To mark Roald Dahl 100, and the release of the film adaptation of Dahl's The BFG, Kiera O'Brien takes a deep dive into the author's sales.
The biggest-selling single edition of any of Dahl’s books is the 2007 edition of The Twits (Puffin), with 302,300 copies sold. But on combined figures across editions, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the clear winner, with 990,711 copies sold. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator has sold a combined 374,969.
Dahl hit the Official UK number one spot for the first time in the Nielsen BookScan era this March, with World Book Day title The Great Mouse Plot shifting 32,096 copies. His 2005 WBD title Roald Dahl’s Incredible Chocolate Box had come closest, placing second to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (Corgi), which outsold it by 1,370.
The centenary edition of The BFG, released in February, and the film tie-in edition, released mid-June, have already shifted over 40,000 copies between them, and both charted in the Children’s top 10 in July for the first time.
Despite the Nielsen BookScan era beginning eight years after his death in 1990, Dahl has sold 10.4 million books for £56.9m to date. In total, his worldwide sales are estimated at over 200 million units.
Not only does Dahl share an illustrator with David Walliams (Quentin Blake), but both have had Scots editions of their titles published. Dahl has Geordie’s Mingin’ Medicine and The Eejits, while Walliams has Mr Mingin’ and Billionaire Bairn (both HarperCollins Children’s).
Dahl has spent a total of six weeks as the Children’s number one, with World Book Day titles The Great Mouse Plot and Roald Dahl’s Incredible Chocolate Box. A third WBD title, Roald Dahl’s Fantabulous Facts, sold 113,281 copies in 2012.
Dahl also wrote short stories for adults, though his sales haven’t endured in the same way his children’s books have. The biggest seller is The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, which has sold 79,873 copies—Dahl’s 20th bestselling book overall.
The film tie-in edition of James and the Giant Peach has sold the most copies, beating both tie-in editions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. When all editions are taken in account, however, Matilda beats James… by 40% in volume, and Charlie… outsells it by 92%.