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Age Discrimination In the Publishing World...

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Old 12-26-2008, 07:34 PM
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Default Age Discrimination In the Publishing World...


It does exist... despite the fact that many people say that an author's age doesn't matter.

I'm a 17-year-old novelist. I just completed my first novel 8 months ago and have a second on in its beginnings. IMy first novel a compelling women's fiction based on an all-American family whose life takes a drastic turn for the worst when their son is diagnosed with severe autism. It's roughly 55,000 words (26 Chapters).

Anywho...

For the past year, I've been doing a lot of research regarding age and publishers/agents. Everywhere I read, I keep getting that an author's age doesn't matter, but from my own experience, I've found my age to be a major obstacle in the publishing process.

About 4 months into my search for a literary agent and/or publisher, my manuscript was finally accepted by a publishing company. I was utterly ecstatic! The company and I were communicating via phone and email daily and the whole publication process was going great until they had to gather my personal information for the publishing contract... then when the company saw my DOB, they decided to immediately rescind their offer to publish my book. I was crushed.

I'm also having great difficulty finding a legitimate literary agent who is willing to work with an "inexperienced" or "young" author. For a new adult author, it's hard enough recruiting a lit agent who wants to represent someone without many credentials anyway and it seems even harder for someone under age 18.

I'm sort of frustrated right now... it seems like those willing to look at me don't want to deal with a teenage author and those I've found willing to consider someone my age aren't currently opened to queries or submissions.

I was thinking and maybe since I write out of my age group (most people willing to read my novel would probably fall in the 25-40 year range) no one thinks I'm capable of pulling it off.... IDK really...

My questions are:
-Are there any publishers or agents you know of who DO NOT care about the author's age?

-Do you know of anyone under 18 who is a published author?

-Any advice for me???

Thanks in advance for your insight, advice, and help!

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Old 12-26-2008, 07:50 PM
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I'm currently watching a documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. As I was reading your post, the song "Waiting is the Hardest Part" was on... (seriously!) I think that applies so well to your situation. If you were initially accepted, then you obviously must be a fairly talented writer. Unforuntately, unless you have some sort of "gimmick" with your age, then publishers are reluctant to deal with the additional contractual paperwork. In most places, especially in the US, contracts are not binding with anyone under the age of 18. Therefore, your parents would have to act on your behalf, and you would have to pretty much give them Power of Attorney over your legal matters. Then, they would be able to sign for you, etc. Places see that as a hassle. So, my advice would be to sit back for a little while, and when you turn 18--hit 'em up!

I just read a story about an eight year old who has published a book on "how to meet girls..." (see what I mean about gimmick?) Other than that, I can't think of any other writers that have been published under 18. Especially when it comes to novelists.

Also, my advice is that if the publisher doesn't care that much about age to be a bit leary. They care about age, because there is a LOT of issues that go with it. Not that it would be impossible to get a book deal or anything, but it's much more labor intensive than someone over the age. Any reputable publishing house takes that into consideration. If they don't, they may not be the right one for you. Like I said earlier, just stick it out and on your 18th birthday wow them!
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Old 12-26-2008, 08:05 PM
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Thanks for the reply. You're probably right about waiting. It's just so hard to wait 8 more months until I turn 18 after I've already waited 8 thus far. Maybe waiting will pay off in the end.......

I know of 3 specific authors off the top of my head who were under 18: Christopher Paoloni (sp?) was 15 when his first book was published...but it was by his family's company. Luke Jackson was 13 when he'd published 2 books relating to Asperger's Syndrome, but he has the disorder. And one teenager I've met before was 11 when his first book was published and 13 when his second one was, but his rich parents shelled out lots of $$$$$$...like $1 per page per book... to a vanity press to publish his books (I think both rank somewhere like 2,000,000 on the NY times seller list LOL).

Anyway...all of the young authors that I can think got published with some kind of catch. Either a family-owned publisher, a small press, or a vanity press. And I'm not really looking for that to state the truth.
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Old 12-26-2008, 08:09 PM
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I love Tom Petty!

I only know of one off the top of my head: Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon. But then, his parents were the ones who published his book, so...

