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

Written by Emily Harstone

Often people tell me they are too old to become a writer. Sometimes these people are in their thirties or forties, sometimes they are in their fifties and sixties. But the fact remains the same, no matter how old you are, you are not to0 old to become a writer. Many authors started writing later in life.

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 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.

3. Elizabeth Jolley 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 after that.

5. Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn, a powerful novel about Vietnam, worked on his manuscript for 33 years. Matterhorn 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 writing 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 the age of 66.

8. Daniel Defoe published his first novel, the influential Robinson Crusoe, at age 59.

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

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

11. Annie Proulx, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Shipping News didn’t publish her first first novel Postcards till she was 57.

12. Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s short stories were published widely in magazines but it wasn’t till she was 57 that her first book Everglades: River of Grass was published.  The first sentence of that book now welcomes visitors to the Everglades National Park.

Bio: Emily Harstone is the pen name of an author whose work has been published internationally by a number of respected journals. She is a professional submissions adviser and spends much of her time researching manuscript publishers. You can follow her on Facebook here.