Contemporary Authors
CountryUnited States
Published1962 - present

Contemporary Authors is a reference work that has been published by Gale since 1962. The work provides short biographies and bibliographies of contemporary and near-contemporary writers and is a major source of information on over 116,000 living and deceased authors from around the world.[1] The work is a standard in libraries and has been honored by the American Library Association as a distinguished reference title.[2]


Entries in Contemporary Authors consist of a biography of the writer and bibliographies of their work and secondary sources covering it.[3] Along with featuring biographies of fiction and nonfiction writers, Contemporary Authors also includes authors who write for newspapers, magazines, motion pictures, TV, and theater.[4]

Writing need not be a person's primary occupation for them to be covered in Contemporary Authors; Martin Luther King Jr. and Bear Bryant have entries even though they are not mainly known as writers.[5] The series focuses on people who have published in English, but sometimes includes writers in other languages whose works have been translated.[6] Contemporary Authors is not selective about whom it includes.[7] However, according to Gale, authors whose works have been published only by vanity presses are generally excluded.[7]

Most biographical data published in Contemporary Authors comes from questionnaire responses.[8] Its staff may also conduct independent research if an entry's subject does not respond to questions.[9] Some entries contain a "Sidelights" section where writers can offer personal commentary on their life or work.[10]


The first edition of Contemporary Authors was released in 1962[11][12] and has since become a standard in libraries.[2] As of 1990, it was published twice per year.[3]

Contemporary Authors has been published in five different series, each assigned its own entry in the International Standard Serial Number database: the original series, not otherwise named; first revision; new revision; permanent; and autobiography series.[8] Some of its iterations group multiple volumes into a single printed book.[12] As of 2002, it was published both in print and on CD-ROM.[6]

Gale also provides an online version of Contemporary Authors, which includes updates to previously published biographies, expanded entries, award listings, and other information.[13] The online entries are also cross-referenced to other Gale online works, such as the Dictionary of Literary Biography.[14]


In 1985, American Library Association named Contemporary Authors one of the "most distinguished reference titles" of the preceding 25 years.[2]


  1. ^ Guide to Reference in Essential General Reference and Library Science Sources edited by Jo Bell Whitlatch and Susan E. Searing, American Library Association, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Nicholas, Margaret Irby (1994). Handbook of Reference Sources and Services for Small and Medium-Sized Libraries. Texas State Library. p. 40. ISBN 9780788131431. ERIC ED377845.
  3. ^ a b Marcuse, Michael J. (1990). A Reference Guide for English Studies. University of California Press. p. 364. ISBN 0-520-05161-0. OCLC 14241434.
  4. ^ The Research Process Books & Beyond by Myrtle S. Bolner and Gayle A. Poirier, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 2004, page 320.
  5. ^ Bopp, Richard E.; Smith, Linda C., eds. (1991). Reference and Information Services: An Introduction. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 309–310. ISBN 0-87287-788-4. OCLC 23383904.
  6. ^ a b Harner, James L. (2002). Literary Research Guide: An Annotated Listing of Reference Sources in English Literary Studies (4th ed.). Modern Language Association. pp. 83–84. ISBN 0-87352-982-0. OCLC 48691433.
  7. ^ a b Olevnik, Peter P. (1993). American Higher Education: A Guide to Reference Sources. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 168. ISBN 0-313-27749-4. OCLC 28181051.
  8. ^ a b Jones, Joseph (2005). Reference Sources for Canadian Literary Studies. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 230–231. ISBN 0-8020-8740-X. OCLC 55146976.
  9. ^ Wick, Robert L.; Mood, Terry Ann, eds. (1998). ARBA Guide to Biographical Resources, 1986–1997. Libraries Unlimited. p. 229. ISBN 0-585-13333-6. OCLC 44959776.
  10. ^ "Recent Books". The Library. 5th series. 33 (1): 69–70. March 1978. ISSN 0024-2160.
  11. ^ Katz, William A. (1978). Introduction to Reference Work. Vol. 1 (3d ed.). McGraw-Hill. pp. 259–260. ISBN 0-07-033331-9. OCLC 3275523.
  12. ^ a b Gates, Jean Key (1989). Guide to the Use of Libraries and Information Sources (6th ed.). McGraw-Hill. p. 285. ISBN 0-07-022999-6. OCLC 17841990.
  13. ^ Reference Sources for Small and Medium-Sized Libraries edited by Jack O'Gorman, American Library Association, 2014, page 209.
  14. ^ Librarian's Guide to Online Searching: Cultivating Database Skills for Research and Instruction, 5th Edition by Christopher C. Brown and Suzanne S. Bell, ABC-CLIO, 2018, page 108.