Famous Authors Who Died Before They Were Famous

famous authors

If you look up J.K. Rowling in an Internet search, you don’t have to dig too deep before you learn she is the first billionaire author. Now that’s some wizardry. But how many of the world’s great authors, dating back to the origins of the written word, toiled in obscurity or were labeled heretical or insignificant while alive, only to be recognized as genius after they died? That’s a hypothetical question, but I can tell you the number is greater than twelve.

I know this as fact thanks to the infographic presented here by our friends at The Expert Editor. They’ve compiled thirteen writers of modern times who were either marginalized, ignored, or unpublished when they walked this earth, and who are now celebrated as some of the great minds of their day.

Who among us may be the next John Kennedy Toole? That manuscript you’re working on may be published in 2100, long after you’re gone, so make sure you catch all those typos and show – don’t tell! Or perhaps you’ll share Sylvia Plath’s fate and be awarded a Pulitzer Prize 19 years after you’ve passed on. At least you’ll have a better excuse than Bob Dylan for missing the award ceremony. Or it could be you’re sitting on the next Moby Dick, to be panned on its publication and then heralded as a classic long after you’ve stopped writing – or breathing, for that matter.

Sorry… I don’t mean to be depressing, but it’s hard to be enthusiastic about being recognized for your greatness long after you’re able to appreciate it. But we don’t write for fame, glory, or money. We just want to make the 2115 version of this infographic. Might be an interactive holographic by then. Make sure to wear something nice, and keep your breath fresh.

Famous Authors Infographic


  1. It took about 10 years all together to write my book “The Land of Efacia”. It is a classic type fantasy book bulging with all kinds of great, imaginary people and exciting events…I first did it as a Kindle version and then as a book five years later… I’ve only had a handful of people who actually read it. I think people today are too busy staring into their smart phones to read anything any more except gratuitous sex and violence… Only about 10 percent of the public reads and I see no one ever reading a book any more…not even much in school (and I was a school teacher…) So, just write for the fun of it as a hobby and don’t think about the money-making aspects of it…and self-publish it anyway. After all, we all have to die sometime…whether we’re famous or not…

  2. I’m a firm believer in the way the cookie crumbles…Having worked for a publishing company, I KNOW luck often comes in to it, as it does with most things in life. It’s a game of chance, folks! (Wads of money and ‘knowing someone’ also helps. And I’m not a cynic.) Although I love writing, I haven’t denoted any signs of genius in my work, but at least I’m honest. Maybe my poetry might ‘cut it.’?! Sad thought, though.

  3. Peter J Flores, a WWII vet started writing in1982. At 93 his first Book ‘Hurrah for the Class 05’ came out with a follow up book release on his 94th birthday. He passed away before the trilogy was published. When asked the publisher said, “I can’t believe no one ever publish this guy” with eight other novels that include such things as, westerns, romance, thrillers, and action adventure stories the publisher vowed to make all of them available to the public.

    Peter himself said, “I wanted to be a famous author, but it looks like that won’t happen until after I’m gone.”

  4. Thanks for the cool, if somewhat depressing, article. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there is something wrong with the first sentence of the Herman Melville entry. Herman had a…? We all miss an “s” or two sometimes. :) Even the Expert Editor!

  5. That`s the dark side of authorship. One could understand why my 57-poem anthology is still gathering dust for over ten years now at Poetry.com and Lulu.com. I By the time I finished the storybook manuscript with no financial support, zero-income – no job to subsist on, I was way too exhausted mentaly to do anything. Sickening – to say the least. But I praedy hard each and every day not to suffer the same fate! God won`t won`t let it happen. My compositions , the related storybook and related anthology got nothing but discouragement and “lying-in-wait for – god forbid – untimely demise and posthumous vulturization of my hard labor. I keep on fighting as hard as I can. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “never ever give up!”‘

  6. What’s really depressing? Most of the people who are benefiting now from these works had practically nothing to do with the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making the books, but are riding the gravy train by inheriting the copyright. What I hate about writing is that 69 years after my death, someone who wasn’t even BORN when I die gets to decide what happens to any royalties they could be earning, possibly using them to undermine what I wrote the works for in the first place!


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