Who are, or were, the most prolific authors in the history of novel writing? The answer will surprise you – not necessarily because of who they were, but because of how many novels they wrote.
These prolific authors are not all among the most famous writers, although some are. If you are an Agatha Christie or a Stephen King fan, you may have binged on their novels and gasped at how many pleasant hours you have spent reading them – both close to a hundred. Stephen King, already at about 85 and still writing should make his century. Agatha Christie managed about 80, and that is now final. But there are writers who have written many more novels than they have.
The question is, how is it possible that one person could write several hundred novels in one lifetime? And what drives them? We could never know the answer to the second question but the answer to the first is, whatever it is that drives them, their books are evidence that it is, indeed, possible, although you and I would not be able to do it.
Here are the ten most prolific writers in descending order of the number of books they wrote:
Corin Tellado, 1927- 2009
Around 4,000 romantic novels
Spanish writer Maria del Socorro Tellado Lopez, 1927- 2009, writing under the name Corin Tellado published more than four thousand romantic novels, most of them best-sellers in the Spanish speaking world. She sold more than 400 million copies.
Charles Hamilton, 1876-1961
The equivalent of 1,200 novels
The second most prolific fiction writer is Charles Hamilton, 1876-1961. It is basically impossible to count his books but he is known to have written more than 100 million words, which is the equivalent of 1,200 full length novels He also wrote about 5000 short stories.
Not heard of Charles Hamilton? He wrote several series of books, mainly set in public schools, and he used a different pen name for each series, although he used his own name for his short stories, which, although lively and interesting, are hard to find these days.
Still not heard of him? Well, if you are of a certain age you will have enjoyed his most famous character, Billy Bunter, “the Owl of the Remove,” a pupil at Greyfriars School, by Frank Richards, alias Charles Hamilton. Billy Bunter is a great English fictional character and interesting as a main protagonist because he is an anti-hero, regarding himself as an exemplary character – handsome and talented, vastly superior to everyone, whereas in reality he is a fat, lazy, racist obnoxious and narcissistic boy.
In the middle of Hamilton’s somewhat dated fiction Billy Bunter stands out as somehow out of place for his time, and the books are still readable, and funny. His novels are generally interesting and entertaining reads. Perhaps you liked the St Jim’s series by Martin Clifford or the Rookwood series by Owen Conquest, or The Rio Kid series by Ralph Redway. All Charles Hamilton books.
Ryoki Inoue, 1946 –
Brazilian author Ryoki Inoue, born 1946 has published 1075 fiction books so far, using 13 pseudonyms. Once starting a book he writes night and day without any breaks until it is finished He sometimes writes a whole book in one day or one night. He is the person who coined the wonderful phrase:
“The secret of the creative process is in 98% of sweat, 1% of talent, and 1% of luck.”
Lauran Bosworth Paine, 1916 – 2001
Over 1,000 novels
American writer Lauran Bosworth Paine, 1916 – 2001, is probably the most unbelievable of these special novelists. He published more than a thousand novels under seventy pen names. He more or less captured the market for western novels under some famous western fiction writer names, like A.A. Andrews, Dennis Archer, Jim Slaughter.
Kathleen Mary Lindsay, 1903-1973
904 romantic novels
Kathleen Mary Lindsay, 1903-1973, is the author of 904 romantic novels. She is better known as the English/South African writer, Mary Faulkner, also wrote as Margaret Cameron, Mary Richmond, Molly Waring, Betty Manvers, Elizabeth Fenton, and wrote crime novels under the names Nigel Mackenzie and Hugh Desmond. She used a further four pen names.
Over 800 children’s books
Enid Blyton, 1897-1968, needs no introduction. She is probably the most well known of all British writers and read by children all around the world in translation into most of the world’s languages. She wrote more than 800 children’s books. Her characters, like Noddy, are among the most famous in all children’s literature. The Famous Five children’s names trip easily off the tongue in several languages, There are other popular series like, the Secret Seven, the Castle and Island of Adventure, the Faraway Tree, and so on, series after series.
Her books are regarded as racist and socially offensive these days but she tells a good story and once a child reads a book from the Famous Five series, for example, they often find they can’t put the book down.
Barbara Cartland, 1901-2000
Around 700 romance novels
The English version of Corin Tellado is Barbara Cartland, 1901-2000, who wrote 700 romantic novels in addition to plays, musical works, journalism and operettas. She sold a stunning 750 million copies of her books. Someone who had been a secretary employed by Barbara Cartland reported that the author spent most mornings in bed dictating her novels to her secretary. She hardly paused or retraced her steps. She often wrote a novel in two weeks. She holds the Guiness book of Records record for the number of novels published in one year – twenty seven!
Colonel, Prentiss Ingraham, 1843-1904
Over 600 dime novels
A Confederate colonel, Prentiss Ingraham 1843-1904, began his writing career in 1872 with the novel The Masked Spy and over the following thirty years wrote more than 600 dime novels, the best known of which are The Buffalo Bill series, the Merle Monte series and the Dick Doom series. As if that were not enough he worked for Colonel Bill Cody (Buffalo Bill), ghost writing many of the showman’s best-selling books. He used a number of pseudonyms.
Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992
Over 500 novels
The remarkable American Writer Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992, is not only in the top ten prolific writers, with more than 500 novels and hundreds of short stories, but is also one of the greatest science fiction writers. He was also the professor of biochemistry at Boston University.
Above all though, Asimov is a science fiction legend, one of the “Big Three” during his lifetime, together with Arthur C Clarke and Robert Heinlein. He is most noted for his Robot series. He presented the world of science fiction with a code that is known as “The Three Laws of Robotics,” a set of rules for the conduct of robots. He also wrote the short story, Nightfall, generally regarded as the best science fiction short story ever written.
R.L. Stine, 1943 –
Around 450 books
- R.L. Stine, born 1943, is an American writer of macabre/horror/ghost novels and stories for teenagers, He has written about 450 books on those subjects and several series that enjoy enormous popularity, for example, the Goosebumps series, Rotten School, Fear Street, Mostly Ghostly and the Nightmare Room series.
And that’s our round up done of the world’s most prolific writers. Any other writers with enormous bibliographies you think we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments section below.