George RR Martin Swears He'll Finish The Winds of Winter—He Just Won't Say When

Rich Polk, Getty Images for IMDb
Rich Polk, Getty Images for IMDb

It would be an understatement to say Game of Thrones fans are in a bit of distress right now. For one, we have the eighth and final season of the HBO series, which will premiere in April, looming over us. At the same time, we’re scrambling to gather any information we can about the Game of Thrones prequel series. But above all, we’re waiting for George RR Martin to finish The Winds of Winter, the next novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, which inspired the beloved TV show.

The Winds of Winter has been particularly difficult for Martin to finish, according to the acclaimed author. In order to keep active, he has focused his efforts on other projects, such as his recently released companion book Fire and Blood. This perceived procrastination hasn't sat well with his fans—some of whom are convinced we will never see his ending to the story.

Martin has heard all the complaints, and took to his blog on December 10 to give an update on the novel that fans have been awaiting for more than seven years, writing:

"[M]y thanks go out to my fans and readers. I know you want WINDS, and I am going to give it to you ... but I am delighted that you stayed with me for [the new book Fire & Blood] as well. Your patience and unflagging support means the world to me. Enjoy the read. Me, I am back in my fortress of solitude, and back in Westeros. It won’t be tomorrow, and it won’t be next week, but you will get the end of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE."

While there's no reason to doubt the veracity of Martin's promise, fans are understandably still skeptical. After The Winds of Winter, there’s still one more novel, A Dream of Spring, to close out the story. At this point, we’re probably better off counting down the days until Game of Thrones's final season premieres ... or the prequel series.

Rare First Edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Sold for More Than $56,000

UBC Library Communications and Marketing, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
UBC Library Communications and Marketing, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Publishers weren't very optimistic about the future of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone when they printed it in 1997. Only 500 first edition copies were made, 300 of which were donated to libraries. As anyone who's been to a bookstore, movie theater, or theme park in the past two decades knows, that prediction couldn't have been further off.

Book one of the Harry Potter series spawned one of the most successful literary franchises of all time and earned millions for author J.K. Rowling. That means those rare first edition prints are exceedingly valuable today, and one of the most pristine copies ever discovered just sold for $56,500 at auction, BBC reports.

The sellers, an anonymous couple from Lancashire, England, had stored their copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone—along with a first edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets—in a code-locked briefcase for safekeeping. The plan wasn't to wait for the books to accrue value over time; originally, they had wanted to protect them and pass them down as family heirlooms.

The couple changed their minds after learning that another first edition copy of Philosopher's Stone had sold for $35,000. That turned out to be a smart move. By locking it away, they managed to preserve one of the best first edition copies of the book experts had seen. The book also contained two errors that made it an even more appealing item for collectors. Its value was placed between $30,700 to $37,000.

At the auction, however, bidders blew past those numbers. It sold for a winning bid of approximately $56,500. The buyer will end up paying $70,000 in total to cover additional fees and taxes.

That's a significant amount to pay for a book, but it's not even the highest figure that's been bid for the title. Earlier in 2019, a first-edition print of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone with several errors sold for $90,000.

[h/t BBC]

10 of the Best-Selling Authors of All Time

Nomadsoul1/iStock via Getty Images
Nomadsoul1/iStock via Getty Images

A few months back, we brought you a list of some of the top-selling books of all time. Now, what about the best-selling authors?

As before, many disclaimers are required. For this list, the question of what counts as an "author" takes center stage. Both Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have written under pseudonyms (Richard Bachman and Robert Galbraith, respectively) and both were outed. While it seems reasonable to count books written under those pseudonyms within their respective author’s totals, some situations are not so cut and dried. The 18th-century work A General History of the Pyrates (a key source for information about the Golden Age of piracy), for example, is credited to one Captain Charles Johnson. However, historians have never been able to find evidence of a Captain Charles Johnson, so in 1932 one scholar decided that it was written by Daniel Defoe—and as a result the book is now frequently listed as one of his works. In the past few decades, though, that attribution has been doubted in favor of a journalist named Nathaniel Mist. So, should this best-seller’s numbers be credited to Defoe, Mist, or left off the list entirely?

Historians are also increasingly theorizing that Shakespeare wasn’t the sole author of many of his plays—according to The New Oxford Shakespeare, “His last three plays were all co-written with [John] Fletcher—who, in all three, seems to have written more of the surviving text than Shakespeare.” How then to deal with Shakespeare? Should his works be divvied up? Or should an asterisk be placed on the record? These questions can get into surprisingly deep philosophical territory.

With those caveats out of the way—and the further caveat that this list doesn’t include religious works, and is, with a few exceptions, steering away from authors who appeared on the best-selling books list; it’s also not complete, exhaustive, or a "top ten" list—here are some candidates for best-selling authors of all time.

