Writers First Published Over the Age of 40

Society and the media’s preoccupation with youth, may make you feel like you have to be young and brilliant in order to have a hope of being published. Arts and culture pages are always dominated by twenty-something debut authors, photographed in a Shoreditch coffee shop, while gazing moodily at the camera, despite having scored a six-figure book deal or been shortlisted for some literary prize.

We’re constantly told that publishers are more risk adverse than they’ve ever been. ‘They just don’t nurture authors like they used to’ we’re told. ‘Even if you do make it, don’t expect to stay there’ they say.

All this adds up to an impending sense of failure at every passing year of not being published. Every year past 20 feels like another nail in the coffin of your status as washed up wannabe.

However, this year, the Guardian’s ‘debut writers to watch in 2016’ (I paraphrase) list, wasn’t littered with bright-eyed ingenues who went to Oxbridge. Some of them were over 30 and even past the wasteland of 40 (gasp).

The good news is, being published beyond the age of 30 is more common than those disheartening 20 under 20 lists would have us believe. A lot of writers don’t get published until they are what some might call ‘mature’ or ‘well-lived’.

Don’t believe me? This infographic shows authors who published their first novel when they were 40 or over…

ages of debut authors

8 authors over 40 – proof that your debut can happen after you’re 29







7 thoughts on “Writers First Published Over the Age of 40

  1. Pingback: How Much Do Writers Earn? | Writers Anon - Taunton's Writing Group

  2. As per usual Chella, you have hit the nail on the head, as they say. I published my first novel at the age of 57, and here I am at 63 typing furiously to publish my seventh. However, I do it to appease my creativeness and do not need to make a career out of it. But your post certainly gets one thinking. Great post once again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Forty, so young! Maybe I have been lazy or just couldn’t get my act together, but with no response from agents or the publishers to whom I submitted, I have independently published on Amazon in 2015 at 76 and I don’t think it is a half bad novel – “Requiem for Private Hughes” – judge for yourselves. Now working hard on the next novel. So have faith, a pension and a bus pass is no reason to stop trying. Chip Tolson.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, when I actually looked, most authors début at 30-40, but the focus is always on the likes of Hemmingway, Waugh and Fitzgerald, who were in their 20s. And it’s always advice for young authors and interviews with bright, young things, which make anyone over 30 feel like it’s all too late and they should have started at 18 like Donna Tartt did.

      Glad it made you smile 🙂


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