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Big brand authors still work

18 February 2013

Big brand name authors continue to play a major part as far as UK readers are concerned and many of these are American. Danielle Steel, author of 80 novels, is the only writer to have appeared in every annual list of most-borrowed books from libraries in the UK in the last 30 years. Her books were borrowed an astonishing 900,000 times from libraries last year. Altogether they have been borrowed more than 42m times since 1999, a period over which she has also sold an estimated 11 million books. 

Steel's UK editor Catherine Cobain at Transworld says her books are so successful because they deal 'very feelingly and honestly about the kind of issues real women face: finding love, taking care of a family and keeping them together against the odds, pursuing a dream or a career'.

It's certainly a remarkable record of longevity but Steel is eclipsed in the annual library readership stakes by James Patterson, the undisputed winner with 2.4m borrowings of his many novels last year. Patterson is a phenomenon, but his novels are co-written with other authors, which makes it comprehensible that he's the 'author' of twenty novels over the year.

He is joined in the most-borrowed author list by six children's writers - Daisy Meadows, the brand behind the Rainbow Magic series, Donaldson, Francesca Simon, author of the Horrid Henry series, Jacqueline Wilson, Kipper creator Mick Inkpen and the Beast Quest series' Adam Blade.

The abiding bestsellerdom of the big brand authors on both sides of the Atlantic is not something publishers are likely to forget, but it is not always obvious, because they get relatively little coverage, just how very successful an author like Danielle Steel can be. Readers are very loyal and will often continue to read a favourite author long after they are no longer writing at their very best. In the past, this enabled publishers to feel that well-established authors could effectively subsidise new authors, because they would keep the show on the road and enable publishers to spend time on building up new authors. Now each book, and each new author, has to make their own way.