Continuing where we left off with Collecting Popular Authors of the 1990s, here are some mega-bestsellers from the 2000s and their most collectable works:
Born, John Roswell Camp, John Sandford (2/23/1944) starting writing for newspapers, winning a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for a series in 1985 titled “Life on the Land: an American farm family.”
He then turned his attention to fiction, and began writing his most popular works, the Prey Series, starting with Rules of Prey in 1989. He wrote the series under the pseudonym John Sandford, and to date there are 28 published books. Sandford also began the Kidd Series in 1989, starting with The Fool’s Run, published under the pseudonym John Camp. The greater popularity of the Prey Series caused the name John Sanford to stick, and in 1996 the Kidd Series was reissued under that name. Sandford started a third series featuring Virgil Flowers, comprised of ten books to date.
Sandford also published nonfiction works under his given name, John Camp – The Eye and the Heart: The Watercolors of John Stuart Ingle (1988) and Plastic Surgery: The Kindest Cut (1989).
Janet Evanovich (4/22/1943) began writing novels in her thirties, working for ten years on three manuscripts she was unable to sell. She then turned her attention to romance novels, and writing under the pseudonym Steffie Hall she sold her second romance manuscript for $2,000; Hero At Large was published in 1987.
She wrote multiple other titles for Bantam under the ‘Second Chance at Love’ series, including Full House (1989). Evanovich and author Charlotte Hughes teamed up later to expand Full House into its own series.
Soon Evanovich began writing for Bantam Loveswept under her own name, and after publishing twelve romances she changed her focus to more adventure driven romance novels, written in first person. The first book in her Stephanie Plum series, featuring a former lingerie buyer turned bounty hunter, One for the Money, was published in 1994, and the movie rights sold for $1million just prior to the books release.
Nicholas Sparks (12/31/1965) has published 19 novels and two non-fiction books. Most of his books have been best-sellers and 11 have been made into popular romantic films. Sparks wrote his first novel as an undergraduate, but his first published work was as a co-author of Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding (1990), which sold 50,000 copies in its first year.
In 1996 The Notebook was published, which Sparks had written in his spare time while selling pharmaceuticals. He had been given a $1,000,000 advance for this debut novel, and it hit the best-seller list in its first week of sales.
Check out one of our bookseller’s ‘Books Tell You Why’ collection of Nicholas Sparks’ first editions here:
James Patterson (3/22/1947) has written over 50 books that have sold more than 300 million copies. He was also the first author to sell 1 million e-books. His first book The Thomas Berryman Number was published in 1976 by Little, Brown and Company after being rejected by 31 other publishers. First editions now list for over $1000. In 1982 Patterson co-created the jingle “I’m a Toys’R’Us Kid’ while working at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency.
Another early notable Patterson book is The Midnight Club (1989).
In 1993 Along Came a Spider, Patterson’s first Alex Cross novel, became a best-seller. You can find signed first editions of this book and others by Patterson for under $200.
Patterson has been the world’s best-selling author since 2001 and is currently one of the world’s richest authors, with a net worth of $750 million, according to Forbes.
Patterson’s latest book The President is Missing (2018), written with former President Bill Clinton, is also highly collectible as a signed first edition.
In 1988 Jan Karon (March 14, 1937) quit her successful job at an advertising agency and moved to Blowing Rock, NC to pursue of her dream of becoming a novelist. Her novels were initially rejected, but Karon began publishing The Mitford Years in installments in the local newspaper, The Blowing Rocket, from 1990-1992. She finally placed the book with a small religious publisher, and At Home in Mitford was published as a paperback by Lion Publishing of Elgin, IL in 1994.
With her background in advertising, Karon did a lot of the marketing herself, but even she had doubts about the popularity of a book without sex and bad language. Lion Publishing subsequently published two more Mitford novels, and through personal connections Karon’s books ended up in the hands of an editor at Viking. That editor convinced Viking, who did not generally publish Christian Fiction, to buy the three Mitford novels as paperbacks in 1996, and by the end of the 90s they were best-sellers. To date, Karon has written 14 Mitford novels and other non-fiction, children’s and Christmas books.
