Does Age Matter for Writers?
Hi Rachelle, I’m 62 and about to retire; I’m preparing to dedicate my retirement years to writing full-time. I wonder whether “age discrimination” would enter into my efforts to get published. I realize the quality of the product is the most important thing, but do you think my age would detract from consideration of my manuscripts?
Dear Rachelle: I’m 16 and have written two novels. Should I mention my age in query letters? If I do, will it be a problem?
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I think most agents receive this question regularly, from people at both ends of the age spectrum. And it’s no wonder — in this age-conscious society, it’s a perfectly legitimate question. I don’t think age is a big consideration, and as far as I can tell, most agents hold similar viewpoints.
→ The book is still the main thing.
It’s by far the most important consideration. If it’s fiction, then the story itself and the quality of the writing are what matters. With non-fiction (as always) the uniqueness of the idea, its marketability, and your author platform will all be considered. The book itself is where we place the most emphasis rather than age.
→ Don’t include your age in the query.
There’s just no need. In fact, there’s no need to bring up your age until you are in discussions with an agent or publisher who’s interested in your book(s). You may want to mention it at that point just to save them from asking.
→ Writing is one of the careers you can do well past “retirement” age.
Regardless of the fact that our society is youth-obsessed, writing remains one of those skills that people generally get better at over time. You have a lot more to say when you’re older, right? There are lists and lists of “late bloomers.”
→ Writing is a craft that some people master at a very young age.
While there are fewer young people whose writing is of professional quality, it can happen. Some people just have the gift! There are prodigies in just about every discipline. Some people do get published as teens.
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Now, I think we’d be a little disingenuous if we didn’t acknowledge that some publishers with their eyes on the “long term” and wanting to maximize their investment might bring up the age factor in an acquisition meeting, when considering a retired author. They just want to be assured that you’re healthy and have a reasonable chance of being around for awhile. But if they see a great book or series that they think they can make money on, they’re not going to worry much about your age. And no publisher has ever mentioned an author’s age to me.
My final answer: You can’t do anything about your age anyway, so don’t let it worry you. Good writers will find a way to get published!
Are there other “side issues” — things other than your writing — that concern you in your pursuit of publishing? Let me know so I can address them in future blogs.