Tom Clancy, Bestselling Author: By the Numbers
Business + Economy

Tom Clancy, Bestselling Author: By the Numbers

REUTERS/Eric Miller

Tom Clancy, the insurance agent turned thriller writer probably best known for his fictional CIA agent, Jack Ryan, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 66. He leaves behind a powerful publishing and entertainment legacy centered largely on Cold War conflicts and their aftermath.

With the debut in 1984 of his novel The Hunt for Red October, about a renegade Soviet nuclear submarine and based loosely on a real-life 1975 mutiny, Clancy established himself as a natural storyteller with the ability to embroider realistic military and intelligence detail into his narratives, though he himself never served in the military because of nearsightedness.

After growing up in Baltimore, Clancy – an English major at Loyola College who took ROTC classes while nursing a passion for naval history – sold his first book to the Naval Institute Press for $5,000.

Deborah Grosvenor, an editor there in the early ‘80s, said that after reading the manuscript she told her boss, “I think we have a potential best seller here, and if we don’t grab this thing, somebody else would,” according to The New York Times.

“This thing,” The Hunt for Red October, went on to become a runaway best seller, particularly after President Ronald Reagan praised it as "my kind of yarn."

Clancy is also well known for Patriot Games, Red Storm Rising and The Sum of All Fears. His most recent book, Threat Vector, debuted at the top of the Publishers Weekly bestseller list in December 2012, while his next book, Command Authority, is due to be published December 3.

Over the course of his career Clancy was asked how he managed to nail so many military details. He said he relied on readily available books and technical manuals, as well as interviews with submarine experts and others – that he didn’t need or want classified info. “I hang my hat on getting as many things right as I can,” Clancy once told an interviewer. He added, “I’ve made stuff up that’s turned out to be real – that’s the spooky part.”


In addition to his popular novels, Clancy also wrote a number of nonfiction books about the military, many of them co-authored. He was also a part owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.

Here are a few numbers associated with Tom Clancy – known as a quiet, intense and very smart guy who once described himself as “a little nerdy but a completely normal kid” during his growing up years:   

$786.5 million
Total global box office gross for Clancy-based films

$300 million
Net worth at the time of his death

$45 million
The amount Ubi Soft Entertainment, a Paris-based video game software maker, paid in cash to acquire Clancy’s video game company Red Storm Entertainment Inc. in 2000. Clancy co-founded the company in 1996.

100 million
Estimated number of Clancy’s books in print

76 million
Number of copies of Clancy-branded video games sold

Number of his books that hit the number-one spot on The New York Times bestseller list

Number of weeks the hardcover version of The Hunt for Red October spent on the Publishers Weekly bestseller list

Number of weeks the paperback version of the same book spent on the PW bestseller list

Number of feature films based on his books. The first four debuted in the number-one spot; the fifth, Jack Ryan: Shadow One, is due out later this year.

Number of actors who played Jack Ryan. They are: Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine (in the upcoming film). 

Number of years Clancy worked in insurance before selling his first book

Number of copies he hoped The Hunt for Red October would sell

Number of copies the book actually sold in its first six months

3 million-plus
Number of copies the book has sold as of this date

Number of novels written under just his name 

Number of nonfiction books written (both with and without co-authors)

Number of children Clancy leaves behind