Most Prolific Writers in History
Gathering a list of the most prolific writers in history isn't easy, because the way many writers wrote lent itself to putting out a lot of copy without necessarily, in some cases, writing a lot of words.
There is also the difference between writers of fiction versus non-fiction, where non-fiction has to be researched, and usually results in a longer book. We'll look at some of those differences among the prolific authors unveiled in this article.
Another consideration that has to be taken into account was the fact that authors wrote multi-volume novels, which when put together, today would represent one book. So while claims of large numbers of novels were asserted in the past, in reality they were more like sections of one book, or even chapters, rather than a multitude of novels.
That said, the amount of content put out by most of the authors listed in this article is formidable and impressive, even when taking into account some of the caveats mentioned.
Now let's get into these amazing people who appear to have lived to write.
Probably the undisputed leader of prolific writers is known as Corin Tellado, whose actual name was Maria del Socorro Tellado Lopez. Over 4,000 novels have been attributed to her voluminous output, which resulted in sales of over 400 million books.
The major caveat to take into account with Tellado is she wrote what is called a photonovel, which is at times spelled fotonovel, also called "Fumetti."
A number of Tellado's books were these types of books, which included photos along with word balloons; it was similar to a comic book, with the exception of photos inserted in the frames rather than illustrations.
Another more modern version would be books made with still images of a movie or TV show, such as Star Wars, which also have some commentary with it.
Also, much of Tellado's work was for Latin American magazine Vanidades, for whom she published a new novella on a weekly basis. Looking up her work on Amazon, using a fairly decent sampling, the majority of her books were a little over a hundred pages each, with a few of them over 200 pages.
Even so, by any measure, the amount of work she produced was extraordinary, and she deserves a place at the top of the most prolific writers in history.
She may not have written more words than a few authors, but she definitely wrote the most books.
What is important as well is her work was published. Some lists of prolific authors I researched, included unpublished works as well. I didn't include those among the authors listed in this article.
One very impressive thing about Brazilian author Ryoki Inoue is that he is a thoracic surgeon. That means of the more than 1,100 books he's written, he's done while he was also working as a surgeon. He left his practice in 1986 to become a full-time writer.
In the past Inoue was identified by the Guinness World Records as the most prolific writer. He has written under his own name, as well as 39 pseudonyms.
Inoue is known to say that "secret of the creative process is in 98% of sweat, 1% of talent and 1% of luck."
Lauran Bosworth Paine
Lauran Bosworth Paine, born in Duluth, Minnesota, wrote over 1,000 books, with the bulk of them being Western fiction, although he also wrote mystery novels, romance, and science fiction.
Paine wrote under dozens of pseudonyms.
Of all the writers usually included in a list of the most prolific, Jacob Neusner is the one that is probably the most neglected. That could possibly be because of the subject matter of his non-fiction books, which are 'centered on rabbinic Judaism of the Mishnaic and Talmudic eras."
Included in his body of work are over 950 books he either wrote, or edited. Looking at his books on Amazon, almost all of it was more than 200 pages in length, and in many cases, over 400 pages. Some I found were over 600 pages long.
The point there is Neusner's longer books would represent four to five books of other writers that wrote novellas a little over 100 pages long, but were included in their list as individual books, which of course they were.
As for the number of words written, Neusner is quite possibly the most prolific writer in history.
An impressive thing to consider is that Neusner wrote all non-fiction, which takes up far more time for research and writing. In other words, the amount of time he spent at his craft was probably much longer than any of his peers.
Kathleen Lindsay is credited with writing over 900 romance novels in her career. She was also, at one time, listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific author. In 1986, the Guinness Book of World Records referred to her as Mary Faulkner
Lindsay wrote under eleven pseudonyms, although three of those were under her married name at the time, as she was married three times.
Enid Mary Blyton
Next is Enid Mary Blyton, who wrote over 800 children's books. She has reportedly sold more books than J.K. Rowling, although that may have changed by time you're reading this article, as Rowling continues to write.
While dying in 1968 at the age of 71, Blyton's children's stories remain very popular. They have been translated into 90 languages.
Tahir ul Qadri
Tahir ul Qadri is the author of over 800 books that have been published, with approximately 200 more in the pipeline. His books are offered in Arabic, English and Urdu.
There are conflicting reports on the number of books Qadri has published, with some saying it's closer to 550, and others a little over 600. Most sources agree his total output of unpublished and published books stands at approximately 1,000.
Similar to Neusner, it's impressive because of the non-fiction segment and the research, study and time needed to write some an enormous body of work.
This is one of the reasons it's hard to accurately identify the most prolific writers in regard to placing them in numerical order.
Many of his books are on the Online Islamic Library.
No list of prolific writers would be complete without the inclusion of Barbara Cartland, who wrote 723 books, most of which, as we know, were romance books.
Cartland also wrote cook books and books related to health.
Jozef Ignacy Kraszewski
Jozef Ignacy Kraszewski is credited with writing more than 600 books.
Kraszewski wrote across a variety of genres, including biographies, novels, plays and poetry. As with some of the other authors, there are discrepancies in the number of books he wrote from different sources.
