Now that I’m updating this list, I wanted to make something clear: the intention of this post is not to sensationalize these authors, or to cast them as prodigies, or anything like that. As I’m sure many of these authors will tell you, they’re about as similar to prodigies as any sixty-year-old debut author is–meaning, they’re not. They didn’t just magically wake up one morning, never having written before, and write the next great novel. Most of them had written three, four, five, six, etc. full novels before ever getting a publishing contract. They worked extremely hard, learned what worked and what didn’t, got critiques from outside sources, and constantly improved their writing until it was finally “ready” to go out into the world–the same as all writers go through, regardless of age. Like I talk about in this post, there really is no such thing as a teen writer: if you write, you’re a writer. Period.
So why am I keeping this list up? Because the internet is riddled with discouraging posts for new teen writers who want to learn about the industry–I remember when I was thirteen and querying for the first time, trying to learn about how publishing worked, and seeing all of these people essentially saying I was not going to be “good enough” until I turned at least thirty–and I want to show other young writers that this isn’t always true, that teens can write well, too. And these published teens are just proof of it. (For example, The Outsiders, Frankenstein, and Anne Frank’s memoir were all written by teenagers, and are now widely considered to be classics.)
Now, I’m not saying that all people who start writing as teens will be ready to publish as teens. Like most things, writing requires tons of practice and improvement, and it will take varying amounts of time depending on the person, the work put in, and pure luck for a writer to improve enough to become “sellable”*–age is not a factor. All I’m saying is: don’t hold off writing until you’re much older just because you feel as though there is no point if you won’t even be “good enough” for ten to twenty years. Because that, frankly, is not always true. If you work at it, if you love it, you will be good enough. It won’t happen over night, but it will happen.
And now to the list itself. All of the books included were either sold or published when their authors were aged twenty or younger. So an author may have published more books than what is listed for them below, but that’s just because they were no longer teens when they sold those books to their publishers. Also, please remember that most of these authors are no longer teenagers; they just happened to have signed publishing contracts when they were. Finally, another thing to note is that this list only contains books published by traditional publishers, which is a pretty archaic way to narrow it down, I know, but I decided that including self-published and micro-press-published teen authors would widen the scope so much that this list wouldn’t resonate as much as I’d like it to. (Don’t get me wrong–I’m a big advocate for self-publishing. I just think that including ALL self-published books by teens will open the floodgates to some books that aren’t as quality-controlled.)
*which in itself is really subjective
And now, with that aside: the list! (If you have any books to add/see a mistake in the ages I’ve recorded below, please let me know! It’s possible that I got some of the authors’ ages wrong.)
The Duff, Shut Out, A Midsummer’s Nightmare
Keplinger sold her debut, The Duff, when she was eighteen; the deal was for two books, the latter of which ended up becoming her third novel, A Midsummer’s Nightmare. She sold her second book, Shut Out,the following year, when she was nineteen.
Break, Invincible Summer, Zombie Tag
Moskowitz sold Break at seventeen; Invincible Summer at eighteen; Zombie Tag at nineteen.
Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr
According to Publisher’s Marketplace, Paolini sold the first three books in the series when he was nineteen–not fifteen, despite popular belief. He started writing the first book, Eragon, (now a major motion picture!) at fifteen, but it didn’t sell to a publisher until four years later.
Fall To Pieces
Fall To Pieces sold when Naidoo was seventeen.
What’s Left of Me, Once We Were, Echoes of Us
Zhang was twenty when she sold, in a three-book deal, her entire Hybrid Chronicles trilogy.
The Peculiar, The Whatnot
Bachmann sold both The Peculiar and its sequel, The Whatnot, when he was eighteen.
Interrupted, Chasing Jupiter
Coker sold her debut, Interrupted, at fifteen; I couldn’t find data on when her sophomore novel, Chasing Jupiter, sold, but it released while she was seventeen when it released.
Girl Saves Boy
Bowe sold Girl Saves Boy when she was fifteen.
Never After sold while Elconin was seventeen.
The Shadow Thief, The Lampo Circus, Halo, Von Gobstopper’s Arcade, Hades, Heaven
Adornetto has a large repertoire of books: both her debut, The Shadow Thief, and its sequel, The Lampo Circus, released when she was fifteen, while the third and final released when she was sixteen; Halo, Hades, and Heaven in her much more popular Halo series released while she was eighteen, nineteen, and twenty, respectively.
(On a much less professional note: Alex, you are crazy!)
Nancy Yi Fan
Swordbird, Sword Quest, Sword Mountain
I’m unsure of the dates they were sold (although I believe she was twelve when her publisher bought her debut, Swordbird), but Fan was thirteen when Swordbird released, fourteen when Sword Quest released, and eighteen when the third and final book in the trilogy, Sword Mountain, released.
Teen Angst? Naaah…
Vizzini is popular largely for his novel-turned-major-motion-picture, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, but he sold his debut memoir, Teen Angst? Naaah…, at nineteen years old.
