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21 Most Prolific Writers in Literary History

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How prolific can a writer be? How many books do you think you will finally publish? I have been doing a bit of armchair research on the internet and came up with some rather startling figures about how much a person can write over his or her lifetime. Here are the writers who apparently had done nothing else, but written all their lives, and written well. Read on for the complete list…

1. Corin Tellado (1927-2009) 4000+ books*
Spanish writer María del Socorro Tellado López, known as Corin Tellado, was a prolific writer of romantic novels. She published more than 4,000 novels and sold more than 400 million books. Her first novel was Atrevida apuesta (1946) and her most popular novel was Luna oculta (1991).
2. Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930) 1300+ books
American founder of the publishing syndicate that puts out the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series and other popular books for young readers. Using many pen names, he wrote more than 400 novels himself and outlined hundreds more for staff writers.
3. Ryoki Inoue (1946-) 1086 books
A thoracic surgeon by profession, Brazilian writer of pulp fiction in Portuguese on topics such as western, politics and romance.
4. Kathleen Lindsay (1903-1973) 904 books *
English romance author, who wrote 904 books under eleven pseudonyms including Mary Faulkner, often using names of both sexes. Her novels include There Is No Yesterday, Wind of Desire, and Harvest of Deceit.
5. Lauran Bosworth Paine (1916-) 850+ books
American paperback novelist, Paine has written mostly westerns, such as The Man from Wells Fargo (1961), and some mysteries and romances, using 70 different pseudonyms.
6. Enid Mary Blyton (1897-1968) 800+ books *
English children’s writer, her best-known series are Noddy, Famous Five, and Secret Seven. Her work involves children’s adventure stories, and fantasy, sometimes involving magic. Her work has been translated into nearly 90 languages.
7. Barbara Cartland (1901-2000) 723 books *
British writer of historical fiction, who also uses the name Barbara McCorquodale. She also wrote health and cookery books, as well as stage plays and recorded an album of love songs.
8. John Creasey (1908-1973) 600+ books *
He wrote using 28 different pseudonyms. His Inspector West and Gideon series are the most popular, but he also wrote Westerns under the names of Tex Riley, William K. Reilly and Ken Ranger, and romantic novels under the name of Margaret Cooke.
9. Jozef Ignacy Kraszewski (1812-1887) 600+ books
Polish writer of novels, plays, poetry, essays, biographies, history, memoirs, and political sketches.
10. Prentiss Ingraham (1843-1904) 600+ books
American dime novelist, and a Colonel in the Confederate Army, he is best known for his Buffalo Bill series.
11. Georges Joseph Christian Simenon (1903-1989) 570 books*
A prolific Belgian author who published nearly 200 novels under his own name and over 300 other books under 17 pseudonyms and numerous short works, Simenon is best known for the creation of the fictional detective Inspector Maigret.
12. Jalaluddin Al-Suyuti (1445-1505) 561 books
Egyptian writer, religious scholar, juristic expert and teacher whose works deal with a wide variety of subjects in Islamic theology.
13. Ursula Bloom (1892-1984) 520+ books
English romance novelist, her books include Doctor on Call and The Flying Nurse. A popular novelist, she also wrote over twenty radio plays and non-fiction titles.
14. Howard Roger Garis (1873-1962) 500+ books
American children’s writer, best known for a series of books, that featured the character of Uncle Wiggily Longears, an engaging elderly rabbit.
15. Jirō Akagawa (1948-) 480 books*
Japanese novelist, known for his humorous mysteries. He has written more than 480 novels in the course of his thirty year career, over 300 million individual published volumes.
16. Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) 468+ books
American author and Professor of Biochemistry at Boston University, he was best known for his works of science fiction and popular science books.
17. R L Stine (1943-) 430+ books*
American writer, who is the author of hundreds of horror fiction novels horror fiction novels, including the books in the Goosebumps, Rotten School, Mostly Ghostly, The Nightmare Room, and Fear Street series.
18. Kyotaro Nishimura (1930-) 400+ books*
Japanese mystery writer best known for his Train Series mysteries.
19. Arthur William Groom (1898-1964) 400+ books
British writer of children’s books and adult fiction and nonfiction under many different pseudonyms. A specialist in westerns, he ‘novelized’ real people as well as created fictional heroes like Hopalong Cassidy.
20. Ned Buntline (1823-1886) 400+ books
A pseudonym of Edward Zane Carroll Judson, best known for his dime novels, he gave William F. Cody the nickname Buffalo Bill and wrote the first stories about him.
21. Evelyn Everett Green (1856-1932) 350+ books
British author of both adult and children books, she wrote about 350 books, more than 200 under her own name, and others using the pen-names H. F. E., Cecil Adair, E. Ward or Evelyn Dare.

All writers with an * also makes the all-time bestselling list. The Wikipedia lists William Shakespeare as the writer with most sales at 4 billion copies for his completed works with Agatha Christie close behind with similar estimated sales for her 85 books. Romance does well, as does children’s fiction, followed by crime and horror fiction and fantasy. Interestingly, Enid Blyton has sold more books than J K Rowling. Dan Brown has sold close to 120 million copies from his 5 books and Stephenie Meyer has done pretty well with sales close to 100 million for her Twilight series.

Ah well, back to writing!

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30 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jenny Hanslow #

    Enid Blyton selling more than JK Rowling- that’s a surprise! Actually, not!

