Best Selling American Authors
High school English assignments aside, Americans have always loved to read. A good book can be a lesson, an adventure, and an escape rolled into one. The authors on this list have soothed, instructed and entertained generations of Americans with their stories of romance, horror, success, and adventure. Some may be familiar, some may not, but one or two may have already changed your life. Exact sales figures are impossible to verify, but according to various sources, here are the top 10 best-selling American authors of all time.
10. Louis L’Amour
When he was young, Louis L’Amour wanted to be a poet, but poetry doesn’t pay the bills. So he decided to become one of America’s most prolific novelists instead. L’Amour wrote Western novels, drawing on the experiences of his travels as a young man in the American West, where he met a surreal collection of colorful characters while working odd jobs. He published his first short story in 1937. By the time of his death in 1988 at age 80, L’Amour had written more than 100 novels. His novels have now sold more than 300 million copies and have been translated into 20 languages.
9. Sidney Sheldon
Sidney Sheldon was a prolific and popular novelist, but that was only part of his legacy. He spent much of his writing career in Hollywood, where he wrote 25 major screenplays, including Annie Get Your Gun and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, for which he won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 1947. He wrote hundreds of television scripts for TV programs and was the creator of shows such as The Patty Duke Show, I Dream of Jeannie and Hart to Hart.
Although Sheldon didn’t write his first novel until he was in his 50s, he eventually produced 18 novels and a memoir, The Other Side of Me, detailing his struggle with bipolar disorder. Sheldon’s heroines were always beautiful, his heroes handsome, and his plots action-packed. His books have been translated into 51 languages and have sold more than 300 million copies.
8. Stephen King
In 1973, Stephen King was working as an English teacher in Hampden, Maine, and selling short stories on the side to make ends meet. Later that year, he accepted a $2, 500 advance for his first novel, Carrie, to Doubleday — but only after his wife, Tabitha, fished the manuscript out of the trash and insisted he submit it to publishers. Within weeks, Doubleday had sold the reprint rights to Carrie, netting King an unheard-of $200, 000 royalty check. By decade’s end, he had written several other horror novels that remain among his most popular works: Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Dead Zone and The Stand. He hasn’t slowed down since, publishing almost 50 novels and over 200 short stories, including several works under the pen name Richard Bachman. As of 2011, total sales for King’s books were estimated to be between 300 and 350 million copies.