The Most Collectible Female Authors

We analyzed a sample of collectible books sold priced $500 or more and only 5% of the books had been written by women.

Even though female authors like Jane Austen, Agatha Christie and Virginia Woolf helped to shape our modern literary world, the collectible book business is dominated by works written by male writers. We had expected to see an imbalance but not one of such significance.

Why does this imbalance exist? The answer is reflected in the long history of publishing since the invention of the Gutenberg Press. For centuries, men wrote while women were expected to look after the home and family. The same pattern is visible in politics, business, science and many other professions.

There are simply fewer female authors of significance across the past 500 years of publishing. Many female writers wrote anonymously or privately published their work. Most simply did not even have the opportunity to become published authors.

However, the modern era has seen a gradual shift towards rectifying this imbalance. As of late, female authors have increasingly been recognized for their contributions to literature, and their works have begun to claim their rightful place in the collectible market.

According to AbeBooks’ sales data, here are the10 most collectible female authors.

Ten most collectible female authors

Jane Austen is more popular than ever, but it wasn’t easy getting published if you were a woman at the end of the 18th century. Her six full-length novels were published anonymously because female authors were not taken seriously.

Her legacy is remarkable - Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are all must-read novels.
Woolf broke the rules to become an important figure in modernist literature and feminism in general. Her novels - Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928) – are landmarks in 20th century literature.

Her success is all the more remarkable since she struggled with mental illness for most of her life. A Room of One's Own (1929) might be her most important work, this essay argues that women writers need their own space in a literary world dominated by men.
Rand’s collectability is mainly based on two books but her overall contribution to philosophy makes her a trailblazing 20th century figure. The Fountainhead was published in 1943 and concerns a young architect who refuses to compromise.

It’s an important modernist novel and was rejected by 12 publishers. Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957 and depicts a dystopian United States in which private businesses suffer under cumbersome laws and regulations.
To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960 and became an immediate bestseller. It has been taught in schools for decades because it challenges the reader to consider rape and racial inequality. And yet it’s easy to read with much humor and warmth.

Why didn’t more female authors enjoy the same sort of success as Lee in the 1960s?
Sixty-six detective novels and 14 short story collections. Her detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple have become iconic figures in pop culture, often parodied. She also wrote the world's longest-running play, The Mousetrap.

Agatha paved the way for others by being so successful in a specific genre.
Mary Ann Evans wrote seven novels and some people rate Middlemarch as one of the best ever published. A purveyor of realism, she used a pen name because she wanted to write about serious social issues and that was not something that women did in the 19th century.

With Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), and Romola (1862-63), Evans has a legacy that is standing the test of time.
Potter self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1901 because no publisher would touch it. A year later, Frederick Warne published the picture book with its misbehaving bunny and all 8,000 copies sold out quickly. Potter was the first author to successfully cross-merchandise her creations across other channels like toys, clothing and games.

Potter was a pioneer that shaped the children’s picture book genre and the merchandising business, laying the foundation for what Disney does today.
A critically acclaimed writer of the modern era. Toni Morrison published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970. In 1988, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.

In the 1970s and 1980s, increasing numbers of female writers enjoyed commercial success but Morrison proved a woman could be critically acclaimed for addressing the issues of race, gender and American culture.
Frankenstein continues to fascinate the world. Shelley was only 18 when she wrote it. The novel, published anonymously, has many powerful themes – the meaning of humanity, meddling with nature, identifying monsters, playing god and so on. Published in 1818, Frankenstein is the work of a genius and yet Shelley still doesn’t get enough credit for writing a novel that asks important questions.

There is also the matter of A Vindication on the Rights of Women from 1792, a work that paved the way for many women after Shelley to publish their works
What can we say? J.K. Rowling changed the world. People lined up outside bookshops at midnight to buy her latest bestseller and she put magic back into the book business. Joanne Rowling went from being a single mom on benefits to being the world’s most successful author.

Numerous publishers rejected Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone because they didn’t think anyone cared about magic and wizards, and she still needed a grant from the Scottish Arts Council to be able to write the second Harry Potter book.

Why did a female author writing in the 1990s feel it was necessary to use gender-neutral initials in her published name?


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