by Steve Laube
Last Friday in the comments Dr. Richard Mabry wrote, “Tired after doing a few household chores that never used to leave me dragging. Now I’m ready to be up and dancing. Age is just a number, isn’t it?”
Then on Saturday I spoke at the Christian Writes of the West mini-conference where one of the writers asked “Do older writers have a chance? Especially if agents and publishers are looking for a long career investment?”
It is a great question. Does it matter how old you are? No it doesn’t. When your proposal lands on our desk or on an editor’s desk it is the words on the page that speak to us. I rarely even think about the writer’s age, ethnicity, economic status, or any other non-writing ability classification while I’m reading the sample chapters. Of course there are exceptions. A few times I could tell the author was very young by the way they were writing a romance scene…they simply had not yet “fallen in love” and couldn’t quite express it in a full way.
We have a number of clients who are in their 20s we also have a number who are in their 70s. What matters is whether they’ve written a great book and have a platform (for non-fiction) to sell it from.
Maybe some examples from publishing history will illustrate the diversity.
Christopher Paolini published Eragon when he was only 15.
Frank Peretti was 35 when This Present Darkness was published in 1985.
Mary Shelly published Frankenstein when she was 19.
Charlotte Rogan signed the contract to publish her first novel Lifeboat with Little & Brown Publishing at the age of 57.
Katherine Anne Porter published her first collection of short stories when she was 40. But didn’t win the Pulitzer Prize until she was 76.
Myrrha Stanford-Smith signed a three-book deal for her first published novels…when she was 82.
As you can see, the ages are quite varied. In a great article written for Writers Digest (available online here) Scott Hoffman suggests four things to be careful about if you are “older” and approaching an agent:
1. Avoid references to the word “retirement”
2. Be energetic in how you present yourself
3. Make sure its clear you are more than a one-trick pony
4. Don’t date yourself
Read the whole article for a full discussion. He presents some good advice. It is similar advice I’ve heard given to those trying to find a job in today’s marketplace when someone is 55 years or older.
In the meantime I return to Dr. Mabry’s comment and the title of the post. Age is just a number. You are as young as you feel. (Today I feel old and cranky!!) But your idea can be timeless. You have time to craft those ideas and make them scintillating.