  1. Mao Zedong // Untold billions

Mao Zedong appears on our best-selling books list for Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, but he’d likely still be on the list even without Quotations. According to sociologist Zhengyuan Fu, “The scale of the production and consumption of Mao’s icons and symbols is unprecedented in human history. During the ten years from March 1966 to August 1976, there were 1,820 ... state-owned printing factories that printed 6.5 billion volumes of Quotations from Chairman Mao (the little red book), 840 million sets of Selections of Mao Zedong’s Works (3.36 billion volumes), 400 million volumes of Chairman Mao’s Poems, and 2.2 billion sheets of Mao’s standard photo portraits, which came in five standard sizes.” As always when dealing with these kind of numbers, some sources go smaller, but the total is definitely immense.

  1. Agatha Christie // Estimated 2 billion books sold

According to Guinness World Records, Agatha Christie has the title of “world’s best-selling fiction writer,” with estimated sales of over 2 billion. UNESCO also lists Christie as the most translated author in history.

  1. Barbara Cartland // Possibly over 600 million

Romance novelist Barbara Cartland illustrates the inherent difference between best-selling authors and best-selling books. Sources differ, but it’s generally agreed she wrote around 723 books (over 600 of which were novels) with estimates for her total sales ranging from 600 million to a billion books. Doing some division shows that each book may have sold only a touch over a million copies, but her sheer output—she’s said to have, at times, written 20 books a year—makes her a best-selling author.

  1. Corín Tellado // Possibly around 400 million

According to her obituary in The Guardian, some erroneously believe that Corín Tellado was a publishing house rather than a person. Much like Barbara Cartland, Tellado wrote romantic novels, but a lot more—estimates put her total number of books at anywhere from 4000 to 5000 over a 63-year career; she is said to be the best-selling author in the history of the Spanish language, and on par with Miguel de Cervantes for readership. As an example of the number of books she could produce, she worked some of her career during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, when authorities would heavily censor her books and send them back; The Times of London reports, “In some months as many as four of her novellas might be rejected by the regime’s censors.”

  1. Dr. Seuss // Somewhere between 100 and 650 million

In 2001, Publishers Weekly did a survey to determine the best-selling children’s books. Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel wouldn’t enter the list until number 4 with Green Eggs and Ham at 8 million, but he had six of the top 20. Nowadays, The Washington Post says that Dr. Seuss has sold 650 million copies in 95 countries, with Green Eggs and Ham still leading the way at 17.5 million copies sold.

  1. Charles Schulz // Unknown, though at least 300 million

Newspapers create a fundamental problem for lists like this. If someone writes an article a day for a newspaper and the newspaper has a circulation of a million, it adds up quickly. Though few people buy a newspaper for one writer, Charles Schulz is special. According to a 1999 Wall Street Journal article, his books alone have sold 300 million copies. But it’s the comic strip, Peanuts, that truly shines. At one point it had 355 million readers, appeared in around 2600 newspapers in 75 countries, and according to the Washington Post, Schulz drew “every frame of his strip, seven days a week, since its inception in October 1950” until it ended in early 2000. Robert Thompson of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University proclaimed Peanuts was “arguably the longest story told by a single artist in human history.”

  1. Eiichiro Oda // 450 million

Eiichiro Oda is the mangaka (manga creator) behind One Piece, which has reportedly sold 450 million copies worldwide since 1997—though just 70 million of those have been outside Japan. In 2015, Guinness World Records recognized it as the "Most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author.”

  1. James Patterson // An estimated 300 million

Patterson is frequently thought to be the best-selling author in the world today, and has been since 2001. He’s also credited as the first author to sell 1 million e-books, and is generally listed as the author with the most New York Times bestsellers.

  1. Horatio Alger // Claims of up to 200 million

Horatio Alger was a 19th-century master of the dime novel. His books featured rags-to-riches stories of young boys in the rapidly urbanizing United States. Later on, he’d even shoehorn a presidential biography—Abraham Lincoln, the Young Backwoods Boy; or, How a Young Rail Splitter Became President—into his incredibly successful formula.

  1. Leo Tolstoy // Possibly over 400 million

As always, statistics are hard to come by for older authors, and Tolstoy has this problem in spades. The common internet assertion that he has sold over 400 million copies is based on a single throwaway line in a 1987 New York Times article on Pushkin. With such little evidence, why does he deserve his place on the list? For one, he has definitely sold a lot of books, even if not everyone claiming to have read him is telling the truth; a 2016 BBC survey found that Tolstoy had two of the top five books people most lied about reading (War and Peace at number 4 and Anna Karenina at number 5).

In addition, Tolstoy’s works have become surprise hits in the 21st century. In 2004 Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club picked Anna Karenina; The New York Times reported that, while ordinarily the publisher would be lucky to sell 20,000 copies a year, they upped their press run to 800,000 in preparation for the pick. Meanwhile, in 2016 War and Peace entered the UK Bookseller’s top 50 for the first time thanks to a BBC adaptation. No matter the accuracy of the 400 million number, Tolstoy has had a surprisingly good 21st century.

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