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From the wikipedia article on Stephen R. Donaldson and his "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever":

The Chronicles were originally published as two trilogies of novels between 1977 and 1983. According to his current publisher, Putnam's, those two series sold more than 10 million copies. A third series, The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, began publication in 2004 with the novel The Runes of the Earth. With the second book of that series, Fatal Revenant, Donaldson again attained bestseller status when the book reached number 12 on the New York Times Bestseller List in October 2007. (https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Stephen_R._Donaldson)

I was curious to try and find out where Stephen R. Donaldson placed among authors of the genre in terms of total books sold. I'm not even sure what ten million copies means. Since it was two trilogies is that ten million copies of all six books? Is it ten million books sold divided by six possible books? Etc.

In addition he had a third series in the Thomas Covenant lineup which included four books, one of them "Fatal Revenant" is the second of that series, and is listed in the article as a best seller.

He also had several other series as well as books of short stories.

I'm trying to figure out his place in history since he was my favorite author growing up. I loved him even more than Piers Anthony, Tolkien, Zelazny, Eddings, and the others that were popular at the time.

I've been searching for awhile to find out how what the total sales of his books are and can't find it anywhere. I remember reading once that at the time his books were only second to Tolkien's in terms of total sales.

I'm sure Harry Potter is one, Tolkien is second, but I'm not sure how it goes or is broken down from there.

Does anybody know of a site that lists science fiction and fantasy books and/or series by total number of book sold? It doesn't have to be a site, any other reference material is fine, or if you just want to post the results here then if you can give me maybe the top five and then the author I am asking about Stephen R. Donaldson.

  • I haven't been able to find any such place unfortunately, but hopefully the data I've provided helps! I'll keep looking for information on Donaldson for you – Often Right Jun 18 '15 at 4:27
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I have found you a couple of sites with list of top selling books, top 10 most sold books. This second list shows donaldson around number 16 based on his 10 million ish sold. list2 enter image description here

As request i found you an even better list, of 200+ fantasy authors, each list has updated sales from each author as of march 2015. Some figures can only represent what each specific author or publishing company has release.

big F-ing List

  • Thank you so much for this! Do you have a source for where you got this info from? Are there any updated numbers? I know the 1st two covenant trilogies did 10 million on their own, and he had several other series, as well as books of short stories. So even before the four new books in the past ten years he has to have over ten million copies sold. I can't believe Jordan's books did so well. I know he wrote a ton of them but I wasn't a big fan. The Dragonlance novels were not that great. They had a bunch of them though. Where's Eddings, Zelazny, Asimov(Foundation series alone), etc. Hmmm... – JMFB Jun 18 '15 at 16:48
  • @JMFB all of these numbers where looked up via the author of the post in 2008 which is why some are dated, if you follow the 'list 2' link i posted the author states that he cant find any numbers for people like Asimov, and others which is why they arnt included to the list. Its up to companies/authors to release sales info so if Asimov never did well never know. – Himarm Jun 18 '15 at 16:51
  • I went to those sites. This is a good start and gives me a reference point, although it's hard to believe either one is accurate. I think some are overstated and some are not included at all. I appreciate your post but I'm gonna hold out on giving it a correct answer to see if somebody else comes up with anything more comprehensive. If nobody does then I'll award it a correct answer. – JMFB Jun 18 '15 at 17:09
  • @JMFB most of these figures match the figures seen in n_soongs answer, but again as ive said, google Asimov sales, and it gets you nothing, because nothing was ever reported. If no sales are reported then theres no figures for you to base it on. the issue i think your running into here is that you expect the Covenant books to have higher sales then they do, but they dont, because there too old, they almost never show up on current top 10 fantasy books, usually if they do show up their in the bottom of top 25, while newer books like the Wheel of Time series are current, the last book---- – Himarm Jun 18 '15 at 18:03
  • coming out only 2 years ago, and on release selling millions of copies. The same happens with the Song Of Fire and Ice series by GRRM they are popular now, and get huge sales, while older fantasy all have very low sale numbers other then Literally Tolkien and CS Lewis. Who both have Recently had Major block busters to boost the sales of their books by millions. A book series from the 70s-80s with no movie, and not ranking very high in top fantasy lists, just isnt going to get the sales you expect. – Himarm Jun 18 '15 at 18:04
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After a bit of research, I came up with the following list of the most sold books in the sci-fi/fantasy genre:

  1. The Lord of the Rings series (Tolkien): 150 million copies sold
  2. The Hobbit (Tolkien): 140.6 million copies sold
  3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Rowling): 107 million copies sold
  4. She: A History of Adventure (H. Rider Haggard): 100 million copies sold
  5. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Lewis): 85 million copies sold

This is based on this Wikipedia article for the best-selling books generally. Donaldson does not feature in this list.

In terms of best selling authors, I've come up with this list:

  1. J. K. Rowling
  2. Dean Kootz (not exclusively sci-fi/fantasy)
  3. Stephen King (again not exclusively sci-fi/fantasy)
  4. Tolkien
  5. Edgar Rice Burroughs (not exclusively sci-fi/fantasy)

This list is sourced from this Wikipedia list of the best-selling fiction authors which again doesn't list Donaldson.

Not based on number of books sold but purely on polling, this list ranks Donaldson in place 17 amongst the best science fiction writers.

This infographic (source) may be of interest to you. As said in the linked article, the scope for 'sci-fi' is a bit wide: Infographic

  • 1
    I appreciate the link but it wasn't very helpful. It was basically the graphic you posted here. I'm confused if there's a list someplace that they got it from, because I couldn't find one. Many of the books on there are not best sellers. I also am skeptical of some of those numbers. In any event, I'll keep looking and hope somebody here finds something. – JMFB Jun 18 '15 at 3:44

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