9 Famous Authors Who Didn’t Get Published Until Their Fifties (Or Older)

Written by Emily Harstone | January 31, 2017

A lot of people I talk to tell me they are too old to start being a writer now. Sometimes these people are in their thirties or forties, more often than that they are in their fifties and sixties.

But the fact remains the same, no matter how old you are, you are not to old to become a writer. Many authors started publishing quite late in life.

I think this article should also serve as inspiration for younger writers who have not had much success with publishing. Sometimes success comes later. One of the authors on this list published their first book after working on it for 33 years.

1. Harriet Doerr was an author whose debut novel, Stones for Ibarra, was published when she was 74.  Stones for Ibarra went on to win the National Book Award. It is a modern classic. It is also a personal favorite of mine.

2. Raymond Chandler, another of my personal favorite authors, started publishing short stories in pulp magazines in his forties, but it wasn’t until he was 51 when his first book, The Big Sleep, came out. The Big Sleep was also initially not a success.

3. Elizabeth Jolly an English author who settled in Australia, started writing early on but her first collection , Five Acre Virgin and Other Stories, was not published till she was 53. She went on to publish 20 other books and win many awards.

4. Richard Adams published the classic Watership Down, when he was 52. He went on to publish over 20 other books as well.

5. Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn, a powerful novel about Vietnam, worked on his manuscript for 33 years before it was finally  published when he was in his sixties.

6. Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of The Little House on the Prairie series did not start publishing her series till she was in her sixties.

7. Frank McCourt, the famous and bestselling author of Angela’s Ashes published his first book at age 66.

8. Charles Bukowski worked at the post office and published the occasional poem and the occasional short story when he was younger, but it wasn’t till he was 51, when his first novel, Post Office, was published.

9. Bram Stroker who is now best known for writing Dracula,  published his first novel when he was 50. He published Dracula 7 years later.