Who Are the Least Prolific Best Selling Authors?

With the passing of Harper Lee, I’m struck that both she and Margaret Mitchell only wrote one popular book each.

But, boy, what a book!

Margaret Mitchell has a short story called Lost Laysen, but it wasn’t published until 1996.

Harper Lee, of course, wrote Go Set A Watchman, but I don’t think it’s as popular and well -regarded as her other novel. :wink:

Grace Metalious, Peyton Place

J. D. Salinger only published one novel, although he had several novellas and a couple of dozen short stories.

Sylvia Plath’s only novel was The Bell Jar. Ditto with Emily Bronte and Wuthering Heights (which actually wasn’t even originally published under her name. They were both known as poets.

Scott Smith wrote A Simple Plan (great book and great movie) in 1993. He wrote The Ruins (Good book, never saw movie) in 2006. Both best sellers. And, that’s it. Two best sellers in over 20 years, and no other books.

Ralph Ellison’s only published novel during his lifetime was Invisible Man. He published a book of essays called Shadow and Act and Going to the Territory but no further fiction while he was alive.

He spent the rest of his life composing his second novel but it was unfinished when he died. A couple posthumous editions of it have been published.

John Kennedy Toole only wrote A Confederacy of Dunces, and then killed himself.

It wasn’t even published until his mom championed the manuscript.

Joseph Heller? Although he had medical issues.

Heller wrote slowly, but he did publish seven novels, some of which hit the best seller list. He also, surprisingly, wrote an episode of McHale’s Navy. :eek:

I remembered another one…Stieg Larsson. His three novels were published after his death.

Patrick Rothfuss wrote highly regarded “The Name of the Wind” in 2007, followed it up, very slowly, with “The Wise Man’s Fear” in 2011, and is now giving George R. R. Martin a run for his money in the “most time until the next sequel” competition.

He seems to have written very little else.

Katherine Dunn has only published three novels, the last of which was Geek Love in 1989. She has reportedly been working on her fourth novel for the past 20+ years.

According to her wikipedia article, she has published articles and stories in various newspapers and magazines, and she apparently does a lot of writing about boxing.

Susanna Clarke is essentially known for her one novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, although she’s also written a handful of short stories.

Andy Weir’s only published work is his novel The Martian.

Yeah, but he’s still around and is likely to write more.

Did not know that about McHale’s Navy, I have to say I love Catch-22 but found his other novels almost unreadable.

One of my favorite Salinger stories is “For Esmee, With Love and Squalor”. He meets Esmee, who as at this time a young girl, who asks him to write something for her. Salinger, or his character in the story, loosely based on himself, says something like “I’m not very prolific” and Esmee says “It doesn’t have to be prolific! Just make sure there’s lots of squalor”. :slight_smile:

Speaking of Salinger’s prolificacy, wasn’t he writing the whole time he was a recluse, that is, most of his life? I was excited when he died because I thought there was a lot of unpublished Salinger work that would get published soon, but it’s been five or six years now. Does anybody know the status of his unreleased work? Is it going to be published?


Weir has written some short stories and his next novel is scheduled to be published in 2016. It doesn’t seem that he plans on being a one and done author.

Robert Pirsig has only published Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals.

Maybe, but you have to cut him some slack – when all you’ve got to write on are stone tablets and/or gold plates, your output is going to be pretty limited.

Thomas Harris (Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal) has written only five books since the debut of Black Sunday in 1975