The daughter of a novelist, Sue Grafton (April 24, 1940 – December 28, 2017) started writing novels when she was 18, writing 7 by the time she was thirty, only two of which were published: Keziah Dane (1967) and The Lolly-Madonna War (1969). A Movie-Edition paperback of the Lolly-Madonna War was released by Sphere in 1973 and has a movie-related picture on the cover – as one of Grafton’s rarest books the softcover re-release can be listed for $500-$1000, while a true 1969 first edition by Peter Owen Publishers can be listed for up to $10,000. Grafton decided not to publish the book in the United States or allow it to be reprinted.
Grafton reportedly destroyed the 5 other manuscripts she had written during this time that were not published. Unable to find success as a novelist Grafton began writing screenplays, and 15 years of experience in Hollywood taught her about story structure, dialogue and action for her return to novel writing. Grafton is best known for her alphabet series of detective novels which featured private investigator Kinsey Millhone, starting with A is for Alibi (1982). The first printing ran only 7,500 copies, and first editions can sell for around $1,500 in very good condition, more if signed and in fine condition.
By the time G is for Gumshoe (1990) was published the novels were a success, earning Grafton millions of dollars in advances and running hundreds of thousands of print copies per book.
Grafton stated that the last novel of the series would be Z is for Zero, but she died before she started writing it, and her family states that their ‘alphabet ends at ‘y.’ Y is for Yesterday, Grafton’s last novel, was published on August 22, 2017.
American adventure novelist and underwater explorer Clive Cussler (7/15/1931) began writing in 1965 after his wife took a night job with the police department. To date he is the sole, or ‘lead author’, of more than 70 books. He also is the founder and chairman of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) which has found many notable underwater sites and over 60 shipwrecks. The agency also shares a name with the fictional government agency in Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels. Cussler’s first published book The Mediterranean Caper (1973) was a maritime thriller published only in paperback, and stars his famous protagonist Dirk Pitt.
It was not the first book Cussler wrote starring Pitt, but it was the first published with that protagonist. The first book written starring Pit was Pacific Vortex, written in 1965, but it was not published until 1983, and then as more a of ‘historical curiosity’ since Cussler didn’t believe it lived up to his other writing. Pacific Vortex was also released in a limited hardcover edition in 2000, with a print run of just 2,500 and a jacket price of $45.00. This edition has a color wrap-around dust jacket and six black & white illustrations by David Monette.
Cussler’s second published book, Iceberg (1975) was the first released in hardback.
Raise the TItanic! (1976) featured more of high adventure and high technology that Cussler would later be known for. This book, his third published, quickly became the most popular and was made into a film of the same name in 1980.
In the 2000s Cussler would release many books in multiple other series alongside the Dirk Pitt Series, including: The NUMA Files, the Oregon Files, Isaac Bell Adventures, and the Fargo Advenures – which feature a husband and wife treasure hunting team. He also wrote five non-fiction books and two children’s books. Cussler continues to publish his thrillers, and is also active with fans on twitter. The Cussler Museum in Arvada, Colorado, is home to over 100 of Cussler’s rare and vintage automobiles ranging from 1906 to 1965. Some of these cars are featured in his automobile coffee table books Built for Adventure and Built to Thrill.
VJ Books also has offers many signed, first editions of Nora Roberts books.
Born Eleanor Marie Robertson (10/10/1950), Nora Roberts is author of more than 225 romance novels and other novels under multiple pen names including the popular JD Robb. Roberts began writing in the winter of 1979 after being snowbound with 2 small boys. Her first manuscripts were rejected by Harlequin multiple times, but eventually published by Silhouette starting with Irish Thoroughbred in 1981.
Her novels have spent 861 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list, including 176 weeks at number one, and Roberts was the first author to be inducted into Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. She writes romance suspense novels under her own name, and police procedural novels under JD Robb, about one of each a year. Roberts has also written under the pseudonyms Jill March, and in the U.K. as Sarah Hardesty.
Her husband, Bruce Wilder, owns an independent bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland called Turn the Page Bookstore. The couple also own a boutique hotel where they host author nights.
