RARA-AVIS: Re: How Many Customers Did the Mick Really Have?

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 13 Sep 2006


PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY did a book called EIGHTY YEARS OF BEST-SELLERS some years ago which included a chapter devoted exclusively to best-selling mysteries (defined as any mystery book that sold more than a million copies, IIRC). Obviously Spillane didn't have the most books since he was, as you point out, relatively unprolific, but his books were at the top of the list, and his total sales surpassed everyone's except Erle Stanley Gardner, who seemed to write as many books in a year as Spillane did in his whole career.

I'm pretty sure that the oft-cited statistic of Spillane's being the author of seven of the ten best-selling novels ever printed (having at that point only written seven novels) came from PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY data. And since PW had only been keeping those statistics since the 1890's or thereabouts, the qualifier "on record" should probably be added to that citation.

I'm guessing that the disparity in sales figures might have something to do with whether or not foreign sales, or foreign language sales, are counted.

Also Mickey Spillane is still selling, so the sales figures are in a constant state of flux. If one obit writer used figures from several years ago because that's all he had available, and another had access to more recent records, there'd be a disparity in the reported figures.

The same things would hold true for reports of Christie's sales, and might lead to the same disparities.

As an illustration of both of those elements, foreign sales and continuous sales, Al Collins told me the other day that, shortly after Mick's passing, his widow received a German royalty check for THE BIG KILL that was somewhere in "the high five figures." Published novelists on this list can tell you how comparatively unusual it is to earn out an advance, let alone get a royalty check that's somewhere between
$50,000 and $100,000. And when you consider that it's
 a royalty check for one book that's over a half century old, in just one country, it's quite amazing.

As for the specific question of whether or not Spillane has better total sales than Christie, several standard references (all at least a few years old now) reported that only Gardner had better total sales than Spillane, and Spillane only wrote a fraction of the number of books Gardner did.

Whether that's worldwide sales, or strictly American sales, I don't know. Comparing Christie ro Gardner, I think it's quite evident, based whose books have stayed continuously in print, that Christie's been outselling Gardner since their respective deaths, so Christie's probably ahead of Gardner in total sales now. And since Spillane survived Gardner by more than 30 years, and continued to be sporadically productive during that time, to say nothing of continuously self-promoting and continuously in print, he probably is, too.

Worldwide, judging only on total sales, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Christie's ahead of Spillane. But neither would it surprise me to learn that Spillane's ahead of Christie.


__________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around http://mail.yahoo.com

RARA-AVIS home page: http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/
  Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> Your email settings:
    Individual Email | Traditional

<*> To change settings online go to:
    (Yahoo! ID required)

<*> To change settings via email:
    mailto: rara-avis-l-digest@yahoogroups.com
    mailto: rara-avis-l-fullfeatured@yahoogroups.com

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 13 Sep 2006 EDT