Jessica Dunn, Danielle Dunn
Teens Guide To Getting Published
Google Books mentions that the twin sisters were eighth graders when they started writing this book; however, I don’t see any information on their exact age when it sold or was published. (I’ll give you a cookie if you can find it! LOL.)
The Prophecy of the Stones
According to Publisher’s Marketplace, Bujor was just thirteen when she sold The Prophecy of the Stones.
The Lab, Remote Control
Heath sold his debut, The Lab, and its sequel, Remote Control, when he was eighteen; they were published when he was nineteen.
S.E. Hinton began writing The Outsiders when she was fifteen, and she was eighteen by the time it was published in 1967. In 1983, the book became a major motion picture.
In The Forests of the Night,Demon In My View, Shattered Mirror, Midnight Predator, Hawksong, Snakecharm
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes wrote her debut novel, In The Forests of the Night, at the age of thirteen; she had just turned fifteen by the time it was published. The next three books in the series, Demon in My View, Shattered Mirror, and Midnight Predator, released when Atwater-Rhodes was sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen, respectively. She was nineteen at the time of the release of the first book in her Kiesha’ra series, Hawksong, and was twenty when the second book, Snakecharm, came out.
We all know Frankenstein, a book that is frequently referred to as the first ever science fiction novel, and guess what? Shelley was nineteen when she wrote it! (She was twenty-one when it released.)
Legacy, Allegiance, Sacrifice,
According to one of her bios, Kluver self-published her debut, Legacy, at the age of fifteen. Through great reviews and some writing awards, she found an agent and later a contract with Amazon’s first initial trade publishing arm, AmazonEncore. Later, when she was seventeen, all three books in her trilogy were sold to HarlequinTEEN.
Now a New York Times bestseller, Just Jake, Marcionette’s debut, as well as its two sequels, were published when he was thirteen.
The Kissing Booth
After garnering nineteen million Wattpad reads, The Kissing Booth and its two sequels sold to Random House when Reekles was seventeen.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank started writing what would later become her memoir at thirteen and continued it for the next two and a half years. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was published posthumously.
Fukui had just turned eighteen when his debut, Truancy, was published; he was nineteen during the release of its prequel, Origins.
Hill, whose 1983 gothic The Woman in Black was recently made into a major motion picture starring Daniel Radcliffe, wrote (published?) her debut, The Enclosure, at age fifteen.
Bates’ was hired to write her autobiography, Marni: My True Story of Stress, Hair-Pulling, and Other Obsessions, at age eighteen; it was published when she was nineteen.
Kaplan sold her debut, Hancock Park, when she was sixteen.
Take the Reins, Chasing Blue, Behind the Bit, Triple Fault
At the age of twenty, Bukhart signed a deal for the first four books in her Canterwood Crest series (seen above.)
Alex and Brent Harris
The duo wrote their debut, Do Hard Things, when they were eighteen.
This Can’t Be Happening at McDougal Hall, Go Jump in the Pool, Beware the Fish, The War with Mr. Wizzle
At age fourteen, Korman’s debut, This Can’t Be Happening at McDougal Hall, released from Scholastic. The next three books in the series, Go Jump in the Pool, Beware the Fish, and The War with Mr. Wizzle, released when he was fifteen, sixteen, and eighteen, respectively.
Dinner with a Vampire, Autumn Rose
Gibbs sold both books in her The Dark Heroine series–Dinner with a Vampire and Autumn Rose–at the age of seventeen.
The Murder Complex
Cummings sold her debut, The Murder Complex, and its as-of-yet untitled sequel when she was twenty years old. The Murder Complex releases from HarperCollins on June 10th, 2014.
Diaz sold her Extraction trilogy at the age of nineteen. The first book, Extraction, releases from St. Martin’s on July 22nd, 2014.
Ewell sold Dear Killer when she was seventeen. It releases from HarperCollins April 1, 2014.
Savell was nineteen when she sold Paper Hearts, which will release from Medallion Press on April 15th, 2014.
Falling Into Place
Zhang’s book deal for Falling Into Place was announced when she was seventeen. It will release on September 9th, 2014.
Maya Van Wagenen
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for the Modern Geek
Having sold the book at fifteen, Van Wagenen’s debut, Popular, releases from Penguin on April 15th.
At the age of nineteen, Bao sold her sci-fi trilogy to Viking Children’s, already with a blurb from Christopher Paolini. The first book is set to release August 19th, 2014.
At the age of nineteen, Denezhkina sold her debut, Give Me, to Simon & Schuster.
The incredible memoir by “the 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the face because stood up to the Taliban and advocated for education, beginning with her once-anonymous blog that received international attention.” (via Publisher’s Marketplace.)
Made You Up
*Cover not yet revealed.*
Zappia sold her debut, Made You Up, to HarperCollins at the age of twenty.
There are also a handful of other authors who published books as teens a good deal while ago–Daisy Ashford, Thomas Chatterton, Ford Madox Brown, and more.