It's harder to confirm his collection of work because he wrote in the 19th century. It's possible some of his short stories and art reviews were counted as full books.
Prentiss Ingraham wrote over six hundred novels and four hundred novelettes.
After the American Civil War, Ingraham became a soldier of fortune, which when he began his writing career, became source material for his dime novels.
He also worked as a press agent for the Wild West Show of Buffalo Bill, which helped him when he took over the dime novels associated with Buffalo Bill. He reportedly wrote over 200 stories related to Buffalo Bill.
While immensely popular in his day, Ingraham is largely forgotten in our times.
His work wasn't great, but it targeted a popular audience hungry for stories talking about cowboys and the Western frontier.
Interestingly, the legend surrounding the prolific John Creasey is that he had to endure 768 rejection letters before he had his first book approved for publishing.
If true, it didn't deter him, as he went on to write over 600 books in his lifetime, under 28 pseudonyms.
His major focus on was Westerns, but he also wrote some romance novels under the pseudonym of Margaret Cooke.
Robert J. Randisi
Robert J. Randisi is a prolific pulp fiction writer, having published over 500 books and edited 30 anthologies.
The major genres he wrote in are Western and detective.
He's still alive as I write, so he should continue to add to his total.
Among the works of Rolf Kalmuczak are 200 novellas, 170 crime novels, 160 books written for young people, and 30 film scripts.
He reportedly used over 100 pseudonyms in his writing career.
Ursula Bloom was a prolific English romance writer of over 520 books.
Bloom also wrote under a variety of pseudonyms.
Howard Roger Garis
Howard Roger Garis wrote over 500 books. His book series on Uncle Wiggily Longears, an elderly rabbit, was what he is most remembered for.
Jiro Akagawa is primarily known as a mystery writer with a touch of humor to his stories. He has written almost 500 novels, and should surpass that mark in the near future.
Isaac Asimov is one of the more prolific of science fiction authors, if not the most prolific, as he has published about 468 books, with a number of them being non-fiction.
His Foundation series, specifically the first three, are among my favorite novels, as is the Prelude to Foundation book.
R.L. Stine is known for his horror fiction novels for the children's market. While the word "horror" may sound inappropriate for children, I did read some of these with my grandchildren a long time ago, and while suspenseful, they weren't the type that would give children nightmares.
Stine has written about 450, which has sold well over 400 million copies.
Edward Stratemeyer wrote over 400 novels, but is more known for being the American publisher of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, among other children's books.
He founded the syndicate that published those books for the American market.
Georges Joseph Christian Simenon
Georges Joseph Christian Simenon wrote close to 200 novels under his own name, and over 300 under more than a dozen pseudonyms.
Simenon wrote detective novels and even more with a psychological focus.
Of all his writings, he is probably best known for Inspector Maigret. He was more intuitive than deductive in his way of solving crimes, which appealed to the audience he wrote for.
Alexandre Dumas wrote about 277 books. There were others that wrote more than him between 300 and 400 books, but I include him in the list because he's a good example of the aforementioned writing of multi-volume novels that were counted as numerous books, when they were actually parts of an individual novel.
Dumas at one time had told Napoleon III that he had written 1,200 volumes. Another element to consider in his work was that he wrote with a number of collaborators, which makes the actual amount writing of Dumas difficult to know.
His complete works are represented in the 277 books mentioned above, and generally reflect his body of work.
The point of this is to understand that in the past writers counted multi-volume novels as individual books, when they were in reality sections of one book.
Dumas' The Three Musketeers was counted as eight volumes in his day.
I hope you enjoyed this list of prolific authors. My thought is that those that primarily wrote non-fiction are far more impressive in their collection of works because of the nature of how the books are researched and written.
Many of those writing in a similar genre such as romance, western or detective, generally have a template they work from, changing the jobs of the characters, names and places associated with the story, but the overall theme is somewhat a cookie cutter.
That's not necessarily bad, but it explains how they can write so many volumes during their lifetimes.
When researching this article, I noticed some people commenting about being discouraged in their writing when learning of how prolific these writers were. That shouldn't be the takeaway here.
The point is these people loved to write, found a tactic and methodology that allowed them to crank out story after story that catered to a specific audience.
For those wanting to write more prolifically, the key secret is to target a specific genre and write within that. That works because the material and background used to tell the story remains fresh in our minds, and it allows us to tell the story rather than attempt to come up with vastly different environments that take a lot of time.
That works great for a standalone story, but for those wanting to tell a lot of stories within a specific genre in different ways, sticking with that genre allows you to write prolifically.
Anytime you change a genre you're not familiar with, you have to do more homework in order to develop a compelling and believable environment.
As for these prolific writers, understand that it's very difficult, once you get past the first several authors, to accurately list them in order of how many books they wrote. There are too many variables, especially when they're very close in number.
That's the reason I didn't list them in order after the first few authors. Basically it's the first authors that are in order, and the rest are lumped together at approximately 500 or so.
Again, hopefully you enjoyed this list, and if you're an author, or want to be an author, it's an encouragement to know that these writers found ways to prolifically express their thoughts on paper.