The Not-So-Triumphant Debuts of Several Famous Authors

August 21, 2019

Everybody has to start somewhere, even some of the greatest writers of all time.

He’s a Survival survivor

Dan Brown is another rare writer to launch a craze: He wrote The Da Vinci Code and its many sequels about Robert Langdon, an art history professor who solves historical and conspiratorial mysteries. In the late ‘80s, he wrote a very different book, a humorous, mock-self-help book the crazy world of dating called 187 Men to Avoid: A Survival Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman. Brown wrote it with his wife, Blythe Newlon, and under the just-barely-a-pen-name, Danielle Brown. 

He was hungry (like the wolf) for work

When acclaimed and bestselling author Neil Gaiman was just starting out as a work-for-hire writer in 1984, he got a call from a publisher asking him to pen a quickie, easy-to-read pop star biography that could be sold to kids and teens. They gave him a choice between Def Leppard, Barry Manilow, and Duran Duran. He picked the latter, because the New Wave band had recorded the least albums of those picks, and he figured it would be the easiest option. Today, Duran Duran: The First Four Years of the Fab Five is a collector’s item.

It’s a straight-up mystery (file of Shelby Woo)

Suzanne Collins launched a pop culture phenomenon with The Hunger Games, a dystopian young adult trilogy of novels (and quadrilogy of film adaptations). Prior to knocking out this ultra-bestselling series about a teenager who sets a revolution against a totalitarian government in action via the fight-to-the-death reality show into which she was drafted, Collins wrote on a lot of TV shows for kids and teens, including The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, a detective show that ran on Nickelodeon in the late ‘90s. That gig led to her first published print work: an entry in a novel series that acted as a tie-in for the show. The title: Fire Proof: Shelby Woo #11.

You could read it in a box, you could read it with a fox

Dr. Seuss is probably the most famous and beloved children’s book author of all-time, and his prolific career that gave the world Horton Hears a Who!, The Cat in the Hat, and Green Eggs and Ham, began in earnest with the 1937 publication And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. But that’s not the first book to bear the name “Dr. Seuss” (a pseudonym for Theodor Geisel). In 1931 and 1932, Dr. Seuss published four small books about “boners,” which was slang for “errors” or “bloopers.” Boners, More Boners, Still More Boners, and Prize Boners featured humorous recounting of real-life silly goofs and mistakes.