Anyway, your manuscript had really gotten that far? Wow! That's very, very impressive. Getting past the acceptance stage is the dream of most authors. Even if it's got no farther, that should be quite a confidence boost in itself, getting your work that far. Trust me, most people will not have done anything so momentous by seventeen. I still have a year or two to one-up you and get a novel published before I turn eighteen...must get busy

If I was a publisher I'd be willing to go for the extra work. You never know if this kid might be the next big thing, after all. But like Firefly mentioned, all the legalities may be an offputter. Payment for a minor could be an issue, and not being of legal signing age yet, there'd be some hoops to jump through. My only advice is to keep trying--until you turn eighteen, if needs be.
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Old 12-27-2008, 12:34 AM
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I have absolutely no advice to offer on your problem (except to agree with the waiting, unfortunately) but I do want to slam out a big congratulations on being considered by publishers.

Hey, wait, I do have advice! Bask in the glory of being considered. It's an amazing accomplishment and a huge first step, and in eight short/horribly long months (I can't imagine how infuriating that must be) you will more than likely be published. Just keep that in mind and wait.

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Old 12-27-2008, 12:51 AM
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Of course it exists. What you have to understand about publishing companies is that they are looking for longevity as well as talent. Sure, they can make tremendous amounts of money off your first book, but if you haven't got another one in you, they might think you aren't worth the risk.

In general terms, there aren't many literary geniuses who are in their teens. Christopher Paolini was mentioned above, but it was his parents' sway that led to his book being published. Of course, that didn't lead to it becoming a hit. Talent only gets you so far.

Have you ever noticed how people who've served time in the marines (Andy McNab, Christopher Whitcomb, Chris Ryan) often write books and get them published with relative ease? Ever wonder why that is? Because they have a story to tell. A story that is interesting, real, and an intriguing insight into the mind of a soldier. They've experienced things that normal people never do. Their "life experience" is much greater than that of a seventeen-year-old writing about military combat. They know the minutiae of military service. These people are surefire hits for publishers. A publisher looks at them and thinks: "These guys know what they're on about. They have a lot of stories to tell, a lot of experience and intelligence to back those stories up, and an imagination to make up other, fictional stories."

Age and life experience play a big part in publishing. There are very few publishing houses that will take a chance on a seventeen-year-old author. It's an unfortunate but true reality of publishing.

The fact that you were accepted before they knew your age tells me that you'll be accepted again when the time is right. Until them, keep churning out those novels, so that when your first one does get published, you have another three or four ready for mass market publication.
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Old 12-27-2008, 02:45 AM
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So you have to wait eight more months to try again, eh? Honestly, that's not that long.

Keep working on your second book (which might take you eight months to complete! ) and once you turn eighteen, go on another agent/publisher search.

Though, I had a curious thought, and maybe someone can clarify it for me: If this publisher was indeed very interested in publishing you, why didn't he suggest you drop them a line again in eight months? Was he at least encouraging you to do so? Perhaps, when the time is right, you should submit to this publisher again. He's only dropped you because of your age, and once you're eighteen, who knows?

Ah, the cynic in me is saying he'll find something else to drop you for, but since you'd been in contact with him previously, he might really consider your book -- once you're of age, that is. There's no one saying you can't submit to the same publisher again and people probably do it all the time with work that's been sent back and improved upon.
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Old 12-27-2008, 11:18 AM
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Sorry, I have a hard time seeing this as "age discrimination". There are reasons agents would be less likely to jump at minor clients. Legal contract hassls for one thing.

Another is, like it or not, 17 year olds are not exactly a legenday font of great literature. I'd be very unlikely to read a MS that came with a letter saying "I'm 17 and I wrote a 55.000 word novel."

A shame, but that's the way it is.

You want age discriminatioin, it's hollywood not wanting to see scripts from anybody over 25.

So you've got a narrow window in which to score. :-)
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Old 12-27-2008, 11:31 AM
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Age discrimination sucks. On the up side, in a couple of months you'll be able to make contracts of your own, which might allay some of their fears. They still may not want you, since they don't know whether you can continue to produce. Just keep writing and submitting. And think: someday, you'll be famous and you'll get that first book published. Then people will say how they can't believe anyone would reject it based on your age.

