Pub Rants

Ode to Youth

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Status: Working like crazy on contracts, contracts, and more contracts, which are very time-consuming. It’s great to sell lots of projects. The downside (and it’s not really a downside as you can probably tell) is all the time that now needs to be invested into those contracts.

It has consumed my days as of late.

I still wanted to donate a few minutes to dedicate this blog to our young writers out there. When I use the term “young” here, I mean those writers under the age of 20. This is not to imply that if you are under the age of 50, I don’t consider you young. Trust me, I do.

As a side note (completely off-topic), I’d also like to suggest that in queries, you shouldn’t make assumptions regarding an agent’s age. It probably won’t reflect well on either of us. I got a good chuckle from a recent query where the writer had declared that she could still relate to my blog despite probably being twice my age.

I raised an eyebrow at that. Of course I have no idea the writer’s age as she didn’t state it, but it didn’t read like a lady just about to have her 80th birthday. There is just a difference in writing style from folks who received their education in the 1930s and 40s. There is an element of elegant formality that was missing in this query.

I could be completely wrong (certainly wouldn’t be the first time!). I am, however, quite flattered that she might assume I’m still in my twenties—and therefore making the author of that query more likely to be a baby boomer in her 50s or 60s.

But an agent’s age doesn’t really matter. Reputation and track record does.

But back to young writers.

Some advice I’d like to give.

Your age doesn’t really matter to me. Just your writing ability. If you’re under 18, no need to declare so in your query letter. It’s unprofessional for one. Two, it’s irrelevant. I won’t think you a prodigy or lend you an extra dose of sympathy or be more lenient and request a partial. It won’t do any of those things. I still want a well-written, professional query that shows me you’ve done your research about this business and you’re ready to be serious and be taken seriously.

That will impress me. And if later I discover you are 15, my jaw will hit the floor at how mature you are. That I didn’t guess that you were so young. I’ll be very impressed then.

Now, if I call to offer representation, then you need to tell me you are under the age of 18 because your parent or guardian will now have to be involved in any discussions since you are a minor.

Trust me, age does not come up in any other queries. Occasionally I will receive one where the author will highlight the other end of the age spectrum but my answer remains the same. I don’t need or care to know. It won’t make me any more or less interested in your query. A well-written query with an original story idea. That’s what excites me—and the author can be of any age.

I’ve never asked any of my clients their age before signing them. Not once.

8 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    Well. I’d rather you ask my age than my weight if you decided to be my agent.

    (I’d lie if you did ask)

  2. Mars said:

    As a young writer (well not “young” as in under-18 but young as in under-20) I appreciate your post. I’ve never mentioned my age in a query letter and frankly would never want to. I want my work to be judged on its merit and I never would assume that an agent would do otherwise.

    No writer is young forever (is it wrong at 19 to start grudging your birthdays? J/k). It seems too gimmicky to mention your age.

  3. Kayla said:

    As a writer under 18, I’ve always assumed it was better not to mention age until it looked like a contract would be forthcoming… but it’s good to know for sure.

    Thank you for posting this. 🙂

  4. makoiyi said:

    Well, I think, because of the nature of the game, most writers write in their spare time. Unless your name is Stephen King or JK Rowling, a person can’t afford to give up the day job. I think that’s why writers are often older. Even if you start writing in your teens, along comes life and jobs and children, and unless one wants a divorce or has an extremely understanding partner, one doesn’t find the time even if the heart is willing. Not to truly concentrate on the craft, anyway.

    I know for years I’d write in dribs and drabs, never having the time to really get down to it. I wanted to but the energy wasn’t there. Then you reach a point where life is passing you by, and if you don’t do it you never will. It’s a selfish game. The middle of the night becomes very appealing.

  5. Faith said:

    I’ve never stated my age on a query letter. I always felt it was irrelevant, so I don’t understand why writers do so unless they do indeed believe it gives them an edge.

  6. Sarah said:

    And I thought they’d consider me too young if they found out I’m 24! I’m in the weird position of having won several “Young Writers” contests, then not submitting anything for several years because I was in college and graduate school. I still feel young in comparison to a lot of writers I’ve met on the internet. I agree that it’s gimmicky to state your age. I haven’t gotten that “Eragon” book out of the library yet, but I’ve heard it’s pretty much only out there because of the age of the author, since the writing is rather poor.