Monday, February 9, 2009

Is youth wasted on the young?

I have a couple of questions I am hopeful you might be able to answer. The first is age: is age really a factor in publishing or is it just a myth? I am 23, have had articles published, plays performed and written a book that I can say will never be published … so I am working on a new manuscript with publishing on my mind. I am not an inexperienced writer, having spent the last eight years of my life writing. Will this factor in when approaching agents? I am slightly concerned that I will have to lie or be elusive about questions regarding my age as I have seen some young writers have done and I was hopeful to find out if that’s as pointless as it looks?

(Sharp-eyed readers will note that this questioner said she had more than one question and there's only one in this post. That's because she actually had three which all deserved separate answers. So keep reading ...)

I've never had a bias towards any particular decade when it comes to taking on writers. If your manuscript is good, it's good - it doesn't matter how young or old you are. Of course, it's great if an author has an interesting personal story (for publicity purposes). Sometimes that story is that they're young - so I'd never say that youth is a disadvantage per se. Where it can trip you up, though, if if you're writing a novel that purports to reveal the secrets of life - no one is going to buy that from an eighteen-year-old. Your narrative voice always needs to be convincing, and if you're a young'un who has never left their bedroom writing about a grandfather hiking in the Andes, that may not ring true either.

It's possible that the authors you know who lied about their age were doing it because their writing simply wasn't up to scratch and they were desperately trying every trick they could think of. I don't know a single publisher who would refuse to consider something just because the author was young. In fact, there's a whole award for you guys: the Vogel.

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