Dan Brown (June 22, 1964) has over 200 million copies of his books in print, in 56 languages. His most notable books, the Angels & Demons (2000), The Da Vinci Code (2003), The Lost Symbol (2009), Inferno (2013) and Origin (2017), are treasure hunts set in a 24-hour period. The Da Vinci Code is one of the best-selling novels ever, selling 80 million copies. Brown’s books have a historical theme, and use Christian motifs, as well as cryptography, keys, symbols, codes and conspiracy theories.
After graduating from Amherst College in 1986, Brown moved out to Hollywood to pursue a music career, releasing a few music albums – a children’s cassette SynthAnimals, a self-published adult CD Perspective, and Angels & Demons (from which he later used the title and artwork on his novel). While in Hollywood he met his future wife, Blythe Newlon, the Director of Artist Development at the National Academy of Songwriters, who is a key partner in his writing, as not only his muse but as a diligent researchers and editor. They kept the relationship secret until they moved to the East Coast in 1993, which was the same year, while on vacation in Tahiti, Brown read Sidney Sheldon’s The Doomsday Conspiracy, and was inspired to write thrillers. He began work on The Digital Fortress, and also co-wrote a humor book with this wife, 187 Men to Avoid: A Survival Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman, under the pseudonym “Danielle Brown”, published in 1995.
While on the East Coast Brown had been working as an English teacher, but in 1996 he quit teaching to write full-time, and in 1998 Digital Fortress was published.
Another humor book he co-authored with his wife, The Bald Book, was also published that year. In 2000 he released Angels & Demons and in 2001 Deception Point, although all three of his novels had little success, with less than 10,000 copies in the first printings.
Then, in 2003, The Da Vinci Code shot to number one on the New York Times best-seller list, and the success pushed sales of his other novels, all four hitting the best-seller list together in 2004.
In 2009 The Lost Symbol was published and reportedly sold more than a million copies in hardback and e-books the first day, prompting a subsequent printing of 600,000 additional copies beyond the initial 5 million.
Mitch Albom (May 23, 1958) has published 7 books that have sold more than 35 million copies. Albom began writing as a journalist, becoming one of the most award-winning sports writers of his time. His articles during his time at Detroit Press were anthologized in The Live Albom, published in 1988, which went on to 3 additional volumes, II, III, and IV.
Albom’s first non-anthology book was Bo: Life, Laughs, and the Lessons of a College Football Legend (Warner Books), an autobiography of football coach Bo Schembechler, co-written with the coach. The book was published in August 1989 and became Albom’s first New York Times bestseller.
Albom’s next book was Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, The American Dream, a look into the starters on the University of Michigan men’s basketball team that reached the NCAA championship game as freshmen in 1992 and again as sophomores in 1993. The book was published in November 1993 and also became a New York Times bestseller.
In 1995 Albom saw a Nightline interview by Ted Koppel of Morrie Schwartz, one of Albom’s professors at Brandeis University near Boston, Massachusetts. After the interview Albom began visiting Schwartz on Tuesdays to discuss life and death. As a way to pay Schwartz’s medical bills Albom pitched the discussions as a book, getting rejected by multiple publishing houses before being signed by Doubleday, although the first printing was only 20,000 copies. An appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1997 put Tuesday’s with Morrie onto the New York Times bestseller list, where it remained for over 205 weeks, becoming one of the bestselling memoirs of all time at over 14 million copies sold. It spent 5 years as hardcover before being released in paperback in October 2002. Oprah produced a television movie based on the book, which was the most watched TV movie of 1999 and won 4 Emmy’s.
After the success of Tuesday’s with Morrie Albom turned to fiction, writing The Five People You Meet in Heaven, published in September 2003, which sold over 10 million copies and became a TV movie as well. Albom’s second novel, For One More Day was published in 2006, and was the first book to be sold by the coffee chain Starbucks.
David Baldacci (8/5/1960) has written 34 novels, as well as 6 books for young readers. While practicing law Baldacci took three years to write his first book, Absolute Power, which became an international best-seller after it was published in 1996. Since then he has published over 36 novels and sold over 130 million copies in over 45 languages.
Amy C. Manikowski is a writer living in Asheville, NC.