Originally Posted by Lin View Post
You want age discriminatioin, it's hollywood not wanting to see scripts from anybody over 25.
What? That doesn't make any sense! Especially when you consider that writers tend to improve as they get older. Of course, that might explain why so much that comes out of Hollywood is puerile and repetitive.
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Old 12-27-2008, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Lin View Post
Sorry, I have a hard time seeing this as "age discrimination". There are reasons agents would be less likely to jump at minor clients. Legal contract hassls for one thing.
Indeed. A 17 year old can't sign a contract, for a start.
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Old 12-27-2008, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Devon View Post
Though, I had a curious thought, and maybe someone can clarify it for me: If this publisher was indeed very interested in publishing you, why didn't he suggest you drop them a line again in eight months? Was he at least encouraging you to do so? Perhaps, when the time is right, you should submit to this publisher again. He's only dropped you because of your age, and once you're eighteen, who knows?
They didn't specifically say to try again in 8 months, but I really don't think they'd mind.

In their email declining their offer to publish my book, they simply explained that because I was not 18 they could not put me under contract, yadda yadda yadda. And of course, also included the "we assure you that you will find a publisher to fit your needs in the near future" thing.
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Old 12-27-2008, 01:46 PM
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And of course, also included the "we assure you that you will find a publisher to fit your needs in the near future" thing.
Hmm . . . I say send it again to them once you're eighteen and see what else they say. They'll probably pick out the least little thing and say, "Oh, no, no, no . . . a misplaced comma. Oh, that simply won't do!"

You'll find that I'm quite cynical at times. Lol. Publishers are probably not really like that, though some can be quite picky.
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Old 12-27-2008, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Devon View Post
Hmm . . . I say send it again to them once you're eighteen and see what else they say. They'll probably pick out the least little thing and say, "Oh, no, no, no . . . a misplaced comma. Oh, that simply won't do!"

You'll find that I'm quite cynical at times. Lol. Publishers are probably not really like that, though some can be quite picky.
Publishers are picky. Quite picky. They receive countless manuscripts daily, and they're just looking for a reason to toss a piece to lighten their load.
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Old 12-27-2008, 04:21 PM
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"we are sure you will find an agency/pubco that fits your material"

"I hope we can still be friends"

"We urge you to submit your resume at a later time"

"I assure that next time I won't snatch the football away when you try to kick it"
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Old 12-27-2008, 08:31 PM
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You missed:

"The check's in the mail"

and

"I'll only put it in a bit and if it hurts I'll take it out again."
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Old 12-27-2008, 10:34 PM
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I can tell we're both dying to put up the REAL ones, but are too couth.
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Old 01-02-2009, 02:37 AM
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If they say that they rejected your book purely for the sake of age, then come back again and resubmit. If they reject again, then you know that they just deserve a kick right up the arse, if you pardon the language.
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Old 01-02-2009, 11:15 PM
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I think it may be because a lot of readers are bias, too. Some may be curious to see what a published 17-year-old is capable of, while others might laugh at the idea that a teenager could produce a quality work. Anyway:

I work at a library and there is a book I've shelved a few times that was written by a 17 year old female writer. I do not remember the title or author name, but I know the general location of the book. I will go scope it out tomorrow and, if I find it, write down the name of both the book and writer.

You can check the publisher/find the author's agent from there and hope for better luck.

What I don't understand is why your age would seem detrimental. If your novel is one of quality, I would think they would be able to milk that. "A work so profound! So deep! Perceptive beyond its years! And penned at seventeen!"

I would think a young, talented writer would be a good marketing tool to promote a book. Of course I know nothing of the publishing industry.

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Old 01-03-2009, 12:12 AM
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Well, it is true, but contracts, legal binding, and further complications make it a not too likeable idea. Unfortunately.
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Old 01-06-2009, 02:30 AM
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I think you should be feeling a little smug, BrooxBroox. You get taken seriously at seventeen: you have talent. You are seventeen: so young, with so much time to get better. If you have a roof and food, what's the hurry?

