What Is Stephen King’s Top Selling Novel? (SOLVED)

Stephen King has sold more than 350 million copies of his bestselling books worldwide. But which one of his books has sold the most copies? I did a surprising amount of research to find out.

What Is Stephen King’s Top Selling Novel?

Stephen King’s top-selling novel is The Shining. The novel was first published in 1977, or 44 years ago (as of 2021). When you multiply 44 by the yearly book sales (15,732), you get 692,208 copies sold.

Image of Stephen King's face by Author via Canva—What Is Stephen King's Top Selling Novel
Image by Author via Canva—What Is Stephen King’s Top Selling Novel?

Does that surprise you? It did me. I thought Carrie, IT, or The Stand might be Stephen King’s most sold novel of all time. Let’s dig deeper into how I came up with this answer.

How I Came Up With Stephen King’s Top Selling Novel

There are only a few ways to find out how many copies of a book have been published and sold. Typically, the best way is to ask the publisher directly. The problem with this approach is that publishers rarely want to share this information publicly.

Why?

Because it can make the author look bad or give information to competitors unnecessarily.

Making matters more complicated, several different publishers have published Stephen King’s books. Since I didn’t have access to the publishers, the first thing I did was to Google the answer. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any single source of definitive information (until now).

Forums on Stephen King’s official site ponder the question but never give any clear answers. Many fans think The Stand sold the most copies, but have no proof to back up that hypothesis.

Left without solid publisher data, I turned to the next best method at my disposal.

I used the Amazon Book Sales Calculator from TCK Publishing. Kindlepreneur also offers a free Amazon Book Sales Calculator for both books and kindle ebooks.

Using the TCK Publishing calculator, I entered the Amazon Bestseller Rank, or BSR, for Stephen King’s ten most popular books:

  • The Shining
  • The Stand
  • Carrie
  • IT
  • Pet Sematary
  • Misery
  • Salem’s Lot
  • Cujo
  • The Dead Zone
  • 11/22/63

Using this approach, The Shining clearly came out on top.

What’s another way I could have found the answer to, “What’s Stephen King’s top selling novel?”

One theory from Reddit User, Jeff Schwarting, is to find a range based on Amazon book reviews. The thought is that book sales fluctuate over time (true) but that human behavior largely remains the same (partially true).

This theory estimates that readers write one review for about every 100 books sold (based on self-reported data from authors).

To find an approximate range of books sales, you would calculate the book sales at three levels:

  • High Range: multiply the book reviews by 600
  • Middle Range: multiple the book reviews by 140
  • Low Range: multiple the book reviews by 20

Using this approach, here’s the book sales range for The Shining:

  • High = 9,871,200
  • Middle = 2,303,280
  • Low = 329,040

Of course, if you base Stephen King’s top-selling novel on this approach, the book that comes out on top is not The Shining (although it was close). Instead, Stephen King’s clown horror story, IT, wins at 18,233 reviews.

For this article, however, we’ll stick with the Amazon bestseller rank calculator that gave us The Shining.

Why Is The Shining Stephen King’s Top Selling Novel?

Published in 1977, The Shining was one of King’s early bestsellers. In fact, the book became so popular that it spawned a blockbuster movie with Jack Nicholson and, nearly 50 years later, a sequel called Doctor Sleep.

The main reason the book sold so many copies is because readers loved it.

Out of 16,452 Amazon reviews, 85% were 5 stars, 10% were 4 stars, and 3% were 3 stars. That means 97% of fans enjoyed the book, with an overwhelming number enjoying it a ton. Many reviewers noted that the book kept them glued to the page, intrigued them with fascinating characters, and made them feel afraid.

What Is The Shining About?

I’ve read many Stephen King novels—Dreamcatcher, Under the Dome, Pet Sematary, and others. Somehow, I’ve missed The Shining.

What is The Shining about?

The Shining follows Jack Torrance, a conflicted sociopath who takes his family to a remote, snow-trapped hotel. Visions haunt him and demons tell him to kill his family. The only thing in his way is his five-year-old son named Danny, who has violent visions of his own.

Stephen King’s Top 5 Bestselling Books of All Time

I probably don’t have to tell you that Stephen King wrote many bestsellers loved by fans. In my research, I calculated the number of books sold for some of his most popular stories.

I put them in the table below so that you could see how they compared to each other. The links take you to the Amazon store where you can learn more about each of the books:

Book titleBSRAmazon ReviewsSold Per MonthSold Per DayTotal Sold (to date)
The Shining 203816452131187692, 208
Carrie5990 4,93156938320, 916
Salem’s Lot6389 6,44454036298, 080
Misery6552 457152935215, 832
Pet Sematary10678 585435424161, 424
The Stand16740 1811824216124, 872
It23365 182331811276, 020

You can grab a free, 30-day trial when you sign up for Audible. Personally, I love listening to audible books while I drive, take walks, or do chores around the house.

