbers: 600 million copies
- Most Successful Works: Harry Potter series
Biography and Impact: You probably already know that British author J.K. Rowling (1965-present) is the best selling author of young adult fantasy books, most notably the Harry Potter series about young wizards training at school and fighting evil.
In fact, you are probably also surprised she doesn’t appear even higher on this list of best selling authors of all-time. After all, Harry Potter has become an entire universe of fandom over the past few decades, even including theme parks.
Rowling has been awarded the British Book Awards’ Children’s Book of the Year, the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and the European Book Prize. She has also been named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in France and received the Freedom of the City of London. In 2005, she founded the charity Lumos, which combats the institutionalization of children.
However, in recent years, J.K. Rowling has become controversial, particularly for statements she made about the transgender community.
#6: Georges Simenon
- Sales Numbers: 500-700 million copies
- Most Successful Works: Pietr the Latvian (Inspector Maigret Book 1)
Biography and Impact: Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was the Belgian writer of nearly 600 books (many of which were written under a pseudonym). Particularly, readers love his fictional French detective, Jules Maigret, a more patient and understanding inspection, and his realistic portrayal of France at the time.
Simenon is also known for his “romans durs” or “hard novels” — standalone, psychological works that delve into dark human behavior.
He has served as President of the Mystery Writers of America, Member of Royal Academy of French Language and Literature of Belgium, and Honorary Member of American Academy of Arts and Letters.
#5: Harold Robbins
- Sales Numbers: 750 million copies
- Most Successful Works: The Carpetbaggers, The Adventurers, A Stone for Danny Fisher
Biography and Impact: American writer Harold Robbins (1916-1997) is another one of the best selling fiction authors ever. His popular books often depict business tycoons, Hollywood stars, and high society, and they are filled with alluring scandals and intrigue that captivate readers.
Of note, several books were also ghostwritten after his death from his notes and unfinished manuscripts.
#4: Danielle Steel
- Sales Numbers: 500 million to 800 million copies
- Most Successful Works: Safe Harbour, Sisters, The Gift
Biography and Impact: American romance novelist Danielle Steel (1947-present) is another one of the most popular authors, and she’s the one whose books I feel confident saying I’ve seen being sold the most throughout my lifetime, from all the way back to my childhood to the present.
As one of the highest selling authors, she’s most known for books about a rich family in crisis, and she’s been consistent in churning out book after book in her career, for a total of nearly 200 books.
Steel holds a Guinness World Record for having at least one of her books on the New York Times Bestseller List for over 390 consecutive weeks (over SEVEN years).
Outside of her literary work, she founded the “Nick Traina Foundation,” which provides support for mental illness, child abuse, and suicide prevention.
#3: Barbara Cartland
- Sales Numbers: 500 million to 1 billion copies
- Most Successful Works: A Ghost in Monte Carlo (Note: This was especially difficult to pin down, given her prolific catalog. This book appeared most often in my research. See more Barbara Cartland bestsellers.)
Biography and Impact: Barbara Cartland (1901-2000) is the British romance author of a whopping 700+ books, making her one of the most successful authors ever.
Cartland’s books are often set in the Victorian era and have innocent, old-fashioned romantic themes and values, including a virtuous heroine and an adventurous hero.
Cartland received the highest honor of the city of Paris, for publishing 25 million books in France, and Queen Elizabeth II made her a Dame in 1991.
She had a vibrant style (often pink) and a personality to match, making her a fixture in the media outside of her literary work. Believe it or not, she was also the step-grandmother of Diana, Princess of Wales.
#2: Agatha Christie
- Sales Numbers: 2 to 4 billion copies
- Most Successful Works: And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express
Biography and Impact: British mystery writer Agatha Christie (1890-1976) is the best selling female author of all-time, as well as the top selling author of novels.
The writer of over 80 books, Agatha Christie is most known for the Miss Marple (an elderly spinster crime solver) series and the Hercule Poirot (a Belgian detective) series of books, which introduced the world to two of its most iconic fictional characters.
Her classic And Then There Were None is also one of the best selling books of all time, employing a trademark trope of Christie (and subsequent mystery writers): the locked room mystery. You can also count on her for a good plot twist or red herring.
She won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America and an Edgar Award, and she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her contributions to literature.
Her works continue to be adapted into film today. (I enjoyed the recent films, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile.) And historical fiction about her life remains plentiful as well. (I enjoyed The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, about her own disappearance.)
#1: William Shakespeare
- Sales Numbers: 2 to 4 billion copies
- Most Successful Works: Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth (my top pick), Hamlet
Biography and Impact: British playwright and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is the bestselling author of all-time and arguably the most famous author as well.
While his work, often tragedies drawn from complex emotions (but also comedies and romances), was well-regarded during his lifetime, it was in the centuries following his death that his mastery was truly appreciated and his plays were performed and studied regularly in schools worldwide, as well as adapted to film.
Many of Shakespeare’s most famous quotes remain spoken colloquially today, like “to be or not to be” and “star-crossed lovers,” just to name a few. In fact, some have inspired the titles of other recent works, including two that I recently read alongside their inspiration (Macbeth), Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.
In curating this list of the top 10 bestselling authors of all-time, I felt remiss not to mention more very famous authors on the long list of best-selling writers. There are many, many more, but here I want to note a few that I found most memorable throughout my lifetime.
These are authors I feverishly read myself and/or saw seemingly everyone else reading and talking about.
Each of these top selling authors has sold between 40 to 500 million copies of their works to date: Dr. Seuss, Leo Tolstoy, Dean Koontz, Jackie Collins, Nora Roberts, R.L. Stine, Stephen King, Paulo Coelho, James Patterson, Stan and Jan Berenstain, Roald Dahl, James Patterson, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Dan Brown, Ann M. Martin, Anne Rice, Beatrix Potter, Michael Crichton, Ken Follett, Debbie Macomber, E.L. James, Stephenie Meyer, David Baldacci, Nicholas Sparks, Lewis Carroll, Ian Fleming, and Mary Higgins Clark.
Frequently Asked Questions
The highest selling author of all time is William Shakespeare. He is the poet and playwright of 42 works that have sold 2 to 4 billion copies to date.
The best selling female author of all time is Agatha Christie. Her 85 mystery books have sold 2 to 4 billion copies to date.
No, but Agatha Christie is the second best selling author of all time, succeeded only by William Shakespeare. Both authors have sold 2 to 4 billion copies of their books.
No. However, he is one of the top 25 best selling authors with 300 to 350 million copies of his nearly 80 horror, science fiction, and fantasy books.
American author, Danielle Steel, is the best selling romance author of all time, with 500 to 800 million copies of her nearly 200 books sold.
The best selling authors of all-time have had a profound impact on billions of readers worldwide. Their works have not only topped best-seller lists but they have also stood the test of time, remaining popular and influential years, or even centuries, after they were first published. Some of these authors continue to publish today and others remain at the forefront of literature through things like film adaptations.
Perhaps some surprised you! Regardless, if you’re looking to read the most popular authors ever, this list is your starting point.