If I were you I'd take Daedalus' advice - do a Stephen King and get yourself stocked up with manuscripts for when the lean years come. And they will come.

Good luck
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Old 01-06-2009, 01:21 PM
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Think about it.

Most teen authors get their books published either because their parents own a publishing company, know of someone who owns a publishing company, or can convince publishers to publish their child's work.

Take Christopher Paolini for example, the author of the Inheritance Cycle. He was 15 or 16 when he had his first book published, but that was only because his parents owned their own publishing company.

I used to think that I could get my books published, and I'm only 14. Now I realize that I have a long way to go before I can even think writing a book. You still have time. Work on improving your skills, and then, eventually, the publishers will be crawling all over you.
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Old 01-06-2009, 03:33 PM
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Actually, I rather doubt that most teen authors have publisher parents. Wold be nice though.
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Old 01-06-2009, 04:46 PM
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One bit of advice I keep hearing from the writers in my RWA chapter is to try to have other manuscripts handy before you ever get accepted. An editor/agent might like your writing style but not have need of that subject. Then they'll ask if you have something else you can show them. So, while you wait to hit the big 1-8, keep writing!

You've shown you can complete more than one manuscript, and that's HUGE. Publishers get burned on one-book-wonders and are leery of new authors who only have one work finished. It's also a great thing to mention that you've completed more than one or two manuscripts... or so I hear. I haven't managed to complete one manuscript, but that's my failing. I think it's a short story thing on my part. ;-)

Don't lose your passion, no matter what happens. I can totally understand why this would be upsetting. IMO, your best move is to keep writing and keep researching and keep honing your craft. Best of luck!
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Old 01-06-2009, 04:52 PM
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An editor/agent might like your writing style but not have need of that subject. Then they'll ask if you have something else you can show them.
That has probably never happened ever, actually.

BUT, it's certainly a good idea to write a couple of things before you give up on selling the first one and blame it on the system. AND, by they you'll be older. AND, if you do it right, better.
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Old 01-07-2009, 01:32 PM
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Actually, I rather doubt that most teen authors have publisher parents. Wold be nice though.
Not most teen authors in general, but most teen authors who become very sucessful right away.
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Old 01-07-2009, 02:04 PM
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Well, reading this has been, well, enlightening, I guess. I guess I'd best not try to submit my manuscript until I turn 18. Luckily I won't be needing to start trying until then. I guess I'll have to get another manuscript ready before I start agent hunting as well. Publishers not wanting to take young authors doesn't surprise me at all. People definitely judge you based on age today and let's face it, people don't expect great things from young authors. But I guess in the digital age, you can always keep your manuscript file handy, occasionally making revisions as you grow as a writer, and who knows, when you are the right age, it might be considered for publication.
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Old 01-07-2009, 02:51 PM
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Not most teen authors in general, but most teen authors who become very sucessful right away.
You have mentioned two. I can think of many more that don't fall into that category. SE Hinton, for example.

I don't advise trying to get published by changing parents, nor giving up if your folks don't run a publishing house.
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Old 01-07-2009, 07:42 PM
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Not most teen authors in general, but most teen authors who become very sucessful right away.
Along with Lin's statement, having a parent that owns a publishing press that small is basically the same as self-publishing. Unless, of course, you go and do the things that Paolini did. He ordered a lot. Did book signings at local areas. Did the cover art, etc. all himself. Pretty much managed it himself. And only because he was picked up by a publishing company, and a big one, is his work largely known.
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Old 01-08-2009, 10:44 AM
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Discrimination against anyone unable to be bound by legal agreement is going to happen in an industry that requires you to sign a binding contract. Call them back when you are 18 and legal.
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Old 01-08-2009, 11:15 AM
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It's pretty hard to weed out "discrimation" from the selection process in publishing, and the arts in general.

My feeling, it is ALWAYS better to avoid thinking you're being unfairly discriminated against--which is something beyond your control--rather than the idea that you will improve in time--which is something you CAN work on.

Writing, more than any other field of the arts, relies heavily on personal experience and wisdom. It's inevitable that it will skew towards older writers.

Everybody is saying the same thing, essentially. Forget the issues, just write, bide your time, and make the most of that time.
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