    July 8, 2010
  2. Graham Das #

    Bit surprised by Agatha Christie ranking so far ahead! Dan Brown’s doing well in spite of 5 pretty ordinary books-translates into very ordinary readers!

    July 9, 2010
  3. Here’s another one for you: Ryoki Inoue. He’s in the 1996 Guinness World Book of Records. His current output is 1,100 novels (check out his Facebook account, in Portuguese).

    December 6, 2010
    • Thanks a lot. List updated.

      December 6, 2010
  4. Martin L. Shoemaker #

    Where’s Isaac Asimov? He wrote more than 500 books, per Wikipedia.

    April 15, 2011
    • Thank you for pointing it out. Asimov himself placed the figure at 468, but the actual figure is around 500 according to the Library of Congress and other online catalogs.

      April 15, 2011
  5. Tekst

    April 20, 2011
  6. I can’t seem to look at this site from my iphone!

    May 14, 2011
  7. Katmanblue #

    Who is the most prolific writer in terms of words published? Many of these authors wrote rather short books. Can any of them match Frederick Faust’s thirty million published words?

    August 30, 2011
  8. Yay. I love lists like this. Unbelievable stats (though I will believe you this time).

    December 28, 2011
  9. I would have thought Gone With the Wind was way up there in sales, but I checked and it’s only sold 30 million copies.

    December 30, 2011
  10. danielle #

    “Corin Tellado (1927-2009) 4000+ books”. So if she started writing at 15, then she was writing for 67 years, thus averaged 60 books per year, or, on average, a book every 6 days. This does not seem reasonable.

    December 30, 2011
    • During NaNoWriMo I can often have 10K days, where on a single day I write over 10,000 words. There are Wrimo’s who manage 300,000 words during the month.

      Making those words good enough for publication, doing it consistently though out life, and managing to find time for editing and revisions would be incredibly hard…but I can’t say it’s impossible, especially for romance novels which are often rather short.

      January 3, 2012
  11. When I read your list I got the impression that most of the prolific writers lived during the time of “no television.” I can’t help wondering if this may have had some bearing on their accomplishments.

    January 3, 2012
  12. Shatemeyer also wrote the Happy Hollister series which one me a summer camp reading contest one summer.

    January 7, 2012
  13. Stephanie Raffelock #

    And yet there are still only 4 women on the Literary Canon of Great Books. . .and no people of color!

    January 17, 2012
    • @Stephanie: What does that have to do about anything? Should we revise history so that the list is politically correct? Instead of criticizing, you should be pleased that nearly half of the top ten are women (Corin Tellado, Kathleen Lindsay, Enid Mary Blyton and Barbara Cartland), with two who were arguably the most productive human beings on the planet (Barbara Cartland and Corin Tellado).

      Last I checked, white is a color. But wait, Ryoki Inoue, the world record holder for most published works, is from Brazil, a cultural melting pot. Does he qualify? Corin Tellado is a Spaniard. Jalaluddin Al-Suyuti is Egyptian. Still not a color you’re happy with?

      This is a HISTORICAL list. Why aren’t there any prolific African, Chinese, Colombian or Mexican authors on this list? Because they are either unknown or didn’t write enough to qualify. Either offer up a name that is missing from the list (which will gladly be added) or go out and find a minority that should be recognized.

      Just because someone is a white male does not belittle their accomplishment.

      January 17, 2012
      • Stephanie Raffelock #

        Very sorry to have offended you. . .

        January 17, 2012
      • I don’t think there was anything offensive about Stephanie’s comment. As far as I understood, she regrets the fact that there are only 4 women in the Literary Canon of Great Books and no people of colour, and not the other way around.

        January 18, 2012
    • You are correct! I’d of surely thought Alex Haley’s Roots, would have been among them somewhere. Perhaps the series was so long, it scared the readers off?

      January 18, 2012
  14. I celebrate anyone of any ethnicity who can make this list. It is truly a miraculous achievement, regardless of class, gender or skin color.

    January 17, 2012
    • Stephanie Raffelock #

      There seems to be some confusion that I was referring to this list. I was not. I was referring to what in American academia is called “The Literary Canon of Great Books.” I made the comment because that list is not, as you pointed out an historical list, but a list that is used in academia to the exclusion of women and people of color. While I agree that anyone who makes the list that you refer to deserves to be celebrated, regardless of gender or skin color, I do take issue with “The Literary Canon of Great Books” that excludes people of color and women. Again, I was not referring to your list. I’m sorry that in the early morning hours I was not more articulate. Okay I’ve done all I can to apologize and I will leave it alone.

      January 17, 2012
      • I understand your point of POV and completely agree with you.

        January 18, 2012
  15. Subhakr,

    I thank you for posting to and liking my blog. I find this list mind boggling! One had to of sat behind their type writer or written by hand daily to complete this many books. I have several in mind after my memoir, but nothing to this extent!

    Bless you sir,

    Suzannesan
    http://suzannehill1978.com

    January 18, 2012
  16. My gracious, do/did these authors ever sleep? It takes me years to write my books; I write painfully slow. I hope only to finish the two WIPs I have going before I hit my 60th birthday!

    February 3, 2012
  17. johnlmalone #

    a most intersting post; I don’t know how some writers — like Dickens and Stephen King — can keep pumping out books and still maintain the quality

    July 4, 2012

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