What Is Stephen King’s Top-Selling eBook?

If you focus just on eBooks, The Stand is by far the top-selling book by Stephen King. For eBooks, I relied on the same process as paperbacks but this time I used the Kindlepreneur calculator since it specifically targeted Kindle books.

To simplify for the process (using the calculator’s algorithm), I looked at the number of Kindle copies sold per day.

Here’s the breakdown:

Book TitleNumber of Kindle Copies Sold Per Day
The Stand96
The Shining19
Salem’s Lot18
IT15
Carrie13
Misery12
Pet Sematary11

As you can see, no other Stephen King book even came close to selling as many Kindle copies as The Stand. I do find it interesting that The Shining still ranks in the runner-up spot with Salem’s Lot close behind.

If you compare the two tables, you’ll see that IT jumped up from 7th place to 4th place when looking at only the Kindle sales.

Just like with the first table, book sales certainly fluctuate month to month and year to year. This information is intended to provide the best available data. Personally, I find it fascinating, but I’m a self-admitted data nerd.

What Is Stephen King’s Top Selling Non-Horror Book?

Stephen King is incredibly prolific. Many readers and fans don’t realize that he has written more than horror novels. In fact, King has written seven nonfiction works:

  • Danse Macabre
  • Faithful
  • GUNS
  • Mid-Life Confidential: The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour America With Three Chords and an Attitude
    Nonfiction Work with Dave Barry, Amy Tan, et al
  • Nightmares in the Sky
  • On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft
  • Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing

The nonfiction book that sells the most daily copies (26) is On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft. That’s approximately 9,490 per year.

What Is Stephen King’s Top Selling Novel Made Into a Movie?

Once again, we return to The Shining, which was made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson in 1980. It’s a horror movie cult classic with an 84% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

Given the success of the book, it’s no wonder Hollywood translated it to the big screen.

I’ve never seen the movie, but 88% of Google users liked it. The movie boasts 1610 reviews on Google with an average of 4.3 stars.

What is Stephen King’s Top-Selling Novel Series?

This information was easier to deduce since Stephen King has only written a few series. The top-selling series is none other than the Dark Tower series, a collection of 8 books that follow Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger.

It’s an epic story that masterfully blends the fantasy, western, and horror genres. I’ve read the first few books in the series, and really enjoyed them.

As you probably already know, The Dark Tower also become a popular 2017 Hollywood movie starring Idris Alba. Although it has mixed reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope for more film adaptations from the rest of the series.

What is Stephen King’s Favorite Book?

Stephen King’s favorite book has changed over time, and will likely change again as he writes more novels. In 2007, King said Lisey’s Story was his favorite book. In 2015, he added two more books to his top three favorites: 11/22/63 and IT. He has not publically stated his all-time favorite.

He favors Lisey’s Story because it symbolizes his relationship with his wife, Tabitha, and the potential impact of his death on her. Even though he penned IT when he suffered from alcoholism, he has learned to appreciate the story and characters over time. His third choice for his favorite novel, 11/22/63, is about changing the past.

Namely, preventing the infamous assassination of JFK.

What is Stephen King’s Best Book According To Readers?

Based on a 2014 Readers Poll published by Rolling Stone, fans chose The Stand as Stephen King’s best book.

Here is the entire list of ten books from the poll (in order):

  1. The Stand
  2. IT
  3. The Shining
  4. Salem’s Lot
  5. Misery
  6. 11/22/63
  7. The Green Mile
  8. The Dead Zone
  9. Different Seasons
  10. The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass

Notably, Different Seasons is the only short story collection on the list. Why? Inside this book is the story, “The Shawshank Redemption”—yes, the popular movie is based on a Stephen King story!

Of course, one can argue that book sales trump opinions. If you go solely by book sales, The Shining is still at the top of the list.

What’s The Most Rare Stephen King Book?

The rarest (and most expensive) Stephen King book is the first edition of Salem’s Lot, published in 1975. The book with the original dust jacket that shows the original price is estimated to be worth up to $60,000.

According to AbeBooks.com, the Salem Lot first edition is the “holy grail” for Stephen King fans.

A last minute change to the price of the book left only four originals in the world. One was offered for sale in 2010 for a whopping $60,000.

What is Stephen King’s Net Worth?

Stephen King’s net worth is estimated at $500 million. His income comes from his many published books, television and movie adaptations, and other related sources.

King is a phenomenon that defies easy explanation.

He and his wife own two homes in Maine and one in the Gulf of Mexico. His long-time home in Bangor, Maine is reportedly set to become a museum and writing retreat.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading my article. I really enjoyed exploring the data behind one of my all-time favorite authors. While I enjoy his fiction, my favorite book of his is On Writing.

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